EndWar Exclusive Theater of War Hands-On
It's the end of the world as you know it, and it's fought online.
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The single-player campaign and multiplayer skirmish modes in Tom Clancy's EndWar are just the beginning. The meat of EndWar will be fought online in the Theater of War, a persistent and ongoing mode in which you assemble and upgrade your own personal army, and then unleash it on the world. They don't call it World War III for nothing.
First you choose a faction. The United States is known for excellent air and ground combat, stealth and robotics, and dashing good looks. Russia is a military behemoth that specializes in heavy weaponry and making things go boom. Europe, meanwhile, employs the fastest vehicle units, laser weaponry, and electronic warfare, as well as darn good cappuccinos. There may be a cash reward for a particular faction if it's lagging behind in online numbers, and these credits can be spent immediately on upgrading your battalion.
Before spending those credits, you first select your battalion specialty, be it airborne, technical, or mechanized. These give you more units that fall within your specialty; for example, airborne battalions receive more gunships and riflemen reinforcements. After each battle, surviving units receive experience points and climb up the six ranks, gaining access to unit-specific upgrades. For instance, elite riflemen can be upgraded with camouflage to blend in with the environment. Unfortunately, if a highly ranked unit is killed in combat, you lose its rank and upgrades. Thankfully, it's more difficult to be killed than you'd expect. A unit is first incapacitated and consequently is no longer able to execute orders. Instead, it waits for a support helicopter and a quick extraction. After incapacitating an enemy, you usually move on to the next enemy and continue the fight. But if you're feeling particularly ornery, you can completely wipe out an incapacitated unit. On the flip side, you can order your elite units to evacuate the battlefield just before they become incapacitated so that they live to fight another day. Then again, you won't be able to use their particular talents again during that battle.
The Theater of War map is spread out across the eastern seaboard of the United States, Russia, and Europe. What about the rest of the world? Wait for EndWar 2, said Ubisoft. The Theater of War is broken up into turns, and one turn lasts one day. When you log in, a battle commander will fill you in on the results of battles fought by your faction. At the end of the day, the results of every battle are tallied, and the winner takes control of those territories on the map. Ubisoft has the ability to set various win conditions, such as controlling a certain number of territories or capital cities. If your faction wins World War III, you can expect a large cash reward in addition to a trophy or achievement. And then World War III starts all over again. Ubisoft expects campaigns to last between one and three weeks.
This war is not static, and ownership of valuable territories will help you to gain other territories. There are air bases on the map that can give you instant access to air strikes, and military bases will give you a large number of ground troops called Force Recon that overrun the enemy, called Force Recon. As you win or lose, your front line will dynamically shift, so you'll want to choose battles that are crucial to your faction's war effort.
There are several different mission types, depending on whether you're attacking or defending a territory. The normal Conquest mode tasks you with securing more than half of the satellite-uplink points on the map. An Assault match is a kill-everything deathmatch. In Raid, attackers try to take out targets on a map within a set time period. In Siege--usually reserved for the capital cities Washington DC, Moscow, and Paris--attackers must secure one critical point for a set period of time. In all mission types, simply blowing up all enemies will earn you a victory as well, should you not want to bother with pesky command points (though they do award you with command-point bonuses that can purchase upgrades or reinforcements).
The EndWar servers are not separated by region, so you may in fact do battle against Europeans or Russians during the Theater of War. You can also bring a partner to fight cooperatively, sharing command points and uplink rewards such as Force Recon. Playing with a friend adds another level of strategy as you formulate a battle plan, focus on specific targets on the map, and utilize different specialties. Furthermore, the persistent units from your single-player campaign do not cross over to Theater of War. After each mission, you can edit and save replays to show off to your friends.
EndWar is currently being tested in a closed beta, but a VIP demo is scheduled to begin on October 7 for those who preorder the game at certain retailers. A traditional demo is slated to appear on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network soon afterward. In both cases, the end is near, and we can't wait.