QuakeCon 2007: Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Updated Hands-On

With the game nearing completion, Quake Wars shines at id's annual gathering of its biggest fans.

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DALLAS, Texas--QuakeCon 2007 was a big show for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, the multiplayer action game by Splash Damage in cooperation with id Software. Todd Hollenshead, CEO of id, announced that the game would be released on Oct. 2, and the second beta test of the game was released to thousands of QuakeCon attendees and fans elsewhere, allowing them to get a fresh new look at the game.

The updated beta is a much more polished version of the original beta, but it contains much of the same content seen before. Played all across the convention's floor was the Valley level, which has the forces of the alien Strogg attempting to defend against an attack by human Global Defense Force. Coordination is required on both sides, as the GDF first attempt to repair a bridge and then move their mobile command post over it and through a tunnel, while the Strogg attempt to stop them by building defenses and engaging the enemy.

Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 version of the game was being played nearby by employees of developer Nerve Software, which is working in cooperation with Splash Damage and id on the console version. The Xbox 360 game won't ship on Oct. 2, like its PC cousin, and its release date is still to be determined. Spectators and attendees weren't allowed to play it, but we did get to see a new level, called Island. In Island, the Strogg have seized a key satellite facility that has important data on Strogg slipgate technology, which the Strogg use to invade Earth. The GDF must attack and reclaim the data, but to do that, they must first get power generators up and running to power the data vault. Then they must capture and reclaim the data before extracting to an observatory.

We caught up with Brandon James, president of Nerve Software, as well as Paul "Locki" Wedgwood, the owner and creator of director of Splash Damage to get their thoughts on the game. Wedgwood noted that the new beta introduces persistent stats to the game, including a persistent rank system that's focused on rewarding team play, not particularly individual play. "In other games you get a reward for camping on a hill for six months [and sniping]," he said. However, to get rank promotions in Quake Wars, you'll need to rack up achievements, and you get achievements by doing things that assist your team in winning a mission. If you have a high rank in the game, it "reflects something worthwhile" he said.

James showed us some of the new user interface improvements that have been made, particularly to the Xbox 360 game. For instance, the "limbo screen" that allows you to switch between different character classes and such has been entirely redesigned to be user friendly if you're playing with an Xbox 360 controller. More importantly, there's a new mission area in the top left of the screen that basically tells you what you could be doing to help your team, and it changes depending on your class or your situation. This should help focus the efforts of a team, rather than having a bunch of heavily armed individuals running around randomly.

Another aspect of the game that James touched on was the performance of the bots, which are computer-controlled characters. You can play single-player with bots, or multiplayer with a combination of other players and bots, and we were impressed with what the bots can do. Wedgwood gave an example of how one bot, playing as a covert ops class, used a jet pack to fly to a good spot on the map and hide. When an enemy went by, the bot emerged, stabbed the bad guy in the back, and then stole his identity to disguise himself to infiltrate the enemy base.

Quake Wars is a game that's been four years in the making, so it's exciting to finally see it entering the home stretch. The PC version looks very polished at this point, and the Xbox 360 game also looked good, though it sounds like it needs a bit more work. While the date for it has yet to be announced, it wouldn't surprise us if it slipped a bit into 2008. Still, if id, Splash Damage, and Nerve can deliver, it should be an impressive game. PC players won't have to worry, though, because Quake Wars ships on Oct. 2.

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