Tom Clancy's EndWar Review
The Tom Clancy franchise has done a lot for Ubisoft as a whole. Let's face it, without the Tom Clancy games, Ubisoft wouldn't be anywhere as successful as they are today. The brand really drives sales for the third party publisher, allowing it to quickly join the ranks of other mega publishers like EA and Activision. The franchise continues to constantly evolve, branching out from Rainbow Six with Ghost Recon, and creating Splinter Cell. Now, more spin-offs are on the way with the likes of HAWX and EndWar, the latter of which is the game in question.
The superbly talented bunch at Ubisoft Shanghai is behind EndWar, and the team is lead by director Michael de Plater. Development of the game has been underway for quite some time now, based on the overall polish of the product, it shows. Unlike other war games, EndWar is more akin to the direction Call of Duty 4 is heading: as it takes place during a fictional rendition of the third world war. But of course, COD4 isn't about WWIII, so don't think that that's what both games are about. In any case, the goal for EndWar is to showcase a strong real-time strategy game that can compete with the likes of Command and Conquer.
As I said, EndWar is unlike other war games; this is a full-on strategy game. Your role is the general of the entire game, and you command your squad with orders, utilizing either your own voice or the controller. Yes, you can actually communicate with the A.I. via a headset, and they'll talk back to you. The implementation of this aspect is surprisingly well done, as I've yet to encounter any unusual delays or errors in selection; definitely a round of applause for Ubisoft in this regard.
When your strategy is being enacted, you can take control of a selected group on the ground (or in the air) and shuffle around to another one at any point. You can have up to 12 squads to control, via an interface located at the bottom of the screen. You can choose to send squads to a location individually, or you can select more and have them work as a group. My gripe with the interface, though, is that it comes off a bit clunky and confusing, it didn't feel intuitive, and I often found myself fumbling around in trial and error until I found what I wanted to do.
There are seven different kinds of squads to choose from, such as riflemen, tanks, engineers, gunships, transports, artillery, and command vehicles. In addition to that, EndWar won't just feature a couple of dozen units on screen that you'll have to eliminate to move on. Instead, the game can have hundreds of units scattered all around the map, and your goal as the general wil be to use your best tactile thinking to take out as many as possible with different sweeps of attacks. At times, EndWar becomes frustrating, as it can become rather hard to manage twelve squads simultaneously, when there's a lot going on all throughout the combat area. This is another complaint of mine with the interface, it's clunkiness makes multi-tasking more difficult than it should be, it's bearable, but it needs to be a lot snappier and easier to use.
Still, EndWar offers a good single player campaign with some rather superb artificial intelligence to match. There are four kinds of mission types, including assault, siege, raid, and conquest, all with their own unique objectives and strategies for success. You'll play through 40 missions spanning locations from all across the globe. And when the A.I. isn't your concern, you can head online and enjoy an epic 16 player match that runs continuously for 24 hours. This Theater of War mode throws you into an ongoing battle, and it is your duty to cause as much damage as possible against the opponent so that when the 24 hours are up, your team emerges victorious. You can come in and out of this mode as often as you'd like, so don't worry, you're not committed to a 24 hour match. On the other hand, if you'd like to just go head to head against someone, you have that option too.
As far as the wow factor goes, EndWar does have some nice special effects to be seen here and there, but largely it's not the prettiest game under the sun. Because the camera's perspective isn't the traditional top-down view, but rather an almost third-person view, there are a lot of average qualities to spot with EndWar. Textures are smeared in some areas, which don't exactly make the environments so amazing to look at. Don't get me wrong, the visuals are certainly passable, it's just that for a game with a box cover showing this immense and epic explosion by the Eiffel Tower, EndWar's Unreal Engine III sure doesn't live up to that powerful render. Average visuals aside, you'll still enjoy a smooth game engine and decent picture quality.
The sound in EndWar is definitely a strong suit, as the game feature over 9000 lines of gameplay dialogue (chatter between units and squads), on top of another 30,000 lines of voice acting. There's a lot to hear in the game, and it also helps that the sound quality is rather solid. The voice recognition system works very well, and that's a relief, because it sure does make playing the game considerably easier. There is also the occasional massive explosion which also sounds rather good when booming from your speakers.
If you're looking for a good real-time strategy game, EndWar should fit your bill. It's got a fairly lengthy single-player campaign, despite having an absolutely hollow story, and it's also got a pretty epic online mode. On the technical side of things, it may not be a looker, but the voice recognition system works well, and the audio sounds great. For the sequel, if Ubisoft could put together a slightly more user friendly interface, we should have a real winner on our hands. In the meantime, give EndWar a look, at the very least rent it to see if it's for you. This one does come recommended.
11/28/2008 Arnold Katayev