Earth Defense Force to the Rescue

Game maker Splash Damage introduces Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, a squad-based action game with strategy and full-on action

It's nearly been ten years since we were first introduced to Quake, id's first person off-shoot from the Doom series that drew us into a more detailed 3-D realm than we ever expected and creeped us out with all sorts of twisted monster designs. That PC effort remains a big favorite amongst the first-person elite, and the license remains just as strong as ever, especially with the current release of Quake 4 for the PC and Xbox 360. But if that's not enough to fill your necessity for first-person shooting madness, Splash Damage may have what you're looking for in their forthcoming squad-based action game Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Splash Damage first introduced the Enemy Territory brand when they did an off-shoot game for Activision's other first-person series, Castle Wolfenstein, a little while back. The title wasn't an enormous success but did garner quite the following for fans of the brand, and it also put Splash on the map with their development prowess. The company seems to be coming further along with Quake Wars, as they recently showcased the title during a presentation that showed all the work they were putting into it. I'm sure fans of Quake will like what they find.

The story's pretty basic. It's the Earth race of marines (the Earth Defense Force, to be precise) against the likes of the Strogg, a technology-driven alien race that has total domination on their menu. The game takes place prior to the events of Quake II. They're put right smack into the middle of a map with a number of separated area, each controlled by different parties. The Strogg may have control of one area, but the Earth soldiers easily take control of another...until they lose it in the midst of battle, of course. Your job is to take control of each area with the help of tactical moves, as well as fast-paced action that puts you right into the shoes of one of your soldiers or Strogg. So, squad based right down to the letter, but some people will like that kind of approach.

Splash Damage knows they're working with a quality license here, so they've backed it up with an ingeniously detailed graphic engine. We're talking the most miniscule lighting effects, even in something as simple as a hallway glare during morning or evening battles or the light coming from a doorway and how it has an effect on a larger room. The animation also appears to be very solid, with different stances and reactions for both the humans and the Strogg. The game moves along at a fine frame rate, and only mildly hiccuped during the presentation, something that Splash Damage is sure to clean up in time for the game's final release. There's other neat little things to notice, like the display inside a vehicle that relates to your battle causes or little smoke effects that you'd expect from the battlefield. When a rocket takes off from its launcher and goes skyward, it's a beautiful thing.

The gameplay feels like it's going to be a fine mixture between strategy and full-on action. Your players have the ability of either taking on the action on foot and putting themselves in strategic positions, or getting behind the wheel of a complex vehicle and mowing over the competition, as well as moving from area to area. There's land-based rovers and trucks, along with aerial vehicles that pack an amazing punch, especially if your aim is coordinated just right. But the real meat and potatoes comes into item use, such as remote control cameras, missile launchers, radars that can read enemy stations, and so much more. You could spend hours building a tactical camp that would help you turn the tide of war in your favor...only to see it squashed by a well-timed aerial attack by the Strogg. Play your cards right.

There's also different soldiers that come into play during the heat of battle. Some do better at straightforward shooting while others serve a different purpose. During the presentation, Splash Damage had a little fun shooting out tires on the vehicles, and then calling in a repair man who was able to build new ones in a matter of seconds. Of course, how anyone can build a tire out of thin air is beyond me, but if anyone can do it, it's probably a soldier. Or David Copperfield. And Copperfield would get completely wasted by the Strogg.

No matter which side you choose, you'll have your choice of a number of weapons and vehicles that each pack their own sense of firepower and real-time physics. You couldn't expect a missile launcher to operate immediately, or even be built right on the spot. No, they actually get delivered and dropped off to the location that you desire, which lends a nice touch to a game and doesn't give you any "miraculous" opportunities to turn the tables. The vehicles themselves, ranging from an ATV bike to a land rover with cool tinted windshield, handle specifically as well. During the presentation, we were treated to a wild jump over a river with the ATV that, from what we understand, took some time to master, due to the real-time handling of the bike. I'm sure the Strogg vehicles will have a similar effect, although the aerial vehicles we tried out seem to have a slight edge over the chopper. It just LOOKS that much sweeter, you see.

As mentioned, the graphics will be extremely detailed, and the audio will be filled with constant radio chatter and other sound effects that will bring forth the details of war through your stereo speakers. The focus is obviously on multiplayer, as you work with your fellow teammates and engage in battles with other clans.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks to be shaping up as a marvelous squad-based action game. The game engine, a modified take on the old Doom 3 engine, looks fantastic, and the opportunities are aplenty in making sure you have the advantage over the enemy. Now all you need are some mad skills to keep your area secure and your soldiers from being destroyed. Um, good luck.

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