Tom Clancy's EndWar Review
|Release Date:||November 7th, 2008 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
I've said it before and I’ll say it again- strategy games on consoles rarely, if ever, work as they were intended. EndWar, however, bends this unwritten rule pretty well, offering a unique method of control that eliminates the number one problem with console strategy games- annoying and complicated controls.
The way it does this is through voice control, and rather than the usual shoddy effort put in by games such as Rainbow 6 (ironically another Clancy-stamped game) the voice controls actually work.
Story-wise, the game is set in the not-too-far future and revolves around the three factions that have built themselves up over the years- America, Russia and the European Federation. Each army has its own individual strengths and weaknesses, such as Russia being good with heavy weapons and Europe being very technologically proficient.
In the single player mode, everything is peachy until a series of terrorist attacks on each faction results in a war spreading across the planet. An anti-missile defence shield has rendered nuclear weapons obsolete so all wars are now fought by hand, just like in the bad old days. And for some unexplained reason 'uplinks' have been built all over the world which must be captured for one side or the other to secure ultimate victory and end the war (see?)
The plot itself is contrived and predictable, odd in itself considering that the master of political thrillers himself has put his stamp of approval on the project- although I personally believe that Clancy would stamp a loaf of bread if it had 'political intrigue mix' on the side. However, the action is where the main meat of the game lies, and that isn't too bad at all.
The game mechanics centre around a simple 'paper, scissors, stone' dynamic which keeps the action fast, but perhaps a little shallow compared to many RTS games- gunships beat tanks, tanks beat transports, transports beat gunships. Each faction also has a certain amount of special units and many different additional units such as infantry and artillery that can be called into service. They also have access to a few WMD's that can be deployed after a certain amount of 'command points' have been accrued, or if a certain amount of uplinks are captured.
Basic command and control is accomplished through a voice interface- slip on the mike and the army you control will follow your commands- say you want unit 3 (as displayed on the screen) to attack a unit of tanks designated as hostile unit 1. You have to pull the trigger, and say, "Unit One, attack Hostile Three." Similarly, if you want two units to move together to uplink alpha: "Unit one plus unit five, move to alpha" or if your gunships are getting hammered, simply pull the trigger and say "Unit 6 retreat."
The voices commands allow a brilliant amount of control over your army, which just can’t be matched by any console RTS. But if you don't have a mike or don't want to use it, battles can still be controlled by hand. The voice command does suffer a couple of flaws however- muttering will result in missed commands, so speaking clearly is a priority. Also, the game struggles to understand heavy accents, such as the Scottish and Welsh I tried out, so be wary if you're from those parts of the world.
Another problem is the game's camera. A press of the X button (or by saying "Unit 2 camera") slaves the camera to that unit and presents a viewpoint that allows the gamer to get right into the action. However, since the camera is slaved to that unit, it is very difficult to get high or look around, as you would with a free camera- this left me relying on the mini-map or on the SitRep mode offered by the command unit that can be deployed, and spoiled the experience for me somewhat.
Also packaged with the game is the online mode, which allows skirmish games against reasonably clever bots or personal games against your friends. The more interesting aspect is the online World War Three that is persistently going on- if you want to join, all you have to do is pick a faction (which can't be changed) sign in and join the fight- winning one area after another until you have final victory.
At which point, the war starts all over again....
There are a few problems with this however- one is that the majority of gamers on EndWar have chosen to play as the US, which are also the most rounded of the three factions (naturally because of the majority of Americans on Xbox Live) this means that the other factions, despite perks, are always on a loosing foot by sheer numbers. Also, the game is centered around combat, not resource gathering or any kind of traditional RTS - traditions such as building a base, a sad loss to many, but not others.
Graphics are reasonable, with hardly any bad mapping and a nifty little screen which pops up any time something special happens- you can watch a unit storm and capture an uplink for example ("unit two secure Beta.") The sound is accurate and interesting- detailing as it does the modern weapons of the world to come, and the voices of the soldiers fighting and dying serve as a reminder of the deadly costs of war.
All in all, EndWar is the best console RTS I’ve played, but it is still far from perfect. Despite the excellent voice dynamic, reasonable graphics and pick up and play easiness of command; it is sadly slightly let down by a poor camera, oddly conceived online mode and an obsession with capturing uplinks.
- Voice command actually works (!)
- Decent graphics and sound
- Easy to get into
Not so good stuff
- Boring plot (where are you Clancy!)
- Designers forgot how many Americans are online
- Repetitive missions