Tom Clancy has quite the lineup of creative works, doesn’t he? Books, games… it’s a wonder the man can keep cranking out story ideas.
But it doesn’t seem like that well has run dry yet. Tom Clancy’s EndWar has an excellent premise, even if it is a bit done-to-death these days.
The gist of it is that there are three major superpowers in the world: America, which seems to control most of the Western Hemisphere, Russia, which controls much of Asia in addition to the Motherland, and some coalition of European nations with territories throughout the Middle East.
The planet’s oil supply is running low, and relations are tense between the three powers. They all realize there will have to be war eventually, but none of them wish to start it. Instead, they resort to building up arms, cold war style.
America is leader of the pack, planning to launch a military space station and weapons platform soon. Russia, not wanting this to happen, orchestrates a terrorist attack on the launch pad and plants evidence linking a European government official to the attacks.
In what could be construed as a critique on America’s current foreign policy, they send a small army to Europe, guns blazing, to arrest the official. Europe defends themselves, Russia gets involved, and before you can say “foreign relations” the world is at war.
Unfortunately, the story pretty much ends there, which was disappointing, because it had been interesting to play through in the first handful of missions.
Worse, the story was what kept me playing the game after I’d sampled the gameplay. Rather than your traditional RTS style, your armies consist of a handful of unit squads – Company of Heroes, anyone?
But don’t do CoH the dishonor of comparing it to this game. In EndWar, all the unit types essentially come down to a glorified version of rock-paper-scissors. Tanks beat transports, transports beat helicopters, and helicopters beat tanks, with two types of infantry and an artillery unit thrown in to mix things up.
Seriously. That’s it.
Now, when I started playing RTS games, the whole thrill and challenge was that you were supposed to have more brainpower than your average six-year-old child. You were supposed to have to think about more than “well, they’re using tanks and the game told me helicopters beat those, so that’s what I’ll use.”
In EndWar, none of that matters. They literally show you a screen that tells you which of the three main unit types beats what. And as if that wasn’t enough of a slap to the face, the game will tell you in the middle of fights if a unit is outmatched or not.
I know games are being “dumbed down,” and it’s something I’ve grown to expect, sadly enough. But EndWar seems as though it expects everyone who plays it to be mind-numbingly stupid.
The frustration of being treated like an infant, plus the repetitive, uninteresting gameplay – thanks to the appallingly narrow unit selection – makes it so that I can’t play through more than two or three missions before I get so bored I have to quit and do something more interesting.
That being said, I did find the voice command system to be innovative and interesting. Once I learned the commands and started speaking in full sentences without waiting for the menus to pop up, I really did find that I had a lot more control over what happened on the battlefield. With voice recognition technology being what it is, you’d think that more games would support something similar to this, if only as a gimmick for when you’re tired of scrolling all the way across the map to tell one unit to come back.
But even this aspect of the game isn’t without its flaws. Again, voice recognition being what it is, you’d think that the feature would work a little better once it’s released as a major function of the game – but for some reason it kept thinking “UNIT 2 MOVE TO…” was “WMD ZULU.” Hilarity ensued.
There are more or less regular point-and-click controls, but the game is clearly designed for voice control.
All in all, EndWar showed great promise with the storyline, but ultimately fell on its face due to the gameplay and, by proxy of the voice system, the controls. It seems like a good idea that could have done well with another year or two in development – or maybe they just think that cheap gimmicks and big explosions are still impressive enough to market a game on.