LEIPZIG, Germany--There's a rush of companies looking to deliver real-time strategy gaming on the console. But of all them, Ubisoft and its internal developer Ubisoft Shanghai may very well have them all beat when it comes to innovation. That's because Tom Clancy's EndWar features one of the most amazing voice-command interfaces that we've ever seen, and it's used to help you command 21st-century armies on fully destructible battlefields. We first got to hear about EndWar at Ubisoft's press event last May, but this was the first time that we actually got to see the game played live.
On first glance, EndWar looks like a typical real-time strategy game. You control sets of units on a 3D battlefield, and they pound the heck out of the enemy. However, the control scheme for EndWar is revolutionary. While creative director Michael de Plater played the game using an Xbox 360 controller, he also used a wide range of voice commands for many tasks. In rapid fire, he barked out such orders as, "Calling all gunships, create group," or "White Team, attack Hostile 1." Switching the camera to a group is as simple as calling out the group and saying "camera" afterward. Calling in reinforcements, which are purchased using points that you gain from killing enemies, is as simple as saying "reinforce" and the type of unit you want. (There is absolutely no base building or resource gathering in this game because the designers want to keep it as believable as possible. Thus, reinforcements and replacements are delivered to the battlefield via air transport.)
The flexibility of this system became quickly evident: You can quickly and simply give orders to units that aren't even on the screen. That makes command and control of the battle a lot easier than ever. Information on all your units is displayed at the bottom of the screen, so it's easy to keep track of the units and their designations. Even better, units are pretty good about carrying orders out in a smart manner. For example, infantry know how to use cover while maneuvering and fighting, so you'll see squads of men hug walls, as well as the sides of cars, in combat.
The goal of the battle is to seize strategic points on a map. These are actually radar towers and networking nodes for the missile defense shield that's the cause of the conflict. The premise behind EndWar is that the threat of nuclear war has kept the peace between the major powers for almost 100 years. War erupts after a nuclear missile shield is established because the threat of annihilation is no longer there.
If you seize a strategic point, you can upgrade it in a number of ways that give you special abilities, such as the ability to call in air strikes or artillery. Units themselves can also be upgraded dozens of ways. While there are only seven basic unit classes in the game, there are more than 150 potential upgrades. The example given involves heavy infantry, which have antitank and antiaircraft capabilities. If a unit gains experience and is promoted, you have a choice of upgrades, such as adding combat engineers that can lay mines or special counterengineers that can remove enemy obstacles.
All of this sounds good, but you'll also be able to participate in an online, persistent campaign with thousands of other EndWar players. Details on the game's ambitious multiplayer plans are still to come though. Still, EndWar looks amazing and seems like a real-time strategy game that actually feels made for consoles rather than a strategy game that feels like it was crammed onto the consoles. Keep in mind that there's a PC version as well, but fans of Tom Clancy games on the console should keep an eye out for yet another game. EndWar should ship sometime next year.