The money generating war machine that is Tom Clancy has already produced a vast number of third-person military and stealth titles, and now the master of 'cash from conflict' returns, this time tackling the real-time strategy format.
Like any enormously popular genre, the RTS has saturated game store shelves and flooded its own fan base with options. Just like almost every other game classification these days, only genuine innovation will distract gamers from the myriad of options and established stalwarts available.
While EndWar already appears to offer plenty of showy visuals and impressive content, which I will move onto in a moment, its real hook is the idea of a persistent online war. What this essentially means is that a conflict will rage continually across the game's enormous virtual world. Taking sides with America, Russia or Europe, you can drop in and out of this huge conflict as you please, and follow it as it evolves naturally across the game map.
We've certainly heard whispers about the development of the MMORTS genre before, but compared to more humble and common innovations like the ability to drop in to assume control of individual units or vehicles, what EndWar offers is certainly very appealing.
The plot, which has a fair amount of depth to it, boils down to this: in a near-distant future on Earth the worsening crisis with diminishing fossil fuel supplies means that every country has burnt bridges with its allies to survive in the new 'every nation for itself' society. New technological developments have made the nuclear threat redundant, meaning the safety provided by the military stalemate between the developed nations is over. World War III has arrived, and it's not going to be over by Christmas.
Presented as an action heavy techno-thriller, EndWar definitely impresses from the outset. Even turning a blind eye to the stunning trailer, which is packed with gorgeous visuals and epic combat, EndWar seems set to wow the gaming world.
Developed in part by Michael De Platter, who was poached from Creative Assembly after his work on the hugely successful Rome: Total War, EndWar has an enormous scale that easily dwarfs the Roman-centric RTS. Fought on a massive scale in what appear to be huge cities filled with thousands of active troops and vehicles, there is an intensity to EndWar that was apparent enough when being demoed the game, which will surely increase when players finally get their hands on the controls.
That is, if 360 owners want to get hold of the controls. EndWar can be controlled absolutely through voice commands, and though the feature was unavailable for demonstration, it is at least a fantastic idea. For an RTS, complete voice command is the equivalent of the steering wheel peripheral for a driving game, or a light gun for a sniping sim. Beyond letting you become a lazy armchair commander, it gives you the very input that would be used in the field; namely your larynx. Before voice commands have been rather clunky, but with current technological advances it is conceivable that EndWar really might work as a wholly voice controlled RTS.
If the voice command system is workable, then it may act to make the button-based controls entirely redundant, but if it is not, then we come to the issue that the game's developers are most likely to want to talk about. Putting a genre typically at home on a PC with a mouse and keyboard onto a console with at most, a 14-button controller (yes, I'm even including Start, Back and all four d-pad directions.) is likely a recipe for disaster.
However, EndWar's developers are keen to remind anyone they can that this is no remake, and has been designed from the ground-up for the 360, not only in terms of controls but also with regard to game mechanics. If the claims of an immediate pick-up and play feel comparable to a sports game, with no need for a manual or tutorial are true, then we will be in for a fine treat indeed, as the battles between hulking exoskeletons and futuristic direct energy weapons look very thrilling indeed.
The gameplay itself breaks down into three core visual elements: the first is the main strategic centre of operations, where you decide exactly where and what to attack and defend; the second, called the Battle HQ, is a detailed top-down view that lets you control the details of the unfolding war; and the third is the zoomed-in mode, that takes you right down to the eye level of your various units, where you can observe and dictate the action of you squads as they fight, apparently to the level of many third-person shooters.
As well as the single-player campaigns and the persistent online war that will work something like an enormous clan tournament that gathers together every player's performance statistics to update the overall state of the war, a skirmish mode for short multiplayer battles is available. Seemingly infinite customisation options for the skins of your vehicles, camouflage, military regalia and weapon functionality add some depth for those who really wish to delve into the game.
On the whole, EndWar appears to be rich, detailed, well applied to the console format and genuine in its efforts to update and refresh the RTS genre. With the military expertise applied to the Ghost Recon games to draw on, and the voice command system, it really looks like the bleak future of war is a promising one.