Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Real Time Strategy
Developer - Ubisoft Shanghai
Publisher - Ubisoft
Players: 1 (online multiplayer: 4)
64KB to Game Save
The Xbox 360 has been over-populated with shooters since its launch. As a result not many military Real Time Strategy (RTS) games have been able to break through and generate success on the shooter dominated platform. Simply put, PC’s have dominated the RTS side of the house in the video game industry. End War hopes to change all that. Developed by Ubisoft Shanghai for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows platforms, End War is a RTS game made specifically for next-generation consoles. Featuring some new innovative features never seen or heard on consoles to date, End War hopes to make a big splash during the highly competitive holiday gaming season. After some extended playtime with this new title for the Xbox 360, I would have to say I am impressed as the voice command system and the overall gameplay is much better than I anticipated.
Considering End War is a rather large game with huge maps and lots going on, End War’s visuals are very good and consistent with the overall look and feel of other Tom Clancy games. Aside from the addictive online play and impressive voice command system, the visuals represent another good reason to pick up the game. Many RTS games generally do not have jaw dropping visuals and End War is no different, however the game’s graphics during the single player game look good and Ubisoft did a wonderful job maintaining the same level in the online play as well.
Some of End War’s picturesque backdrops are arguably the best looking feature the game. When converging into some of the areas the scenery can be stunning at times. Everything from the buildings, the mountainous regions, and the sand of a desert region looks really detailed in its appearance. Granted some areas look quite a bit better than others, however on the whole the majority of the maps environments look pretty good.
The weapons, characters, and military vehicles, including tanks and choppers, also look decent and what you’d expect such things to appear as in an RTS style game. All are very well designed and rendered and a I was pretty amazed at how many vehicles were on screen at once during the various battles I fought. This, however, was to be expected considering Ubisoft franchises such as Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six have always been the bench marks in terms of weapons and artillery in video games.
The lighting is also very strong and realistic in End War. On the flip side, the explosions and smoke effects are a little underwhelming. I just expected a little more. Granted having recently played Gears of War 2 which features some of the best fire, smoke, and explosion effects seen in a console game to date, I have been spoiled lately. Nevertheless, End War does not come close to Gears in this regard but on its own it looks solid.
As far as the sound is concerned, End War delivers. Everything from the musical score to the sounds of the weapons sounds fantastic and great in 5.1 surround sound. The voice acting and battle commands are also particularly good and belong in a class all by itself. The clarity and responsiveness of the voice command system is impressive. Additionally, the battle chatter features a wide variety of accents and I found this to be a slick addition. Clearly, developers spent a significant amount of time perfecting the games audio and it pays off.
Overall I found the weapon sounds and explosions to be very life-like with the latter having the ability to jolt out of your seat at times. The game features a wide variety of weapons and will surely appease all those hard core war-like shooter fans. All the weapons, rockets and other tools of mass destruction have very unique sounds and seem to reflect what you’d expect them to sound like in real-life. Of course there are ample explosions in the game which I found could border on thundering. Overall, I have no major concerns with the games audio as I believe many will be impressed with End War’s total sound package.
End War features a single player campaign, yet the heart of the game is in the online play. Before I get into some of the fantastic aspects of the online play I will briefly examine the single player game which merely offers up a drawn out explanation of how the world got into such a mess and why each nation ultimately decided to go to war.
End War is set in 2020 and the world’s resources have been growing scarce forcing every nation to look after themselves. Tensions between the United States, Europe and Russia are at a boiling point. A joint project between the United States and the European Federation which had peaceful intentions has back-fired. A missile defence system has made nuclear warfare impossible, and as a result conventional warfare is the means to an end. With the growing need to secure oil resources, war becomes inevitable.
The single player experience tells the story from the US, European and Russian perspective, all of whom have valid reasons for going to war. The game does a great not demonizing the Russians or Europeans which is something we see in other unnamed games. In End War there is not one single heroic nation, instead all three have their own strengths and weaknesses and you can play as any one of these nations.
The Americans, led by Scott Mitchell (sound familiar?), has equipped their soldiers with unmanned support vehicles and stealth technology. The Russians prefer the “brawn over brains” approach using large guns and focusing on power as opposed to mobility and tactical combat. Finally, the Europeans focus less on power and more on strategic mobility.
Bringing Scott Mitchell into the fold was a nice touch and I did not expect this. First appearing in the tactical shooter Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2, Captain Scott Mitchell was made famous as the captain and lead character for the Ghosts in the Ghost Recon: Advance Warfighter franchise. Being a big Ghost Recon fan I found that by including Scott Mitchell was a pleasant surprise.
Overall the story is straightforward and not as complicated as what we see in other RTS games. Many old school RTS fans may not enjoy this simplistic approach but I found it suits the “couch-gamer”. End War puts an emphasis on action and your ability to command your troops is the meat and potatoes of the game. Many previous games have attempted to employ a voice command system only to fall flat, however End War does it with success and it works quite well. Granted when the action amps-up and I quickly blurt out my voice commands inevitably I end up on a path which leads to my demise. However, when I spoke clearly using the phrases taught during the game’s progress, it works to perfection. I should mention there is also a menu which has some potential phrases you can use in-game.
For those of you who have no desire to bark out commands, End War does include the ability to use your controller. Unfortunately using your controller is like playing short-handed as it does not work as well as the voice commands. Every time I attempted to use the controller only approach I inevitably returned to the voice command system. It is very slick as everything from simply ordering your troops from point A to Point B to opening can of ‘whoop-ass’ on opposing enemies, can be done with your voice.
Another great aspect of End War is the game’s camera angle which puts your right into the heat of the battle. The game is played from more of a third person view as opposed the traditional top-down view. It forces you to switch cameras to stay in the battle. There is a traditional RTS top-down view but it is rarely employed as it tends to take away from the gameplay. More often than not you will want to stay close to battle as you watch destructible environments crumble in front of you.
In some regards, End War is a stripped down version of your typical RTS game and many of those die hard RTS fans will likely scoff at the simplicity of the game. Perhaps this is due to the limitations of the hardware, nevertheless it is a great console based RTS that is certainly much more enjoyable than any I have played in the past. Part is this is due to the fact most battles last 15 to 30 minutes. Other RTS games require you to have no life and play for hours on end for one game. In End War the focus is on action and getting into battle ASAP. Run and gunners be forewarned though, End War is not all about blasting your way to the top as it is still a strategy game which requires a degree of tactical gameplay.
The same applies online as strategy and teamwork is the name of the game. Jumping into an online game is done with ease and the Theater of War mode is truly where most End War online gamers will spend their time. This mode is a persistent online battle. Pick a side and fight for control of the world. When you are done you can jump back in and play the next day. This is interesting as the past 24 hours are actually taken into consideration and the game adds the results from the day before which assists in determining which side won the majority of the matches. Based on the results the game redraws the frontlines and new areas are up for grabs. So if you want to be that guy who plays non-stop, you can be that guy. On the flip side, you can jump in any time and contribute whatever your schedule permits.
For those that are not ready for Theater of War mode, which offers up a level of intensity unlike I have experienced before, the online game also features skirmish matches where you can play maps and game-types of your choosing.
Clearly, End War was designed with the multiplayer component being the primary focus and it works. Any mission or battle in End War is playable in the single player, co-op, or multiplayer arenas. At the end of each match you are awarded experience credits which can be used for various upgrades. You can upgrade your battalion or purchase new abilities. At the end of day, the upgrade system will have you coming back for more.
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