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Respawn: EndWar

EndWar is the newest RTT (Real-Time-Tactics) from famed author Tom Clancy (new universe?) and a fitting one with the same tactical espionage, same “what-if?” same shady characters; the whole nine yards of a Tom Clancy game. Set in modern times, it’s a very… standard war game—Russia is at war with the US, but then what the hell… let the Europeans band together and fight as well, because they to want a piece of the pie.  As a real-time tactical game on the console, it is such a jarring fit for such an ambitious game marred by some annoying camera issues and visual scrapings that I believe to ruin the games presentation and general likability of the whole scene.

Let’s get this out of the way, the singleplayer is pretty bad in regards to gameplay and… well, story. I told you in the opening paragraph the basic gist of the scene. Oil runs out (really now?) and all nations are sad. One day Russia hits an oil well down below their Siberian neighbors and are like, stealing their stuff. Then the US get sad along with the Europeans and start working together. Then the US build a space station and the Europeans smile all trollishly at them, and then all of a sudden they start a war. Each mission in the singleplayer is a set-piece; you are supposed to do a specific thing with a specific unit to achieve a specific effect—beach-landing, city siege, etc. The singleplayer really keeps this game from showcasing its true potential as a strategy game. It can get downright monotonous as it doesn’t require a ton of strategy, the units you need are on the battlefield (if not, they will be given to you later). If I were you, I’d just stick to playing skirmishes with friends, or out there online.

You’re probably wondering if this game really is up to snuff on the console… well fear not my friend—no analog necessary (although you can use it and is quite intuitive, ala Command and Conquer 3) you can play the whole game by voice and voice only. Yes, you can move your troops intelligently around the map with your voice, using the commands on the bottom of your screen—yell out one, move, to delta, and that specific unit will move to control point delta. Awesome, isn’t it? But if you want to setup specific ambush points, you can just press A on a certain point and you’ll be able to send your units over to that point. The camera in both the skirmish modes and the single player modes take a bit to get used to—on a trolley behind your units, you aren’t able to get a good survey of the battlefield from a bird eye view… it’s sort of a drag yes, but it does give you a sense of hecticity in the midst of smoke and blurs. It helps with immersion as well, being able to hear other tanks in the dust beyond the next hedgerow.

You do control a persistent battalion both on and offline in the persistent online war they have going on out there. The flurry of units at your disposal is based on what battalion you go for. Heavy assault battalions are made up of purely tanks and the lot—airborne concentrate on infantry and helicopter assaults, support battalions are artillery strictly. As a result, when you pick your battalion, you will get more of such a unit apart from others. There are balanced battalions with a couple of each unit—but if you use tanks more often than not, then you should’ve went with the armored battalion instead. I made that mistake, and I haven’t been able to reset my online status—though I’m happy, I don’t play much out there, I like my skirmishes with a couple good friends (I’m not one for team work with douche bags out there).

The many units you get to choose from are Attack Helicopters which work well against armored foes, but are taken down by APC’s and infantry in cover. Tanks which work well against infantry and armored units, but are destroyed by infantry in cover and helicopters. APC’s, riflemen, engineers, artillery, and command vehicles—all of them have their strengths and weaknesses, and they will tell you in the selection screen. In singleplayer, you carry that specific unit into battle and gain experience for it in your persistent battalion. Now since the experience isn’t universal, you have to effectively exchange your units for different ones as playing with a specific group gives you a very unbalanced fighting force—if you lose those units in battle, they are replaced with lower level, un-upgraded ones (least that’s what happened to me). So in singleplayer… don’t be careless.

In each mission, you earn command points—effectivity and tactical control with minimum damage to friendly units give you the extra edge and ultimately the reward of CP’s. These can be used to buy upgrades for each unit in your battalion, the upgrades that make them more valuable as time goes by. Losing such units can be a crucial blow to your combat prowess on and offline in the online battlefield or the singleplayer game. Buying railguns for your APC’s gives them more of an edge against Attack Helicopters, but may lower effectiveness against infantry attacks. AA guns can be bought for the tanks to increase its defensive nature against helicopter assaults—but takes away it’s machine gun on top, which can be a bit of a drag against infantry in cover. It’s a useful feature for a variety of different reasons, the main one being that you can either upgrade you force to be very versatile in all roles… or just specialize each unit to give the higher edge in battle.

Let’s talk about the factions you can be—I will note now though… none of the factions you can be are not that different apart from one another. One has a different paint job, one is just small, and one smells funny… that’s about it. You’re in WWIII so there are three superpowers going at like I said before.  The Russian’s who smell of acrid Vodka, the Americans with their evil cock-eyed accents, and the Europeans (When did Japan, Canada, India, or South American go here?) with their frenchy, frenchiness. The Russians are the brutes, similar to GDI in Command and Conquer. They prefer the brute force with little to no tactical consideration. They supposedly take more of a beating that the contemporary European and American counter-part, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a moot point. They require heavy weapons and armor to kill their foes—fun ain’t it?

