Tom Clancy's EndWar Exclusive Hands-On - Single-Player, Multiplayer, and World War III

We get our hands on this upcoming console strategy game in this exclusive E3 preview.

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If you thought gas prices were bad now, wait until 2020 when Russia becomes the world's largest supplier of oil and natural gas production in Tom Clancy's EndWar. This development fuels a military buildup not seen since the Cold War. A missile defense shield is constructed that protects the United States, Europe, and Russia from nuclear annihilation, but instead of peace, the tension escalates into a massive ground war spanning the globe. In EndWar, World War III has begun, and the future may be bleak, but it's never been brighter for console strategy fans.

Scheduled for release this October, EndWar is a different sort of strategy game, built from the ground up with consoles in mind. We recently visited with creative director Michael de Plater for the latest on EndWar. Hands-on multiplayer sessions and a few new details were included in our visit, as well as whispers of a possible PC version.

Though purple, this orbital laser strike is one of three WMDs in EndWar.
Though purple, this orbital laser strike is one of three WMDs in EndWar.

You can't fight a war without an army, so the first thing you'll do in EndWar is choose and customize your own battalion. After selecting either the US, European, or Russian factions, you then choose the type of battalion, be it airborne, mechanized, armored, signals, or assault. For example, airborne will feature increased gunship and riflemen ranks, armored will have tank bonuses, while assault will be a balanced attack force. From there, you select a task force bonus. Airborne gunships, for example, can immediately unlock a rocket barrage, a volley of 80mm unguided rockets that deal "kinetic damage" and "blast damage." Artillery units of mechanized battalions can grab a bunker buster shell, an incendiary warhead for increased penetration. The list of bonuses is lengthy; there are about 90 different upgrades for each faction that can be purchased with credits earned based on your performance.

The customization space in EndWar is called the barracks. This is where you'll edit your battalion's camouflage and purchase the aforementioned battle upgrades. The barracks were inspired by, believe it or not, the garage in Forza 2, a place to tweak and enjoy your creations. The units--riflemen, engineers, tanks, transports, gunships, artillery, command vehicles--will gain experience in the persistent online campaign called Theater of War and will rank up. There are six ranks, and by the time you have a unit maxed out with combat bonuses and field experience, you will have grown quite attached to it. But if a unit is eliminated in battle, it will be replaced by lowly privates. War is hell, after all.

Ordering your army about is a breeze, thanks to the slick voice command system.
Ordering your army about is a breeze, thanks to the slick voice command system.

In the single-player campaign, you'll play as Gen. Scott Mitchell of Ghost Recon fame and command the United States faction against Mother Russia. The warzone spanning most of the northern hemisphere is broken up into battle points. This is the same map that will be used online for Theater of War. In the campaign, you will choose which battle is most important to win, and the AI will handle the remaining battles on the map. Online, success in each battle will be decided by which faction has the largest winning percentage.

The multiplayer modes have been changed somewhat since we last saw EndWar. There's Conquest, the battle for uplink stations on one of the 29 maps. The uplinks are responsible for protecting the area from nuclear strike. Once a majority is controlled, the losing team will have five minutes to regain a point or be annihilated. The losing team will at least gain access to a WMD to even the odds--a kinetic strike fired from space for the Americans; an orbital laser blast for the Europeans; a tactical nuke for the Ruskies. If you do use a WMD, be warned. Aside from general devastation to the environment and local plant life, your enemy will also be able to launch a WMD following your attack. The Assault mode is a basic deathmatch, while Raid is an attack-and-defend match using multiple uplink points. The final mode, Siege, is another attack-and-defend match in which the defenders have 10 minutes to protect one major point on the map, like the US Capitol or the Eiffel Tower for instance (both fully destructible, by the way).

We jumped in a two-on-two conquest map at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was supposed to be a great day for the Americans as they launched a shuttle into space. Instead, the Russians destroyed the shuttle, and it's all-out war on the ground. We teamed with de Plater to take on the enemy AI and immediately felt the strategic appeal of EndWar. Thanks to the seamless voice command system, you feel like a general on the battlefield, reacting immediately with tactical changes to enemy advances. It will only take a few minutes of ordering "unit one to attack hostile two" and "unit three to secure Yankee" before you'll be fully engrossed in the battle. Having such seamless controls is important to keep the rock-paper-scissors gameplay flowing. Gunships destroy tanks and artillery, tanks destroy transports, and transports can take out gunships with AA flak. The core combat flows from this system and the voice commands make it that much easier to master.

World War III comes to a video game console near you later this year.
World War III comes to a video game console near you later this year.

If you look closely, you can almost feel the influence of the Total War strategy series at work. De Plater also headed up Rome: Total War, so it's no coincidence that the units are spread out on the bottom of the screen in much the same way. Instead of trebuchets and catapults, you have riflemen and nuclear weapons. De Plater goes so far as to call it Total War meets Clancy. Resources are not won or lost in an over world map, however. Gaining access to uplinks will allow you to deploy more units on the battlefield. Once you've secured an uplink, engineers can unlock three levels of air support, electronic warfare, and force recon. Air strike will call in H.A.W.X. fighter jets to deliver destructive payloads; electronic warfare attacks are electromagnetic pulses that disable an enemy's electronics; forced recon are highly trained Ghost Recon units that can easily take over enemy positions.

Multiplayer promises to only get bigger as you jump into four-versus-four battles and have to coordinate with other battalions. So far, we had a blast playing quarterback with our troops using the voice command system, blowing up famous landmarks, and customizing our army in the barracks. Our in-depth coverage of EndWar is just beginning. Be sure to check out our exclusive gameplay video and enjoy World War III for yourself.

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