Tom Clancy's EndWar is about World War III. However, it's not the World War III envisioned in the author's classic 1985 novel Red Storm Rising. Instead, this vision of World War III has been updated to take into account geopolitical tensions and future technology. EndWar will offer up some pretty innovative gameplay as players around the world participate in a huge online virtual war.
Set in the year 2020, EndWar will pit the forces of the US and Europe against a newly reenergized Russia. However, things aren't too peachy between America and her European allies. As designer Michael de Plater, one of the key designers behind the popular Total War games, explained to us, the US and Europe are split over America's militarization of space. By researching antimissile technology, America makes World War III possible by reducing the chances of a nuclear conflict. However, Russia, having rebuilt its military thanks to the fact that it has major supplies of oil in a world that has exhausted most of the traditional supplies, is furious, because it felt that nuclear deterrence was the reason the peace was kept for so long. After America's Freedom Star space station is destroyed on the launchpad by terrorists, everything comes to a head, and war is declared.
Here's where you and everyone else who plays EndWar will come in. When you play the game for the first time you'll select a side to fight for. You'll then be presented with a virtual map of Europe and North America, with front lines defined on it. Let's say that there's a fierce battle for Nebraska. You can choose to help out your side by jumping into a battle there. At the end of the day, the game calculates the overall winner based on the outcome of all the battles in that territory and adjusts the front lines accordingly. This cycle is repeated until one side is wiped out, and the war is reset.
When you jump into a battle it will be unlike any kind of strategy game that you've seen before, according to de Plater. The idea isn't so much that you'll play the game like a traditional real-time strategy game, but rather that you'll play it like a 3D wargame. Ubisoft was inspired by many things, even Madden football games, and the closest comparison that de Plater came up with was Company of Heroes, only much bigger. Here's how it will work: There can be up to 12 players in each battle, with six on each side. The number of units in each battle will be divided by the number of players on a team. So if there are 18 units in the battle and six players on a team, each player controls three units; if there are only three players on the team, each player controls six units; and so on. Players will communicate using real-time voice chat and will use voice commands to order units around, just like a real general.
Unfortunately, Ubisoft didn't have the game on display to show us any of this in action. Instead, the company just showed off the official trailer for the game, which features a hellacious battle for Paris with infantry, tanks, high-tech drones, and more. For every move one side made, the other would counter with its own surprises. Sadly, the trailer itself was prerendered CGI, so we didn't even get a chance to see the game's graphics engine in action. Still, judging from the trailer, everything will be brought into play, including orbital weaponry that fires missiles down to Earth with pinpoint precision.
Tom Clancy's EndWar may very well be the most ambitious strategy game on the horizon, for either the PC or console. Thankfully, it's coming to the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. We will definitely get more on this game as it develops, but keep an eye on EndWar. It's due to ship around the spring of 2008.