EndWar Makes me feel Silly/Awesome.

Friday, October 17, 2008
As I said earlier, I got a chance to play EndWar recently. The resulting experience was interesting to say the least. It was, unfortunately, just a demo but I think I can make a fair assessment of the game based on the small amount of time I was able to play it.

The obvious thing to talk about is the voice command tech in the game. I was y impressed with its ability to recognize words and phrases even when my stupid mouth couldn't speak them clearly. Background noise does seem to confuse it a bit though and a few times I'd end up with a couple units marching off to some forgotten corner of the battlefield or almost into an enemy tank patrol. Apparently, my voice saying "unit 1 move to alpha" plus baby cry equals "go and die, cold and alone." Strange equations indeed.

In my army's defense, I don't think R&D figured in running sinks and crying babies in the war room. After all, with the daycare available to the modern military career general, who needs to take their kids to the front lines these days? That and, to be honest, what general has time to wash dishes while commanding the forces on the ground?

The detail is sharp and clean, there seems to be a good amount of depth in the game even though the demo gives you limited options for skirmish and only one campaign mission. I was hoping to play as the Russians, an old favorite since the old Red Alert days but alas, I must await the arrival of the retail version. Hopefully Gamefly will stock more than ten copies and I'll actually get the damn thing close to it's release. But I digress.

I played one online game against a guy who didn't seem to understand which button you hold to issue a command and which is voice chat. The poor bastard was really curious about how I always knew what he had and where it was going. If you're reading this right now, random human, I am sorry. Think of it as a wiretap placed cunningly by one of my many spies. It'll make you feel a little better about your humiliating loss.

The game works like a strategy focused version of battlefield, with control points being the currency of the day. Control points net you currency to buy reinforcements and support. The three types of support available in the demo were: force recon, a special ops team capable of destroying most units or scouting far off command points, Airstrike which rains victory-scented death from the sky and Electronic Warfare which seems to drop a kind of EMP blast on enemies.

In the retail version, each one of these will be able to be upgraded to provide multiple strike options, my favorite of which is the kinetic strike, what seems to be an orbital blast of white-hot awesome. Units that survive your pathetic attempts to order them around the battlefield will earn experience and gain new abilities. The game promises deep customization of your armies on the field and cameo appearances from other Tom Clancy mainstays (Rainbow Six, anyone?).

Yes, I do feel a bit silly chattering away at polygons all day, but commanding my units personally has a really cool feel to it. I get a little more into it than I usually do. I caught myself ordering a crucial airstrike with actual tension in my voice. Neat, a strategy game that makes me feel like more than a geek with a copy of the Art of War at his side. Plus, the concept of people (artificial though they may be) actually listening to my strategy for a change makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

I'm intrigued by EndWar. The ability to issue commands without really having to use the controller alleviates a lot of the pain of playing an RTS on a console. Hopefully, the voice recognition will improve upon the demo a bit and the camera will shake free some of it's shackles before release day comes.