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Tom Clancy’s EndWar; an RTS for the people?

Submitted by on Monday, 10 November 20084 Comments

It’s quite common to be invited along for a game preview to try out one small morsel and then when you get the actual full title, be disappointed with the end results.

When we had the chance to give EndWar a spin last month we were able to get hands-on with one small battle. Whilst that experience was good, how does the full game stack up?

Does the final fight match up to our pre-war taster?

The year is 2020 and thanks to an (all too realistic) attack on a US space shuttle mission the world has been plunged into a new global war. This new World War III is being fought by three main factions; the United States Joint Strike Force (JSF), the European Federation Enforcers Corps (EF) and the Russian Spetsnaz Guards Brigade (SGB).

Within each faction there are seven different types of unit you can command; riflemen, engineers, tanks, transports, gunships, artillery, and command vehicles. Each unit has a number of different options and upgrades (the cost of which we have already revealed) that actually improve in time throughout the game. It is a nice feature that the longer your troops serve under you, the better they get thanks to their experience.

Each faction has its own strengths and weaknesses, so players have an opportunity to choose a faction that matches their style of play. Many will choose the JSF for their precision, the EF for their urban warfare skill or the SGB for their sheer, well, hardness. But whilst the single-player campaign sets out EndWar’s stall quite well, it is in the Theatre of War that your faction choice makes a real difference. More on that later.

Let’s get this out of the way early. I don’t like RTS games much.

Real-time Strategy titles tend to require me to be far more anal about all the stats and facts than I would ever like to be. I admire great RTS players for the encyclopedic knowledge of every nuance of their chosen game, but I’m afraid that’s just not my cup of tea.

So why on earth am I sitting here writing about EndWar?

The one thing that makes EndWar stand out from all other titles in its class is the control system.

EndWar is fully voice controlled (if you want it to be). To control a unit and make them follow your will you simply call out orders based on a system of Who, What and Where. Who do you want to command? What do you want them to do? Where should they do it.

For example, ‘Unit 1 move to Bravo’ and ‘Calling all units, attack Hostile 3’ are both valid commands, as is the more extreme ‘WMD Foxtrot’. Commands can be strung together quickly and effortlessly to send several units to varying locations or attack points.

It is this simplicity and immediate control that makes EndWar instantly accessible to new or begrudging RTS players (like myself).

Before you begin your campaign EndWar trains itself to your voice. I did have an initial problem with the game registering my USB headset as the microphone volume (which was set on highest in the PS3 settings) was too low. All I needed to do to fix the issue was project my voice a little more than usual, and that moved me on to the next phase. Completing the voice setup even earns you a bronze Trophy – how nice.

Once the setup is complete it is a good idea to start with the solo campaign. This weans you into battle with some fairly simple scenarios that bring you up-to-speed on the available commands. Once you have completed this ‘Prelude to War’ you are shown a cut-scene that explains why the world is at odds once again.

For my tastes it was a little disappointing to see actual footage of a real-life disaster used in the game as part of the fiction of 2020. Call me squeamish of you like, but I prefer to have my fiction served up as exactly that, and not cross over into the brutality or disaster of the real world. Games are supposed to be a momentary escape from all that, surely.

That one cut-scene aside, the single player campaign plot is quite believable and helps to set the scene. EndWar fits well into the Tom Clancy universe and I can actually see a future for the franchise where this type of ‘command view’ could be used for the much-rumoured ‘mega game’ that would then allow you to move into each unit and join the fun.

For now though you get to command each unit and they then fight the battle for you. The voice control system works a treat and in my entire playthrough I only had to repeat a command once. Seriously – just once. Otherwise, it was spot on every time.

You soon realise through playing the game that there is much more to this title than meets the eye. Are your infantry units in cover? Did you send them to the right place so they gain benefit from the scenery and aren’t exposed? Are your units fighting an enemy they are suited to, or one that will easily beat them?

The understanding of which units are best against others is handily pointed out to you in various ‘flash card’ tutorials that show during load times, and by a nice ‘cheat sheet’ that comes with the full game. Even with those assistants in hand, you still have to work out the best tactics for the location you are fighting across.

Where EndWar really takes off is when you enter the Theatre of War. A persistent online World War III, this mode allows you to take a chosen faction to victory by going up against commanders of other factions across the globe, online. Your wins and losses count alongside other players who have chosen the same faction, and across the space of a few months the war will be played out on a global scale with one eventual winner taking the spoils. Then, Ubisoft will reset the servers and everyone starts again.

It is this gaming mode that helps to elevate EndWar from being a good RTS game to a great experience.

EndWar is certainly not the deepest RTS available on the market, but for someone like me who is frankly scared of all the homework that needs to be put in to other similar titles, this is a good thing. Even so, seasoned RTS gamers will enjoy the 150 upgrades available to each faction and the countless unit combinations that will give them an edge. Whilst the single player campaign is a little light, the faultless voice control and Theatre of War online modes make for an exciting and enthralling experience.

I only wish that the developers had installed some secret phrases to call out for a little comedy value. And if you’re wondering, yes I did try ‘THIS IS SPARTAAA’, but nothing happened.

Tom Clancy’s EndWar is an accomplished title that dares to do things a little differently, and that makes it an RTS for everyone rather than just those with a statisticians brain or a photographic memory.

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