When Enemy Territory: Quake Wars was released in October 2007 on the PC, it was lauded as a feverish multiplayer shooter for its objective-based action set in id Software's rich Quake universe. Naturally, console gamers wanted a piece of the GDF-versus-Strogg action, so id turned to Nerve Software to develop an Xbox 360 port, and to Underground Development for a PlayStation 3 version. The results? Console owners are subjected to two lackluster ports that fail to improve or expand upon the original in any way, making the game feel dated next to worthwhile console shooters such as Call of Duty 4 and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. Something was certainly lost in translation.
If you're not familiar with Quake, you're not going to learn anything in Quake Wars. From screenshots you may deduce that humans are fighting alien-type creatures on a planet that may or may not be Earth. Evil aliens known as the Strogg have invaded, and our last defense is, naturally, the Global Defense Force. We're told that the year is 2065 and that the events in Quake Wars serve as a prequel to Quake II. Sadly, this paragraph features more story elements than you'll find in the actual game. If you want to learn more, you'll have plenty of time to type "Quake" into your favorite search engine during the frustratingly long load screens.
Come fly with me.
As either the GDF or Strogg, you'll do battle on 12 giant maps, each boasting more than a square kilometer of varied terrain and structures. There's your standard city, jungle, tundra, and desert environments, each of which are very well balanced, with a mix of indoor and outdoor areas that give each character class a chance to shine. You can jump into the combat boots of five different classes on each side each with its own unique abilities. Medics heal, engineers construct defense turrets, covert ops sneak and snipe, and field ops deploy artillery and lace targets for massive missile strikes. Missiles hurt.
Cooperation is the key in Quake Wars. To succeed, you and your squadmates will have to coordinate attacks and defense using each class's strengths at the appropriate moment. Each map has three objectives that need to be tackled one at a time, which ensures that the battle lines will continually ebb and flow depending on the skills of your squad. For example, you may have to use an engineer to construct a mining laser that will blow open an entrance to an enemy base. The engineer may run behind a heavily armed soldier who clears a path toward the construction site with a grenade launcher. Meanwhile, a medic may follow along, patching up the engineer until the task is completed. Covert operatives, on the other hand, can set up a radar tower to get a bead on nearby enemies and then take them out with a scoped rifle. Finally, a field-ops agent may neutralize enemy defense turrets by calling in an orbital missile strike. Throw in a mix of vehicles, such as giant mechs and attack choppers, and you have one explosive sandbox. This dynamic, objective-based gameplay is really the beauty behind the Enemy Territory formula. Developing a strategy and executing it is exhilarating. In the words of Hannibal of the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.
Unfortunately, discovering all of the abilities of each class will require you to whip out the instruction booklet because Quake Wars is one of the less accessible shooters in recent memory. In part, that's because there's no true single-player campaign that might, for example, teach you how to use the covert-ops explosive sticky cam or to call in a dark-matter strike as a Strogg oppressor. The single-player "campaign" features the same multiplayer maps, except that they're littered with bots. The Xbox 360 version does have a cursory training mode that teaches you basic mechanics such as how to call in deployables (for instance, radar towers), but the tutorial is superficial and the training officer's lips don't even move when he talks. Nevertheless, a poorly animated drill sergeant is preferable to the useless PS3 tutorial video that tells you little more than that Quake Wars has classes and that classes do things. The learning curve here is very steep even for veterans of first-person shooters. When you discover all the different tricks available to each class, like disguising yourself as a GDF soldier and teleporting across the map, you'll be impressed at how much there really is for each class to do. It will just take you several hours to figure it out all on your own.
Deploy missile launcher, lace target, enjoy the ride.