With four companies actively working on the upcoming expansion pack to one of last year's most memorable first-person shooters, Enemy Territory might be a perfect example of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Whereas most games typically involve no more than one or two companies, this add-on has four--Activision is its publisher, id Software is filling in as the executive producer, Mad Doc Software is handling the game's single-player component, and London-based Splash Damage, the same team responsible for the addictive Q3F Quake III mod, is developing the multiplayer portion of Enemy Territory. But after having had the chance to play the most recent build of the game at a recent press event, it's clear that such is not the case for Enemy Territory. The transition between its single-player and multiplayer components is as seamless as it was in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and it also features some fundamental changes to the way the original game was played, including a new player class and a completely revised single-player element.
As has been mentioned in earlier previews, Enemy Territory takes place one year before the events of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. You still play as the hero BJ Blazkowicz, though since the game is a prequel, BJ isn't a member of the OSS yet. Instead, he's the leader of a group of US Army Rangers who are sent on sensitive missions to disrupt Nazi operations during the early parts of World War II. This campaign, spread across 20 individual missions, has a distinctly multiplayer flavor to it. That's because BJ will be accompanied by six bot-controlled squadmates, all of whom will vary in their specialties according to their character class. Your first mission will take you to the ruins of ancient Egypt, where Nazi soldiers have supposedly kidnapped an Allied scientist in an attempt to use his knowledge of the arcane for their purposes. Apparently, however, even though the subject matter within the game will often cover areas like the undead, the enemies that you'll encounter in Enemy Territory are strictly of the living, breathing variety.
Before every mission, you choose which of these Rangers you want to take with you, and within the actual level, you can issue various commands to them, like ordering the medic to heal you or asking for ammo, just as if you were chatting with human-controlled players in multiplayer. You can take more Rangers with you on some missions than you can on others, and for the most part, they're perfectly capable of defending themselves without your input, though you will need to issue mission-critical commands to some of these bots. Many areas, for example, are blocked by doors or other barriers, and in situations like this, you'll have to actively order your engineer to clear the path before being able to move on.
Another distinctly multiplayer twist to Enemy Territory's single-player campaign is the way it handles characters' deaths. Instead of forcing you to start an entire mission over when you die, you (and any of your squadmates) will enter the limbo mode, made famous by Return to Castle Wolfenstein's multiplayer matches. When your health is completely depleted, you'll fall on the ground and won't be able to move or shoot at all. However, you'll still be able to issue commands to your squadmates, and you can ask your medic to revive you. If you'd rather not wait or waste your medic's revival syringes, you can opt to respawn at the start of that level and make your way back to your squad's last location. According to producer Jonathan Moses, the developers are still balancing various issues, like how many times it's possible for the medic to revive you, how many additional syringes can be picked up throughout a given level, and so on. Obviously, the developers don't want to make it possible for you to simply order your entire squad into a room to soften up any opposition they might find, clean up the remaining enemies, and revive your fallen comrades.
As for the multiplayer portion of the game, it too has received some significant changes since Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The game's character class system, for example, has been reworked to accommodate a new class and a new system of promoting active players. The lieutenant from the original game is now called the field ops. This change is primarily to limit confusion with Enemy Territory's new field promotion system. All players, no matter the class, have five characteristics that the game will track. These are heavy weapons, light weapons, battle sense, engineer skills, and medic skills, and each can be upgraded a total of five times. These upgrades happen somewhat transparently--kill a certain number of enemies with a pistol, for example, and your light weapons skill will increase--and each upgrade is denoted with a promotion in rank. Different promotions will net you different rewards. An upgrade in battle sense, which rewards you for being an active participant on the battlefield and not a camper, will give you an increased stamina boost, for example.
The second major change to Wolfenstein's multiplayer component is the addition of the covert ops class. Silence is this character's specialty, and as such his primary weapon is a new silenced sniper rifle. He also has the ability to carry a silenced version of the Sten from the original game. The covert ops player's secondary abilities include being able to spot land mines--which can now be dropped by engineers--by using his binoculars. He can also steal the uniform off any fallen enemy and assume his identity. His cover will be blown if he fires his weapon, but otherwise, the only way for an enemy to spot a covert ops player in disguise is by the weapon he's carrying and by the lack of the player's name atop his head--when you target your true allies in the game, their names appear above their heads.
With its revised single-player campaign and numerous changes in its multiplayer component, Enemy Territory has clearly come a long way since it was first unveiled at this year's E3. For one thing, the game will now be a stand-alone expansion pack and will not require a copy of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Fans of the original game obviously have a lot to look forward to when Enemy Territory releases, but those who never had the chance to play the game last year would also do well to take a look at this shooter. Enemy Territory is currently scheduled to release in the first half of 2003.