Warpath Multiplayer Hands-On

Digital Extremes' new shooter will put a strategic spin on traditional team-based multiplayer. We take an early build for a spin.

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If you were wondering what the folks at Digital Extremes have been up to since Pariah shipped last year, the answer is another shooter. The new one is called Warpath, and it focuses squarely on madcap multiplayer action with an extensive upgradable weapon system thrown in for good measure. If you're somehow averse to Xbox Live (whoever you are), don't worry--there's a full single-player campaign included as well, which features a turn-based strategy shell wrapped around the first-person action. We got to try out a nearly finished version of Warpath on the Xbox today to see what unique aspects it'll bring to the first-person shooter table.

Since the publisher is billing Warpath primarily as a multiplayer game, we'll start there. The game will feature the modes you'd expect: deathmatch and team DM, capture the flag, and a capture-points-A-to-B-to-C team game called frontline assault. Before you jump into a game, you'll have to augment your default weapons loadout of a melee vibro-blade and a sidearm with two heavy weapons taken from a pool of six. Wait, only six weapons? These run the FPS gamut from shotgun to assault rifle, sniper rifle to rocket launcher. But is six really enough?

Believe it or not, there's a hex-based strategy game at the heart of Warpath's single-player campaign.
Believe it or not, there's a hex-based strategy game at the heart of Warpath's single-player campaign.

Luckily, each weapon can be upgraded multiple times within a match when you pick up items called C.A.M.s. The upgrades don't just make your shots more powerful; rather, each upgrade level adds a significant new feature to the weapon's attack properties. The rocket launcher allows you to lock onto an enemy with a heat-seeking rocket after its first upgrade, for instance, while a second upgrade will let you lock onto up to four targets at once and then unleash a wave of destruction. The grenade launcher upgrades will give you sticky grenades and grenades that can be detonated at will. Even though only the six weapons are available, you'll have to use your C.A.M.s judiciously to gain new abilities and perpetuate your survival.

If you get bored with knocking heads online, Warpath will also have a full single-player campaign you can play through from the perspective of one of three races vying for planetary dominion. Then again, reps for the game told us that the campaign in Warpath will also serve as good practice for the online mode, so new players may want to start here. At any rate, you'll choose your race and then jump into a...turn-based hexagonal strategy game? Each of the 16 levels in the campaign is represented here, and you'll actually get to pick which territory you assault next. Some territories will confer new weapons or more C.A.M.s, so those zones will obviously be of the most strategic importance.

Maps will be set across a wide variety of terrain types.
Maps will be set across a wide variety of terrain types.

Of course, once you attack a territory, the game proceeds in typical FPS fashion. The biggest catch in the strategy mode is that the two computer races will take turns in the same manner you do, so once you've taken an important territory, you may find yourself defending it when one of the competing races decides to launch an assault. On the flip side, the two other races might end up fighting with each other, which will obviously reduce the amount of work you have to do to kill them both by a significant margin. Since you can play through this campaign with all three races, and you're free to proceed with your offensive moves as you see fit, you could potentially spend a lot of time with this strategy game.

Warpath looks like it'll have a solid chunk of multiplayer combat for diehard Xbox Live combatants, and the publisher says downloadable content will definitely happen sometime after release, so if the game catches on, it should be around for some time to come. The game is slated for release in the late-March/early-April time frame, and we'll bring you more on it in the coming weeks.

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