by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PS3
I have seen the future of war
While I enjoy playing console games, especially on the Wii, I am still very much a PC gamer at heart. It is easy to find the reason for my lackluster interest in console gaming: I love strategy games and for those you need a mouse. The mouse and keyboard combination is so powerful that for any genre other than sports, racing and arcade games, joypads are second rate controllers to me. While most genres can be controlled acceptably using a joypad, playing a strategy game is an utterly frustrating experience and connecting a mouse to a console sort of defeats the purpose. Because of this, I have always dismissed Real Time Strategy games on consoles. Until now.
Tom Clancy’s Endwar is an RTS game not unlike World in Conflict. Resource gathering has been eliminated, research simplified and gameplay is both strategic and tactical. Even the setting is somewhat similar, with the biggest difference being that Endwar is set 20 years into the future. This allows the developers some leeway in inventing futuristic weaponry. That is not to say that the game feels particularly futuristic. It’s more contemporary in nature and will not throw anything at you that is too far-fetched to be believable.
Ubisoft was quick to point out the magnificently rich animations, noting that they had an unsuspected advantage in using people who are normally working on Tom Clancy First Person Shooter games. “When they started animating the units, they just didn’t know how to do it any different from what they were used to, and that was creating animations for First Person Shooters. The result is a level of detail not seen in any other strategy game.” Having seen the game in action with my own eyes, I would be the last to deny that claim.
By your command
So far, the game sounds like your average run of the mill strategy game, but if it would be, I would have dismissed it already. Controlling a strategy game with a joypad is just not going to work and this is where Ubisoft introduces voice control. Some of Endwar’s controls are still handled by the joypad but ordering your units around is done entirely by easy voice commands that -when combined- become extremely powerful. So powerful in fact that it will give even the most hardened PC RTS veteran a run for his money.
We played the game in a crowded booth filled with background noise. Despite this, Endwar’s voice controls did not hiccup even a single time while we were playing. All actions take only three or four spoken commands to perform. “Infantry” “Secure” “Foxtrot” had the infantry move out towards the intended target and secure the perimeter while other commands where being issued to Gunships, Tanks, Artillery and Air Support units. Everything plays so quick that the battlefield rapidly changes into a completely chaotic warzone. Keeping track of every situation while also issuing commands would have been impossible to do with a joypad. Realizing this was instant proof of the ingenuity of the voice control system.