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Tom Clancy’s EndWar (X360 & PS3)

Tom Clancy’s EndWar (X360 & PS3)

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Real time strategy games do not work on consoles, I think every gamer out there reading this will be nodding their head in agreement already. Ubisoft are seemingly aware of this and they have decided to push the envelope a little with Tom Clancy’s Endwar by invoking a voice activated control interface as well as a camera system designed specifically for the console platform.

Surprisingly for a game bearing the Tom Clancy name, Endwar has very little in the way of coherent storyline …  sure, it takes in a science fiction style setting, but this is as far as it goes.

The basic script revolves around the fact that the world is facing an oil shortage. A missile system is then put into place to take nuclear war out of the equation and the forces around the globe fear that this shift in power has become too one handed. Endwar takes place in the Atlantic theater of the now raging World War. Europe are at war with the USA and Russia and if you play the single player campaign then you see how the war initiates via the "prelude to war", then you get to choose a faction.

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Endwar is a very streamlined cut down strategy game which focuses directly on the action. The crux of the mechanic revolves around the voice commands, however before you all close this page, be aware that they are optional … you can in fact play the game quite comfortably with a controller. That said, to get the most out of the game you will need to use both.

Considering the break from tradition, the core mechanics are easy to pick up and you can control the game by shouting out the commands. These commands are limited to specific key words, such as "bravo", "move" etc. You can’t enter into an elaborate conversation with the game AI. Darn. Looking at the top left of the screen you can easily break down the various options at hand by following the command line.

Is the voice recognition any good? It is not perfect in its implementation but it works reasonably well. For some reason I found that I had to slow things down a little when using the Xbox 360 while the Playstation 3 version not only worked great but correctly judged some slips in my vocabulary.

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Additionally, the differences over classic RTS games comes in the shape of the camera. You are no longer presented with a fog of war, top down view. Everything is fully 3d and you are in the heat of the action … whatever your units can see will be displayed. You can swap this camera from unit to unit as you move them around meaning you are never in the dark as to what exactly is going on. You do have access to a Sitrep map that provides the player with a limited 2d top down mode, but for the most part I avoided it.

Each level lasts between 10 minutes and 30 minutes, which is a brisk pace considering some of the more pedestrian PC strategy games available.  There is no resource management or complicated tech trees which I am sure will alienate a large portion of the audience. An added benefit however is the fact that you don’t need to mass a plethora of units for a final attack on an opposition base.

While this somewhat simplifies the game it is instantly accessible to many gamers who would never have an interest in a resource managing RTS. The developers have even included an option to check the leaderboards for winning game plays which you can download and watch, via the replay options in-game.

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While Endwar will never challenge the likes of the Total War series for indepth warplans, there is a reasonable amount of strategy involved. The levels vary in objective so you may need to take control of satellite uplinks in one, or destroy buildings or units in another. This ideology gives the title some variety and extended game play options. Each side takes command of up to 12 units or squads which can be split between seven unit types and although there are some minor variances between each of the factions for the most part they play the same. This is a bit of a disappointment really as you aren’t given unique unit types for each faction in the manner that you get with many other strategy games.

The strategy system works in a triangle methodology. For example, a transport is great for taking out a helicopter group, while a tank is perfect for annihilating a transport. A helicopter squad however is great for taking out a tank platoon. Infantry and engineers are generally good for taking out most things, but only if they are in cover or in a building. If you throw in artillery and command vehicles, then the action heats up. There is a key algorithm to winning a game, and if you master the rock, paper, scissors analogy of the units, then you are on the sure path to success.

As I said earlier, EndWar does away with resource management, and instead you are given command points. You can earn more by completing certain actions, such as capturing satellite uplinks or by destroying enemy units. When you get these points you can spend them in upgrading the uplinks, calling in more units or launching special attacks. Air strikes for example are particularly deadly.

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The core of the game is really the Theatre Of war, this is a continuing online battle in which you take control of a team and fight for the ultimate control of the world. Every day, players will fight over a few battleground maps and after 24 hours expire then the game calculates all the results from that day and the winner is the faction with the highest scoring teams. When these results are drawn then the game sets up new frontlines and sets up new territories to fight for. The ultimate goal is world domination.

When each game ends you get awarded credits and experience points are handed out to surviving units. With these you can upgrade the army, buy new abilities or even secondary attacks to ensure victory in the next round. Damaged units can evacuate to retain their bonuses, but while they are awaiting pickup from a transport helicopter they can be destroyed by the opposition. If they are destroyed before evacuation then they lose all their experience.

You can team up for a 2v2 match however there is no clan support or other tools in the game to help your faction work together as an encompassing team, rather than a bunch of individuals.

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Graphically the game is a bit of a letdown, there are no fancy World In Conflict type shaders, or gloriously rendered vehicle units. If I was being fair I could safely say that the game is reminiscent of a title released a few years ago. Scenery popin is also a noticeable issue and while I normally mention this with console games, it is all too apparent in EndWar. The engine is certainly not wonderful and even the explosions are sadly lacking in their implementation.

Another glaring issue is the collision detection, I noticed this on the first training level when I had two sets of helicopter groups flying directly through each other. It would be such a nice touch if the units would make the effort to move around.

Endwar is a relative success, mainly because as a console RTS it is breaking new ground. The strategy elements are quite simple but they offer enough diversity to last, if you are willing to invest the time. I hope the design is taken in the future and fine tuned and improved, because as it stands it falls far short of being a classic strategy title. One for a rental.

Accessible and good fun but long term? I got bored after 5 hours.
Very poor and instantly forgettable. Lack of flair and collision detection shines through.
Lame voice acting and average sound effects.
Decent online fun, but I see nothing long term from this title.
(Not an Average)
Has potential and hopefully the premise will be fully utilised in the future.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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