Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Preview - 16/08/2007

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is a hybrid follow-up to Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, featuring characters and storylines from the Quake series. It looks like a (decent) sci-fi version of the Battlefield series, but with the backing of id's Doom 3 engine, and a nicely tarted up version at that.

On a personal level, there's something about Quake Wars that stands out to me. The Battlefield series is loved by millions, as is Quake, so a fusion of the two, which is essentially what this is, sounds great. Firmly entrenched in the blood-soaked ground of first-person shooters, Enemy Territory is a model on the equally loved Wolfenstein series, but with vehicles and aircraft thrown in for good measure.

The story, while these games are never exactly masterpieces in the field (particularly when the focus is on multiplayer), is likely to please Quake fans, with the game serving as a prequel to Quake II, featuring the Global Defense Force against the alien Strogg as they attempt to invade earth. Like in Wolfenstein's multiplayer, the system is class based, and you will be able to play as Human or Strogg throughout the game, with five classes on offer for each.

The GDF classes are Soldier, who can utilise heavy weapons, such as the rocket launcher, frag grenades and the general purpose machine gun; Field Ops, who specialises in deploying supplementary weaponry to the battlefield, such as air strikes and supporting artillery guns, and carries an assault rifle; Engineer, who has the usual shotgun and repair abilities; Medic, who can heal, drop supply stations into the field and carries the assault rifle; and Covert Ops, who has a sniper rifle and can use the ability to deploy a 'third eye' to the battlefield, allowing video footage of enemy goings-on to be relayed to team mates, as well as a PDA to hack into enemy systems.

The Strogg pretty much have renamed versions of the GDF classes, but with Strogg weaponry. Highlights include the Infiltrator class, which is essentially the same as the Covert Ops class, but can possess the corpses of dead GDF forces, using them to sneak into the enemy base – pretty cool. Also, the Technician can create spawn points closer to the enemy base to allow quick allied deployments, which is always handy. The similarities in basic abilities but differences in more specialised areas should be a joy to behold, and Splash Damage, the developer, are confident it's going to be perfectly balanced, which is good news all round.

Staying on the class and character front, the game promises to support persistent character growth and achievements to reward gamers for teamwork and completing mission objectives, which will usually involve attack and defend, with the aim to capture and secure enemy territory, while holding your front line high up the battlefield.

The original Enemy Territory, which was released as a freeware standalone multiplayer sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, went down a storm, but the addition of vehicles is surely set to shake up the action. The deployable weaponry is something different too, and I can already picture some great defensive bottlenecks created with carefully placed turrets and manned vehicles. Of course, the aircraft in the game provide an alternate route into enemy bases (as well as water-based vehicles confirmed for inclusion), but what stands out at the moment is the difference in units between the Strogg and GDF. While the classes are similar, but with different weapons and abilities, the vehicles of each side are radically different. The GDF have future incarnations of what our armed forces rattle around in now, tanks and APCs for the mostpart, whereas the Strogg strut around in huge mech suits and hover-tanks. They may look coolers, but bullets vs. lasers is often not as straightforward as it sounds. To combat a team using aircraft and vehicles over anything else, rather than calling them funking noobs, it's far easier (well not really, but more satisfying) to use auto targeting anti-vehicle turrets, strategic strike missile strikes and deployable radar to help stop them in their tracks.

id Software are already boasting about the technology used in Enemy Territory, which is from id Tech 4, so there's plenty of resources on offer for modders already, but crucially it seems, the game is set to use id's new MegaTexture technology, which allows the game to render large, detailed textures and environments with a fantastic draw distance to the horizon and dynamic lighting, vegetation and shadowing – generally surroundings that are totally unique and without any repeated textures. Apparently optimisation techniques allow the 3GB MegaTextures to be vastly reduced, with the final object taking up a miniscule 8MB of your system's video RAM, when compared to the detail you get in return. From the screenshots and movies that we have seen so far, it looks pretty spectacular, with a highlight being the different times of day the engine allows the developers to effortlessly (easy enough to say that sitting here…) implement, whether you'll be able to choose the time of day or weather for each map remains to be seen, but would be an awesome feature.

The key for creating compelling multiplayer gameplay apparently lies within id's ethos of 'capture, construct, destroy' gameplay for Enemy Territory. There will be individual objectives for single missions, which, should you complete or aid your team suitably, will help you gain rank, and upgrade your character - but there are also overreaching ones over three-missions, more like a standard campaign. Talk at the moment is centring round individual missions for each class, such as to deploy artillery guns in certain scenarios as the Field Ops class for example – just how structured gameplay in a multiplayer environment like this will work should be very interesting indeed.

As for player numbers, the PC version is supposed to support 24 players online, with the Xbox 360 and PS3 ones supporting 16, which is just about enough for large scale vehicular combat, as long as it doesn't slip down lower. The engine is supposed to be great for optimised, glitchless, lagless gaming, featuring 'area-of-relevance' technology, and we'll take a closer look at it all when the game releases on the 29th September on PC, and later on PS3 and Xbox 360, next year for those seems inevitable at the moment.

The deployables sound completely ingenious at this end, as well as the emphasis on team-based class play, and large scale optimised battles online. While the game lacks the strong campaign of singleplayer games, Splash Damage have repeatedly stressed the quality of their AI bots for anyone wanting practice offline, or presumably, non-abusive partners online. There can be no denying the pedigree of the developer combination involved, with both id and Splash Damage very popular with most of us, and we'll bring you a review when the game releases on each format to see how it shapes up.

As a parting note, I recommend you check out www.quakewars.com as it contains some great details on the Strogg and GDF, as well as more info on the deployables which look set to shape the gameplay in a new and interesting direction, and the original Enemy Territory downloadable for free.

- Mike Hazleton



Splash Damage, id
PC - PS3 - 360