Tom Clancy’s EndWar; virtual and physical hands-on
It is a cold day in London. The rain has been falling and it seems like winter has finally arrived. After a brief encounter under the clock at Waterloo Station, a team of intrepid reporters and fans head up the M1 to Coventry, where Tom Clancy’s EndWar awaits.
But just as with all good metaphors, the sun began to shine and the clouds parted as we get closer and closer to our objective – hands-on with Ubisoft’s new RTS title. Thankfully, nobody broke into song on the coach ride or it would have really ruined the moment.
But this would be no ordinary preview. As well as trying out the will-it-won’t-it-work voice control we were all going to be thrown into a real EndWar scenario. Well, as real as war would get if everyone used paintballs rather than bullets.
Upstairs at Warfighters, the training room had been transformed into a den of EndWar iniquity. Several consoles sat waiting for us to take advantage of them. Donning our headsets, we were thrown straight into the action with nothing more than a ‘have a go’ and a ‘give it a shot’.
The commands and controls in EndWar are deceptively simple. You hold down one of the shoulder buttons to warn the system you are about to speak, and then you bark out your orders; one, two or more orders in sequence if you like.
For example, saying ‘Calling All Units, Attack Hostile 3’ will send everything you’ve got to give the third of your enemy’s squads the fright of their life. The voice commands allow you to move your units, attack, defend, retreat and deploy re-inforcements, amongst other things.
What struck me immediately is just how good the voice control is. In a small room, with five other gamers calling out commands to my left, and various Ubisoft and Warfighters staff talking behind, the game had no problem whatsoever hearing and acting on a stream of commands. Once I got used to the available commands and the speed with which you can bark out the orders, I was lining up five or six sets of actions in a single pass to the units I had deployed.
Within fifteen minutes my Engineers had captured four out of the five command points and the game was over. Thanks to five minutes of faffing about and learning the controls, I was awarded a ‘C’ for my command skills and I gained 304,635 credits.
Credits allow you to upgrade your units and the individuals within those units. As we discovered the other day, in order to buy all the unit upgrades you’ll need to get yourself many millions of credits. In addition to the unit upgrades though there are about 150 individual upgrades available. For example, this allows you to have one or two snipers in a Rifleman unit, rather than having a whole unit of snipers.
This level of customisation means anyone thinking that EndWar might be a little ‘light’ as an RTS will need to start thinking again. Sure, it might not have the largest number of commands available, but every unit has particular strengths and weaknesses. You’ll need to know these, and understand which units are needed for specific tasks, if you are going to succeed at EndWar.
Once the virtual EndWar hands-on was over, and following a much-needed lunch, we headed off into the fields to experience Warfighters’ physical manifestation of the game.
Warfighters are know for their innovative paintball and laser gaming that reproduces the world of Tom Clancy for real. Their indoor Rainbow Six and laser-powered outdoor Ghost Recon games take gamers into the reality of what it is like to work as a team, wear protective armour and carry heavy rifles into battle.
We were given a sneak preview of their new EndWar combat zone, due to launch in Spring 2009, and for us slightly rotund and older journalists it was a definite challenge. I’m still carrying the bruises and whelts, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Apart from being great fun, it was an insight into what it really takes to run across a war zone, dodging fire and trying to capture key locations.
The next time I accidentally sent a Rifleman unit 2 miles on foot to a command point without a transporter, I’ll remember what it felt like.
Tom Clancy’s EndWar has something for RTS fans and newbies alike, and the voice control not only works perfectly but makes playing the game so much less of a chore than other, similar titles offer.