Mushroom Soup For The Pixelated Soul
Hello, readers. I just wanted to give thanks to the 1000+ hits that this blog has received in its two week run. I’m not sure where those numbers rank up with most blogs, but it means a lot to me (and it’s nearly four times more hits than my first blog got in its three month run).
Thank you for taking interest in my words, and a special thanks to the fine folks at Penny Arcade for all the tips needed for me to venture into the world of blogging.I hope you will continue to support this site as it hopefully grows in traffic (and I hopefully get further oppurtunities for more work on websites).
I’m still waiting for Armchair to post my third review (Star Ocean for the PSP) before I make an archive post on it, but in the meantime, let me provide a small token of appreciation by giving you an early look at my recently submitted review, Tom Clancy’s EndWar.
Tom Clancy’s EndWar
Post-apocalyptic settings have always been a popular theme for video game, and this fall’s most compelling releases (Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Gears of War 2) have continued to place gamers in the middle of a desolate world ripped apart by war, nuclear bombs, and zombies.
Tom Clancy’s EndWar, the newest RTS series by Ubi Soft, mixes the doomsday scenario up a bit by allowing players to take part at the very start of the world war conflict that tears the planet apart. The game opens up with a quick fictional history montage leading up to the year 2020, where the growing tensions between the three major superpowers (America, Europe, and Russia) turn violent when a US launch site falls under a terrorist attack. From then on, you’re given the choice of which of the three nations you wish to follow when the war to end all wars begins.
The market voice command feature, in which players can guide their troops to engage the enemy using nothing but their voice and an Xbox 360 headset, works well enough….in theory. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction in guiding your army of tanks, helicopters, soldiers and transport vehicles through the power of your voice, bringing back childhood memories of staging a sandbox battleground between your GI Joes and Army Men toys. The voice interface is also adaptable in picking up accents or low pitched voices, although the pronunciation of some key words (especially “hostile”) might make some commands unrecognizable by your squad.
The real issue of the voice command mechanic is the amount of commands you must memorize. With over five squads to keep track of and numerous hostiles to engage and important locations to secure, it can be difficult to micromanage your squad to routinely perform different objectives as they become available using only your voice; If you misspeak just one term in the list of commands, your squad just sits on its hands, having no clue what order you were trying to convey.
In addition to this, your view of the map is limited to whatever is in front of your units, making it frustrating when trying to capture far away target points or engage hostiles early. You do have the option of viewing the battlefield in a more detailed map, but once again, it can prove difficult to remember the voice command to bring up the map or any other strategies you can think up faster than you can say them. While it is possible to play the game without using any voice commands (and curiously enough, many of the early tutorial levels require you to assign commands manually), it’s far too slow and cumbersome to deal with the rapidly changing battlefield, almost as if the developers intentionally gimped it so you would either have to use voice, or have your squad become silenced forever.
The other strike against EndWar is the monotony of its battles; There are several vehicles and foot soldiers out in the field, and each one has a weakness to the other (tanks are vulnerable to helicopters, helicopters fall prey to transports, and so on). In order to finish each skirmish quickly, it essentially becomes a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, as assigning a unit against an enemy that is not vulnerable to it can draw our battle between the two to the point that enemy reinforcements can either take out another squad or secure one of the location objectives.
Even though the requirements may prove frustrating, EndWar can become an exciting strategy-based affair when enough skill is put into it; the story is compelling, the locations are ominous (such as the front steps of the White House or the Eiffel Tower), and the number of soldiers and vehicles onscreen are an audio and visual splendor (although there are some brief stints of pop-up on the latter). Multiplayer gaming can also prove more challenging and tension-filled, especially if your opponent is skilled enough to handle his pawns and for the metaphorical checkmate by dropping a WMD on your hapless army.
With enough patience, and perhaps a printable list of vocal commands by your side, EndWar can become an engaging strategy-based game. It may not reach the level of PC gaming’s most popular RTS games, but for console owners, this war is anything but hell.
+Competent Voice Recognition
+Engaging and believable story
+upgradeable weapons and vehicles
-Voice command learning curve
-Enemies and hotspots only visible by squad mates
-Different factions and world leaders can make story confusing
Look for my next review (Mirror’s Edge) in around two weeks. Stay tuned.