Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
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Its The Most unlikely partnership in videogame history. A small-time hunch of Kent-based mod-makers have joined forces with one of the most renowned and successful developers in the world. What's more, with their power combined, they're creating what could just be the most visually impressive, intuitive, ground-breaking and imaginative teambased shooter the world has ever seen. The developers? Splash Damage and id Software. The game? Enemy Territory: Quuke Wars. A shiny future for online PC gaming? Assured.
Having been subjected loan incessant barrageof PR eulogising about how Quake Wars was going to revolutionise flic teambased shooter, boss-man Sefton dispatches me on a daring, fearsomely dangerous reconnaissance! mission tn Splash Damage s Bromley offices. OK, it's not actually all that daring. Or dangerous. And we are kind of invited to tlie offices. But my mission is to find out if this is the real deal or the usual barrage of hype tliat accompanies such major announcements. Turns out it's the real deal. To say that I'm blown away would be an understatement akin to saying that an atom bomb goes off with a bit of a fizz. This standalone successor to the Return To Castle Wolfenstein spin-off Fneiny Territory is looking so luscious, it makes the current crop of multiplayer shooters look like they've been cock'd on a BBC Micro Model B. What's more, given its predominantly outdoor locations, it's somewhat, ironic to note that, when development started, Quake Wars utilised the same core technology as Doom 3, the very same core technology tlbit so many lambasted as being an indoor-only, shadow simulator that handled outdoor environments with the aplomb of an agoraphobic.
Arriving in a flustered, sweating state", Paul Wedgwood (managing director of Splash Damage) sits me down, pours me a drink and fires up a level. While we wait, Quake Wars'executive producer Kevin Cloud (from id) reveals the secret of the game's stunning visuals. "We're using brand new technology called the MegaTexture,"
"It was first devised by John Carmack at id and Even as I type these words, I still can't quite believe it Quake Wars is set to run on the same spec machine as Doom 3.1 shit you not That's what the men say. And that of course means that well all be able to enjoy its ace-ness without shelling out for a quad-processor supercomputer. But how is this possible? Well, it all comes down to a new technological breakthrough called the MegaTexture, which allows Splash Damage to create a unique texture that covers the entire landscape with no tiling or repetition, meaning that levels can be drawn all the way to the horizon with no fogging.
Even more impressive is that the developer can create a 6GB (yes, we're still shitting you not you read that correctly: 6GB) source texture that only uses 8MB in video memory, without any loss of resolution. But wait, there's still more. The MegaTextures can also derive the properties of everything on the map, be it the sound a vehicle makes on a certain surface or the amount of traction it has on pebbles or tarmac. Now that's what I call impressive. My head is still reeling, and every inch of my body is telling me that it can't be possible, but they assure me it is. And I'm inclined to believe them, for the past two years, Splash Damage has been working on the engine." As Cloud's voice trails off, the giant wall-mounted monitor before me lights up, transforming into the most radiant, realistic and aweinspiring outdoor virtual world I've ever seen. Any long-standing journalistic cynicism drains away from me in seconds. Clearly, I'm in for something special...
"Quake Wars is set around 50-60 years in the future, when the Strogg first invade Earth. It's actually a prequel to Quake II and Quake 4," explains Paul Wedgwood as I stare dumbfounded at the screen. "There's a conventional human military force called the Global Defence Force (GDF), which has machine guns and tanks, fighting against the hi-tech Strogg alien technology."
Barely hearing the Splash Damage man's words, I gaze at the monitor where the landscape spills out into the horizon with perfect clarity. Clouds make their cumbersome paths across the sky, painting shadows oil the ground below, where every blade of grass sags against the wind and every tree sways in unison.
Too Good To Be True
"Quake Wars uses the same character class-based format that worked so well in Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. We're looking at 24-32 players as an optimum number for each map" continues Wedgwood, as I continue to stare. "You have two bases - GDF and Strogg. In each map, one of these two teams is going to be attacking, tlie other defending. There are a series of mission objectives that each team has to achieve to be able to win the map. These maps (generally three) make up one campaign and have their own unique story. We don't have game modes like CTF, as each map has a unique objective and storyline." Still I stare. Look at those pebbles! They're actually individual pebbles. And that moss crawling up that escarpment, it looks... Amazing. I can't believe I'm gazing at moss. But it's just so real, I can almost reach out and touch it...