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The Americans are pretty well hit-run units. They can be considered the Nod of this universe—or perhaps the harassment squads of all RTS. They supposedly can’t take as much a beating as the Russians, but nor can they use the same versatile abilities of the Europeans. But they hit fast and hit hard; which isn’t the case in my part as I still play the same way with them as I did the Russians. The Europeans are your tactical espionage and electronic masterminds of this universe. Apparently they rely on electronic warfare and urbanized conflicts to gain the upperhand—they like technology and their upgrades show for that. If you want to know what the upgrades are all about, go buy the game… it’s cheap and still pretty fun. The differentiation, apart from battalion upgrades are moot and almost negligible—the only difference are the super weapons… the game-turners which is a high intensity laser for the Europeans (nerds…), Vacuum bomb for the Russians (douche bags) and Kinetic strikes for the Americans (douchers).

The Skirmish wars are really the best part about EndWar and with friends it makes it all the merrier. This is where the game really showcases its true potential as a very good strategy game. The game bares a tone of similarities to the likes of World in Conflict where you have to capture points on a map. But the twist is that when you link all the nodes up, DEFCON one initiates… this means one side can retaliate with a WMD on the winning team—precision is needed when this options goes up, but the winning team may do the exact same thing to you if you intend on using the WMD instead of with your limited reinforcements. Assault is deathmatch pretty well where you go in with what you have, eliminate everything and get out. Raid is the standard attack defend variant—much like World in Conflict and Siege—which is played on capital city levels—is another variant of attack and defend, but the dawning twist is that the defending team must defend a key strategic point for ten minutes without reinforcements, WMD’s, or off map support. It’s a fight forcing them down to the last man—it’s a very tense team game experience that I enjoyed too much so.

The Multiplayer itself is broken down to a MMORTT where all sides are pitted against each other to take over the world. You choose a side and a battalion and you pick a fight with another played all across the world. The intuitive interface can be both confusing and pretty all the same when you are trying to navigate the menus, but the action is slick and finding a match (back then at least) was easy and quick. It can be a very interesting addition, being able to play and influence the online battlefield, as something like this hasn’t been done in a very long time—hasn’t even been done before? I don’t believe so—and each of the matches you play in ranked builds towards total dominance of a certain faction of the world. The world map you select your matches is set on different regions and each region is the stock maps of the game, what a guess. Combined with the online influence, the intuitive interface, and the brilliant persistent online battalions, this should’ve been one of the games that should’ve at least been given a chance.

The Graphics do very well for their own good, being that the camera is usually in the thick of the action for the most part. Using the Unreal III engine, the game does a great job of keeping the action flowing and fast on screen. The particles of dust that cloud sight, the flurry of soft snow that covers rock lands, the animations of each individual soldier—the detail immaculate, down to the very glove they wore. The impressive pyrotechnics make it a blast just to watch the action unfold. Though with all that being said, being the Unreal III engine, there is still a ton of pop in textures that really hamper the beginning of each skirmish/game. And with that, when the action starts to role… the frame rate tanks and becomes a slide show without a second to spare—a very pretty slideshow to say that. Lighting mirrors the land perfectly, down to the last tree, down to the last soldier who’s shadow stretches across soft green meadows—it really can become a sight to marvel.

The sound is great too, like all Tom Clancy games (‘cept the old ones). Maybe not the voice acting being that much of the characters don’t sound that emotionally invested—they sound like stocky midgets in a warehouse in open deserts of Nevada, deadpan reading their lines as if it were their last. They sound like they given up on lines, and this was their manic depressive speech they gave to the rest of the fans—they read the letter with an ascent to be funny. But with that being said, it’s still great to see Tank guns rumble after every groan of a tank roar… or your marines chatting in the thick of battle—sarcastic comments afloat and the bark of their rifles blurring intensity into an experience to see. Rockets have a nice whoosh to them, tanks rumble with a commanding attitude across the battlefield. It’s just delight to experience, and with THX… my god, you’ll jizz shots so big in your pants, you’ll need a second dimension to house it all.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely if you can take care of the different handling techniques needed to experience this RTS to the fullest. Voice activated commands give you the sense of power, fun ideas out in the online battle space being the persistent battalions and the online battlefield influence that give it that sense of satisfaction—that hint of difference you wanted on the world. I would recommend this game to any strategy game fan—8/10.

Rating
8.0

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