The "Quake" universe can be a grim and gruesome place.
The remorseless alien Strogg have been waging a savage war with humanity for generations — a tale told in several gory M-rated shooters over the years.
Then, id Software switched gears a bit last year to create "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" for the PC. In taking gamers back to the early days of the conflict — the year 2065 — id dialed back on the gore and some of the futuristic weaponry. It also tweaked the game play to encourage team-based fighting. Now, Nerve Software has ported the game to the Xbox 360, and Underground Development has done the same for the PlayStation 3. The results are fast-paced shooters that cater to fans of multiplayer battles.
You can choose to play as Earth’s Global Defense Force or the Strogg. Each side features a variety of combat specialties, such as medic, special ops and engineer. These specialties are vital for completing each mission. For example, you might need an engineer to repair a bridge, a special operator to hack into alien technology and a soldier to blow up a piece of hardware. This means you have to play as part of a solid team, respawn in different specialties or set the artificial intelligence to do the dirty work for you.
You can gain experience and increase your level in each specialty — but only temporarily. New missions and campaigns wipe the slate clean. This keeps the game balanced for online play, but won’t endear it to those who enjoy gaining new abilities, weapons and gear over time.
Both sides have relatively comparable abilities and weaponry, or at least offsetting strengths and weaknesses, which also keeps the game balanced. However, the Strogg gear definitely looks cooler — imagine portable rain guns that are certain to leave a lasting impact on a human opponent.
The game offers a campaign mode and online and offline matches. In each case, the experience is basically the same because the same maps and objectives appear in all three modes.
In fact, the campaign lacks cut scenes, briefing screens or anything else that would convey an actual sense of story. As a result, it feels like a string of 12 unrelated multiplayer matches. That’s not so hot if you enjoy immersing yourself in a game’s universe or knowing what the heck’s going on.
Another big gap is the lack of side-by-side co-op play in any of the game modes. It’s one player per console, which dramatically limits the potential fun.
Game play seems to be geared heavily toward the preferences of the T market — which probably explains why my 14-year-old sons enjoy it. Characters sprint across the immense maps at impossible speeds, reload weapons with ease and leap from tall buildings without suffering much injury. Much of the aiming is handled by the console on most settings. All of this, as well as the balancing of forces, makes "Quake Wars" a good introductory shooter.
The maps are large, interesting and varied, but there are only 12 of them.
The AI is usually good, although you’ll occasionally face a dimwitted foe or watch as a friendly medic rolls over your wounded character in a tank.
The graphics are generally good enough to get the job done. However, the backgrounds can be a bit soft and the character animations are prone to glitches, such as floating in air.
While many hard-core gamers will find the game a bit lacking, those who want some light, fast-paced action — or want to prepare the kids for the impending alien invasion — will find plenty to like.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
On the Web: www.enemyterritory.com