I snap back into the real world to find Wedgwood and Cloud looking at me in thinly veiled amusement. "We began development with the Doom 3 Engine. But after all the work that's been put into it, I don't really think you can call it the same technology. There's a whole new rendering technology and a huge amount of work has been put into restructuring the networking to support the gameplay," explains Cloud.
Easy for a veteran like Wedgwood, but how will a wet-nosed newbie cope with deciphering these objectives? Cloud's answer is simple. "A Command Map shows you the territories that you and the enemy currently own. As you complete certain objectives, the territory becomes yours. You can see where all of the main objectives are and where the fighting is happening, but also as an individual character, you're given solo missions. Tlie Command Map tells you where you have to go and what you have to do when you get there." Tliat clears that up, then. After a quick break to compose myself and ram a chicken sandwich down my throat - I'm not hungry but I have to kill time somehow (Who are you? And what have you done with Korda? -Ed), it's time to roll out each team's character classes and hardware line-ups.
"We want to have a selection of classes so that people can take on specific roles, be it on the frontline or holding back as support classes," adds Wedgwood. "We've tried to take the four or five combat roles from Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and expand on their abilities. Tlie big difference from Wolf: ET is that the two teams aren't just re-skinned versions of each other. There's a lot of asymmetry between them." Each team, y'see, will have unique infiltration, offence, defence and support classes. Tlie mainstay of the GDF team is the heavily-armed soldier, who carries a general purpose machine-gun that spits out bullets faster than a gummy bucktoothed motormouth spits out saliva. Tlie Ranger, meanwhile, acts as an infiltrator, who marauds across the map gathering Intel, which is then relayed back to the rest of the team as the aforementioned objectives for each character class to accomplish. He also has the ability to disable enemy defence systems. Tlie Engineer, meanwhile, is a dab-hand at repairing structures and vehicles, and the Field Ops guy can call in artillery strikes and deploy radar relays, turrets and AA guns.
Tlie Strogg contingent is equally impressive. Tlie Tank is a heavy weapons specialist who carries a devastating weapon called the Obliterator. Tlie Infiltrator class soldier is fast and stealthy and can gather intelligence. What's more, by stunning a member of the GDF, he can transfer his mindset into their brain, wander about in their body and use it to jauntily infiltrate the enemy base. The Constructor class conies armed with a nail-gun, and, just like the GDF's Engineer, can repair buildings and vehicles. Finally, there's the Wleditek, who makes up for his lack of combat punch by gathering and distributing delicious, fleshy Stroyent to needy team-mates.
And, obviously, there are vehicles. Tons of them. But before the man from Splash Damage conjures up the armoured hardware on his magic screen, he explains an innovative new feature called Driver Consent. "If you're driving a vehicle, you can always use all of its weapons, but they'll be constrained by your line of sight. However, another player is able to fire it the full 360-degrces. We didn't want a situation where you're having fun controlling a vehicle, then suddenly another player jumps in and takes over one of the weapons, so we have a consent system whereby you can choose whether you want to work with another player." Inspired.
Wait, Come Back!
And then, suddenly, swiftly and brutally, it's all over. Tlie screen goes blank and Tin left with a grin that still hasn't faded, and the phrase, Where do they get those wonderful toys?' echoing around my head. As I stumble out of the Splash Damage office, idiotically slapping Wedgwood and Cloud on the back like a drunk tumbling out at closing time and spewing out an endless stream of superlatives, I realise I'm really rather excited.
Not only is Quake Wars looking like an excellent team-based shooter, it has the potential to take the genre to the next level, one where players are genuinely encouraged to work as a team and are rewarded when they do. Add to this an engine that simply oozes quality from every pixel, and it's easy to see that this, the most unlikely of partnerships, could yet prove to be one of the most successful and inspired collaborations in game development history. Tlie future's bright.
Download Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP