This year at rAge I was given some time with Romain Soulie, a developer of Tom Clancy’s EndWar.
EndWar has promised to change the way that we play real-time strategy (RTS) games on console and was built from the ground up to work on our little controllers with the aid of voice commands as opposed to the classic setup of a mouse and keyboard. While the Command & Conquer controls were pretty decent on console, it still didn’t have me completely sold on the idea of an RTS console game.
As I was not too clued in on EndWar’s features (except knowing it had voice commands), I asked him to demo the game for me and show me what’s what.
What I saw next literally boggled my mind.
The game loads up and I see a couple of units on a battlefield. Romain (Who sounds an awful lot like Borat) starts explaining how the entire game can be controlled with the use of only the right trigger (to activate voice commands) and your headset.
Lo and behold he starts issuing orders into the headset like “Unit 1, move to Alpha” and “Unit 2, attack hostile 2” and you know what, they all went off and did their thing. I was quite surprised. “Hmmm”, I thought, he must obviously have some super duper knowledge on how to pronounce things so that the voice recognition works properly. He then gave the headset over to me.
It is at this point that I feel that I need to mention a few factors. For one, I do not trust voice recognition or commands, I have always thought that they were nifty but never really accurate or useful. Second of all, the noise coming from the rAge venue was so loud that myself and the developer were almost literally screaming at each other.
I thought I would start slow, So i pressed down the right trigger and cautiously called out “Unit 1”. What happened next (and due to the fact that I spoke slowly) is that a menu popped up showing that I had selected Unit 1 and then rolled out into a secondary panel of options. “Move to”, I said, waiting for the next panel to roll out… “Unit 3”.
The next thing I knew, my tiny little soldiers were on their way. I could honestly not believe that the headset was clearly picking up my commands. I got brave and tried a few more and all of them were working. Within only a few minutes I was calling in units, attacking the bad people and grouping squads together and by that time, I was talking at the same pace as I would in normal conversation, if not faster.
What hocus-pocus is this that makes this contraption obey my every command? In any case, after a few more minutes we were pulling in airstrikes and causing general amounts of havoc. I can honestly commend the EndWar developers on pulling something really amazing, it really works and it really works well.
A great decision in the games development is that your camera is attached to your units, so you can only see what your units see by calling their name and saying “camera” to move to their view. Your camera is fairly low in the battlefield, which means that you rely heavily on your squads to recon areas before you move in, adding a wonderful element of strategy into the games dynamics. The thumbstick on the controller can then also be used to rotate your view.
Welcome to World War III like you have never imagined it. The campaign modes will allow you to play through the missions of three different factions (US, Russia and Europe). To make things significantly more interesting, there will be other characters and units in the game that borrow from other Clancy titles. We are talking Ghost Recon, Rainbox Six and Splinter Cell units, and if that’s not cool then I don’t know what is.
The real strongpoint of the game will come in the form of the multiplayer mode entitled “Theatre of War”. The game takes the same approach as the Risk boardgame, with the ability to capture and hold territories but there is more to it than meets the eye. ( No there are no Transformers in this game, silly)
Everyday in real time will be seen as one turn. Your chosen faction will duke it out with the others for they day, with the end result of the day showing who won what and where. A campaign may take up to three weeks to complete and once World War III is over, it all kicks off from the beginning again. Different to your usual multiplayer modes? I think so.
All in all I went into the interview with skepticism and only a touch of interest. I left the interview convinced that EndWar is definitely one to look out for, especially if you are into RTS games. If you aren’t an RTS fan, do yourself a favour and check it our anyway, the accessibility of the voice commands may just change your mind.
I know that my interest meter for this game has shot up considerably, keep a look out for our review.
Last Updated: October 10, 2008