Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tom Clancy's EndWar Preview (release in 2008)

Game Features:
Offline Players: 1-2
Online Multiplayer
EDTV 480p Support
HDTV 720p Support
HDTV 1080i Support
Dolby 5.1 In-Game

New York City is under attack. As I sit and watch the enemy’s troops and vehicles make their way toward the city’s center, I wonder how it could have happened. I don’t the exact answer as to why World War III has started, but I do know that the future of warfare is much different than what we’ve come to expect. In Tom Clancy’s EndWar from Ubisoft, you’ll have a front row seat for all of the action, as you’ll be the one controlling it. Although the game is being marketed as an RTS, it’s one the likes of which we’ve never seen before. It certainly feels like an RTS in many ways, but it’s much more accessible than games like LotR: Battle for Middle Earth II and Command & Conquer 3

Designed from the ground up for the Xbox 360, EndWar tells the tale of the events of World War III. Although it’s a global war, the battles in the game will largely revolve around the Atlantic theatre, and we had a chance to see some action in the harbor area of New York City and La Mancha, the hilly plains of Spain. The combatants will consist of the United States, The European Union, and Russia, although we’re not exactly sure how they’ll be matched up in battle. We were happy to hear that the US forces are being led by our old friend (and GRAW veteran) Scott Mitchell, who’s been put in charge of the “Joint Strike Force.”

At first glance, EndWar looks a lot like a run-of-the-mill real-time strategy game. You’ll take control of a number of different units, commanding them around the battlefield and determining which ones should be used in particular situations. The game uses the same “Rock, Scissor, Paper” style of play as most RTS games, so you’ll likely know what unit to use and when. For instance, choppers are tank killers, while heavy infantry units are the best to use when you need to take out other vehicles. One of the nicest things about the game is the fact that you really don’t need to do any of the resource management that slows down other strategy games. You won’t be building factories or mining ore or any of that nonsense. Instead, you’ll be able to focus all of your attention on one thing: kicking ass.

The game’s biggest innovation (and trust us when we say that it’s a big one) is the ability to give your units voice commands with the headset. This is far deeper than the system seen in the Rainbow Six games, as you’ll actually have complete control over their actions. It’s really an amazing technology, and we were blown away by just how well it actually worked. You don’t have to use the voice commands if you don’t want to, but we can’t understand why someone would want to stick with the unwieldy controller-based command system.

Using the voice system is as easy as holding down the right trigger to bring up the command menu, then giving your orders. You’ll start out by saying the name of the unit you want to command, then give them the directions that they need. The units are given numerical designations (so you won’t have to say “Tanks” or “Choppers”) and you’ll be able to see what type of unit it is thanks to a handy little icon. Once you’ve got the unit you want, you can tell them to move to a given control point or attack an enemy unit, each of which is present on the tactical map. I particularly liked the ability to move the camera to a unit without having to navigate with the analog sticks, something that was always a bit frustrating in other RTS games.

In both the single- and multiplayer modes, you’ll be presented with a number of different gametypes. In the Annihilation mode, you’ll start out with a very large force that is tasked with wiping out another large force. When playing the Conquest mode, on the other hand, you’ll be in charge of a small strike force that needs to capture and hold critical points like missile silos or armories. As you capture points or kill enemy units, you’ll earn reinforcement points that can be used to call in (you guessed it) reinforcement units. You can also upgrade your units to gain a bigger advantage on the battlefield, and we were told that there are over 300 upgrades in total.

While the single-player game definitely looks like a lot of fun, it’s the multiplayer game that sounds most intriguing. The demoer described it as a global war of sorts, meaning every match that’s played on a particular map will be counted toward a grand total. For instance, if there are 10,000 matches played in the New York City map and the US wins 7,000 of them, that area will be controlled by that faction. The same goes for all of the other locales, and the global “frontlines” will be updated dynamically every 24 hours. This means that there will (hopefully) be a back and forth going on for game’s life on Xbox Live.

There are a number of other cool features that we learned about, but we can’t really tell you about them just yet. We can say that there will be a saved films feature that will allow you to watch the world’s best players in action, as well as a varied co-op mode that lets players team up with friends and AI-controlled “teammates.” It looks like Tom Clancy’s EndWar will be the RTS for people who don’t typically like that sort of game, and we can’t wait to spend some more time with it. Be sure to check out our hands-on impressions of the game in the coming weeks

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