Last year, iD released a new Quake game for the PC in the form of Enemy Territory – Quake Wars. This multiplayer focused Quake offering in the spirit of the Battlefield games (two sides, complete with Classes), received some pretty solid review scores and now, about eight months later, the journey to the Xbox 360 and PS3 is complete. Is this conversion what console fans have been waiting for? Well, that depends entirely on what they're expecting, and how much they know about the PC version.
I didn't play much of the original version on PC last year, largely due to that I don't play many multiplayer games unless it's in a LAN environment. That said, my hour or two of experience with the PC version months ago didn't prepare me for the learning curve I was heading into on the Xbox 360 version. Managing the controls wasn't too bad, although precision aiming can be troublesome, but the real trouble for me came in just understanding what the heck was going on – and I'm talking about just in the single player “campaign,” not even online with other people.
Speaking of the single player campaign, it's about as thin as you can get. If you aren't already familiar with the Quake universe, Quake Wars does nothing to explain the backstory, which hey, isn't a real requirement per se, but it sure helps. That said, it's enough to know really that the GDF are the humans, and are humanity's last line of defense, etc., and the Strogg are invading aliens hellbent on harvesting and destruction. Each of the twelve single player missions, played out across four different parts of the world that conveniently feature four different types of terrain (desert, tundra, etc.), aren't tied together really by anything except the game's menu. Furthermore, each individual encounter is the same everytime you play it: select your starting character class, hope the AI does their job, and destroy this laser turret, hack this computer, etc. The objectives are clichéd, but that too isn't in itself a deal breaker—it's just that they are too similar to each other and even worse, actually doing each objective tends to boil down to just holding down the action button for a number of seconds while your teammates cover you. This can be very exciting, but also quite frustrating, of course depending on who you are playing with or how well the bots are behaving. In one mission though, the scenario came down to somewhat of a loop. I had to plant a bomb on this GDF device, that was situated in a room. It takes about twenty seconds to plant the bomb, and forces from both sides kept streaming in and kept killing off each other, creating a tense situation, but also a bit of a a silly one as neither side prevailed for what seemed like too long.
The idea behind Quake Wars isn't new, and the execution is far from perfect, but what really makes getting into Quake Wars on the Xbox 360 was the learning curve. There is a learning curve on the PC version too, but several things make it much easier on the PC than the 360. For one, the load times on a good PC are far less than that of what I experienced with the 360 version. Beyond that though, the interface is just snappier and more intuitive, but the I feel that the real meat of the issue is that things just aren't explained well at all. There is a tutorial mode that gives some help, but without quite a bit of practice, I'm talking several hours here, you may not understand the abilities and traits of each class. In fact, for the first dozen or so missions, I didn't feel much of a sense of control or understanding about what was really going on. Part of this was me not being used to these Battlefield type games, but I think Nerve, responsible for the 360 port, could have done more to introduce players to the mechanics of Quake Wars.
A Step Back
PC games are always going to possess several characteristics that consoles may never match. In this case, the common three – multiplayer, graphics, and control – are all considerably distinguished from the console version. Simply put, the visuals on a good PC for Quake Wars far exceed what you will see in the console versions. Not to say that the graphics are down right bad in Quake Wars on the 360, but if you've seen them on PC, you know what you're missing. Even if you haven't seen the visuals on a good PC, you can tell that the console versions lack that certain wow factor.
Multiplayer battles have been reduced to sixteen players instead of thirty-two in this version as well, but that probably isn't a deal breaker for most potential players out there. Still, I thought it noteworthy.
Lastly, there is no replacement for a keyboard and mouse combination for a FPS. Game controller methods have come a long way across various platforms, and while I think Quake Wars doesn't utilize the best implementation for controls as it could have, it's still not bad but at the same time – it's still not as crisp and precise, nor as quick and responsive, as those found on a PC.
Not Quite Adding Up For Everybody
Enemy Territory Quake Wars is not a bad game, but frankly the version that came out on the PC months ago exceeds the console offerings. No new content, an inferior release, and a significantly higher price tag equals makes me want to ask “what the...?” Granted, most folks don't have a PC capable of running Quake Wars in all its glory, or even near that, and while having it's flaws it's not a really bad game on the consoles, so there is a market there.