Last year Enemy Territory: Quake Wars proved to be well worth the wait when it finally arrived for PC. At the time console owners were crying out for their own versions, but it's taken over six months to happen. After the home console market has seen the multiplayer space dominated by Call of Duty 4 and GTA 4, and seen THQ's impressive large-scale FPS Frontlines, is Quake Wars on consoles a little too late to the party?
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars for PC was developed by Splash Damage (creators of the popular Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory) and id Software, but the console games have had two different studios handle them. The Xbox 360 game has been in development at Nerve Software, while Activision Underground took control of the PS3 game. The end result is two games that feature the majority of the same content, but also a number of differences that make one version clearly better than the other.
Quake Wars pits members of the Global Defence Force (GDF) against an invading alien Strogg army that is intent on wiping out the resistance. Looked at very simply, Quake Wars is nothing more than a Battlefield clone. You have the two opposing teams, ground and air vehicles, territory to control and objectives to meet. In that sense it's nothing we haven't seen before, but look a little deeper and you'll see a game that does all it can to right the wrongs of other large scale combat titles.
Firstly, Quake Wars is easy to get into. It sounds almost impossible, but yes, Quake Wars is noob friendly. That's not to say that your games will be ruined by wannabe commandos, but newcomers will find that they can jump in and feel like part of a team. This is all because of the easy to follow objectives system that gives each player a list of objectives and marks them clearly on the map. You might simply be trying to take out a single anti-aircraft turret, but that scores you points and helps towards the team's overall goal. At any time you can pause the game and see which class is needed to achieve the next objective, making Quake Wars one of the easiest objective-based multiplayer first-person shooters to get into.
Of course, with numerous classes and two races to play as, there's a bottom level to the simplicity that can't be broken through. For some players things will still seem rather complicated. Each race has five classes to choose from. The GDF have Field Ops, Covert Ops, Medic, Soldier and Engineer, while the Strogg have similar classes named Oppressor, Technician, Aggressor, Infiltrator and Constructor. Although each race has access to different tech, the classes match up pretty well so swapping from one race to another isn't a huge problem.
As ever in games of this type, the class you choose to play as is a personal thing and entirely dependent on your own play style. The soldier is the simplest to learn, seeing as his role is to kill the opposition. The Medic is also a simple class to get used to, with the job of the medic being to revive fallen comrades without being a major attacking force on the battlefield. The other three classes can each deploy weapons systems, such as turrets, missile launchers and radars. These weapons become vital in more advanced games so their correct use is essential, making these classes better suited to serious players.
Each map has a series of objectives, with each team needing to either meet these or stop the enemy from doing so. As objectives are met the map opens up, delivering new objectives to the game and in turn moving the combat to a new area. This progression inside each game makes each online match highly entertaining and gives the impression that a real war is taking place. It's a little confusing at first, but the helpful objectives system and on-screen icons make things relatively easy to pick-up.
Vehicles are always good for a laugh in online team-based shooters and Quake Wars is no exception. Almost anyone can pilot the many ground vehicles, but the more advanced vehicles like the GDF helicopter-like Bumblebee take some getting used to - read that as lots of crashes and near misses with buildings. As in all games of this type, skilled pilots are essential if your team is going to succeed.
In the PC original good play resulted in rewards in the form of experience points and upgrades. It's here that the two console games show their first real difference, with the PS3 game showing your XP as it increases, while the 360 game simply informs you when you've got an upgrade. No matter, in both games experience points (XP) are awarded for successfully performing your role and in turn helping out the team. Accumulate enough XP and you'll earn upgrades such as new weapons (grenade launcher for engineers for example), items such as flak jackets or a faster missile lock on (for soldiers).
The Xbox 360 game seems like it's had more care taken to tailor the game to console gamers. Everything from the menus to the objective screens are simply better. In the Xbox 360 game it's easy to see which class you need to be in order to complete a certain objective thanks to a big, bold info screen. On the PS3 it's far from clear. On the Xbox 360 you also get a training mode that can't be found on PS3. Thankfully both games support up to sixteen players online or via LAN, and our tests found performance to be decent on both platforms - half the maximum number on PC, but less of a problem than it sounds. Sadly, something that is far from decent on both is the visuals.
Although Quake Wars on PC had a long development, it still looked great when PC gamers finally got hold of it last year. On Xbox 360 this look has been ported over pretty much intact and, although not top of its class, Quake Wars still looks like it fits on Microsoft's console. On PS3 it's a different story altogether - the game is simply less attractive, with fewer effects, rougher edges and a less consistent frame rate. Although minor visual differences between console games are normal, here there's a pretty big gap, with the Xbox 360 game having a level of polish that the PS3 version is sorely missing. PS3 owners even have to sit through an eight-minute install before they can begin playing, and this doesn't seem to help the game load any faster than the 360 version.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is in a tricky position, coming to consoles currently dominated by the undeniably slick Call of Duty 4 and the insanely popular GTA 4. Xbox 360 owners should certainly consider giving Quake Wars a shot though. It's a very impressive package and should gain a decent online following. PS3 owners have access to what is essentially the same game, but it's just nowhere near as polished, and as such can't be recommended above the console's current online multiplayer leaders.