by Brett Cocking
I have never really liked RTS games, mostly because I couldn’t get the hang of the speed at which I was required to play in order to be competitive.
This worried me when I got hold of Endwar, if they couldn’t find a way to slow the game down while keeping to the essence of an RTS, the game would most likely go the way of other console RTS games.
Luckily with the lack of base building and implementation of voice commands, the game looks more like an RTS made for consoles than an RTS on consoles.
Endwar takes place in the future, with the build up to the war to end all wars, World War III. While it is fictional there are some rather scarily familiar events in the prelude. Due to the dwindling oil reserves, tensions around the world are growing high. When a missile defense system is launched; making nuclear warfare null and void, the world super powers believe that the shift in power has become too great and this causes what is WWIII. You take the role of the General in different battles around the world, effectively winning the war frontline by frontline. While this is a rather hollow storyline for a Tom Clancy game, the thought of being able to affect the bigger picture with each battle you win makes up for it quite nicely.
Endwar feels very watered down in terms of an RTS but this is the beauty of it. You can only take control of a maximum 12 squads with 7 different units to choose from, Riflemen, Tanks, Engineers, Gunships, Transports, Artillery and Command vehicles. Each unit has its strengths and weaknesses; the strategy feels very much like a game of rock-paper-scissors. Tanks destroy transport, gunships destroy tanks and transport destroys gunships. While this may sound simple, it becomes imperative that you send the correct units to the battle so that you have a better chance of winning.
One of the main features of Endwar is the voice command system. You can completely control the game with voice commands but, for those of you without headsets, the game can also be controlled using the control. In order to make the most of the game, a mixture of the two is required. The voice commands are very well done, it uses a simple system of who, what, where. Issuing a command to attack or retreat is about as complex as the commands will get. The game is also great at understanding you, I sat and tried different accents from my best â€œBoratâ€ to my best American accent and the game knew exactly what I was saying every time.
The camera moves very smoothly and gives you a great view of the action, gone is that mysterious cloud which covers the battlefield not allowing you to see anything. Now you see exactly what your units see, which is great when deciding which sides to attack from. I would have liked to be able to raise the camera a little higher at times but that didn’t inhibit the way I played at any time.
I did have a few gripes with the interface, it was rather confusing and there was nothing in the way of an explanation or tutorial on what everything meant. This meant that I was playing blindly half of the time while something important was happening that I didn’t know about.
There were also a few issues with the AI of my units. While the enemy AI is great, I found my units were a bit too obedient and lacked initiative. When I told them to move, they would move in a straight line to that point, instead of taking cover on the way there. The gunships would fly directly over enemy transports resulting in a lot of damage when they could have changed course slightly to avoid it. While this may seem trivial, having to baby-sit 12 sets of units is very difficult in the heat of battle. Another problem was with my infantry, once entrenched they proved very stubborn in moving again which, considering infantry are the only units who can capture control points, is rather frustrating.
The biggest feature of Endwar is the online Theater of War mode. Each day there is a 16 player match which runs for 24 hours for control over the whole globe. You can join this game at any time; your goal is to do as much damage as possible to the enemy while you are playing. At the end of the 24 hours, all the scores are totaled up and a winning side is decided, from this new battle lines are drawn and the game stats over again. You can come and go as you please, so you are not stuck in a 24 hour match. This mode is great fun and provides a much more enjoyable experience to the single player campaign.
When playing against other players, the strategy becomes a vital part of what you are doing. Flanking becomes a huge factor in the outcome of a battle and making sure your units are protected by other units in order to nullify their weaknesses is also very important. If you have units which last the battle, you can then enter the barracks and customize these units giving them better abilities and making them generally more potent. Next battle, those units will be back by your side ready to fight. This doesn’t however help with the weaknesses of your units so you will have to think twice before sending your high level tanks into battle alone.
There are still online skirmishes for those of you that want to go head-to-head with another player on a map of your choice but Theater of War is where you will get the most out of this game.
The graphics of Endwar are rather disappointing, considering that the camera is so close to the action, it is a bit of a let down seeing blurry textures and lack of detail. The graphics are by no means bad; they just lack anything to make them really good. While the action of the battlefield is enough to draw your attention away from the graphics, it doesn’t let you forget the lack of texture of the units directly in front of you.
The graphics saving grace is that the sound of the game is brilliant. When you issue a command your units will respond with a reply, they continually update you on their status and warn you when then are up against a unit of their weakness. With 9000 lines of dialogue and 30 000 lines of voice acting, you are sure to always get the answer you want somewhere along the line.
Endwar is by no means a perfect game but it is one of the best RTS games you will get on a console. The battles are shorter and the voice command system negates the need for manual camera control. The rock-paper-scissors strategy gets old fairly quickly on single player but shines online. Theater of War is a great online component and offers a greater sense of longevity to the game. If you are willing to look past the average graphics and annoyances then Tom Clancy’s Endwar will make any RTS fan happy.
Gameplay: 8/10 [With a headset or control, the game plays smoothly] Presentation: 6/10 [The graphics are average] Sound: 9/10 [Sound Effects and Voice acting are top notch] Value: 7/10 [Without the online component, the game can get old fast ]
Overall: 7.5/10 [Solid game, could have been so much more]
Last Updated: December 8, 2008