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As time and technology in gaming engines march briskly forward, so will the sophistication of games which eventually leads to Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. In Mac and PC FPS gaming history, three titles evoke strong memories of sleepless nights with white knuckles clutching mouse and keyboard and motion sickness: Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake and every version after the flagship release. First we saw the arrival of a new kind of game that brought horror movie gaming to our computers in the form of id software’s Doom, then on the Mac we saw a real sci-fi hit in Bungie’s Marathon, later gaming in full 3D would become the gold standard for all future first person shooter games and no title took better advantage of this than id software’s Quake.
Largely being a very dark fantasy 3D shooter, Quake I wasn’t entirely different from Doom. In following versions, Quake took a turn more toward science fiction, capitalizing on internet-based multiplayer death matches, instead of full single player missions with cohesive story lines. Hardware and software technologies improved and lessons in game play and story telling have been learned, the brilliant mixture is Enemy Territory Quake Wars (ETQW).
First I need to speak a little about the quality of this offering. Not so much the quality of the story or the technologies used within, but the quality of the port by Aspyr. Aspyr is now a mixed-platform game production company with a proud history of bringing about high quality ports of popular PC games to Mac OS X. The amount of work put into the ETQW port for Mac OS X has paid off in a very big way. I took the opportunity to play this on both a Windows PC and my trusty Macbook Pro (2.6ghz) and found that performance is spot on. Mac OS X is an easy platform to write for normally, but to start from the ground up takes almost as long as it did for the original PC version and us Mac folks have waited long enough for titles like this one.
The story line summarized:
The Strogg are an overwhelming cybernetic and alien invasion force bent on stripping the earth of resources and human life. Largely their plans have been successful up until now. The GDF is Earth's answer to this alien threat by employing highly trained and specialized human Soldiers, Engineers, Field Ops, Covert Ops and Medics in support of each other and focused on repelling attacks or wresting back control of strategic places on earth from the would-be Strogg conquerers.
The game play:
Single player: There are two basic modes of play in Enemy Territory Quake Wars- Singler player missions and Mulitplayer (LAN or Internet). Single player missions offer somewhat satisfying game play but lack a sufficient background story and cinematics expected in a real single player game. The player is given a small blurb of information explaining the situation and mission goals, then you are pretty much left to figure out what class of GDF soldier will work best for your style of play. You can also play as the evil forces of the Strogg if drawing human blood is more to your liking. While you can choose the assault trooper style play, the game doesn’t necessarily hinge on you picking and staying with that same class. Most single player games will place you in the body or armor of a particular character and you follow along in this role as the story unfolds before your eyes. In ETQW you pick a class and attempt to fulfill the requirements of the story for that class. For example, if you choose to be a Covert Ops (sniper), you will be given the task to hack strategic location ‘A’ then infiltrate strategic location ‘B’. All the while your fellow humans who are being controlled by the computer, known as ‘bots’, are busy trying to complete their own tasks.
What makes the Strogg so dangerous is their ability to take the bodies of their fallen opponents and use them to refill their ranks or create monstrous mutant warriors. Enemy Territory adds to their abilities by allowing them to disguise themselves as the player should they manage to capture him. I found that this was often my fate as playing against the computer was very difficult. I’m not ashamed to say that my fellow human or Strogg ‘bots’ were much better players than I was during the several different maps I played through. What I found to be disappointing, however, was that I could essentially pick a soldier class and stand in a corner facing the wall and the computer would eventually complete the requirements for me. Should I somehow manage to make it to my objective and find my ‘bots’ intelligently battling it out against the enemy- they would, for some unknown reason, become dumb as posts by refusing to shoot at the attackers or even completing their tasks as long as they knew I was present. This was triggered by proximity. I can only assume the reasoning behind this is so that I may take an active role in achieving victory without bots stealing the glory, but I mostly just found this to be frustrating. In games like this it seems there is no bigger target or more important objective than for the computer to relentlessly hunt down and attack the real human player. Its no different in this game. While the computer is reluctant to attack other ‘bots’ it suddenly becomes a prime candidate for Mensa International, gunning for me while my ‘bot’ buddies run in circles and walk into walls.
Multiplayer: Quake Wars is first and foremost a multiplayer game with the ability to offer some training through single player missions. As long as you don’t forget that, then you will absolutely love this for what it is- an engrossing multiplayer masterpiece. Nothing is more balanced and yet challenging than playing against other human beings. Joining either side offers drivable vehicles and lots of different weapons to use in completing the tasks given to you. In fact if you have a fast broadband connection to the internet, consider joining with a gaming clan where you can get some very interesting squad-based team playing going. I played with several such groups where we were able to use TeamSpeex (the Macintosh version of TeamSpeak) and coordinate synchronized attacks and strategic retreats to bring us all to victory.
Multiplayer also offers what’s referred to as ‘Persistent Stats’ where you can gain ranks within the game and earn special weapon or ability unlocks, thereby extending the depth of gameplay, and that information can be saved for future online play. So, not only are you now interested in completing your objective(s) but you’re also eyeing the next military rank and its weapons and abilities. I’ve only seen this depth of gameplay available in the Battlefield series offered by EA Games (Electronic Arts), where squad-based play is also possible.
MAC MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS:
•Operating System: 10.5.1 (Leopard)
•CPU Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo
•CPU Speed: 2 GHz
•Memory: 1 GB RAM
•Hard Disk Space: 5.5 GB + 1 GB Swap File
•Video Card (ATI): Radeon X1600
•Video Card (NVidia): Geforce 7300
•Video Memory (VRam): 128 MB
•Media Required: DVD-ROM
•Macintosh mouse and keyboard
•Internet(TCP/IP) or LAN (TCP/IP) play supported
•Internet play requires broadband connection
RECOMMENDED SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
•CPU Speed: 2.4 GHz
•Memory: 2 GB RAM
•Video Memory (VRam): 256 MB
Supported Video cards:
NVIDIA GeForce 7300, 7600, 8600
NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500
ATI Radeon X1600, X1900, HD 2400, HD 2600
If you have an integrated video card like those found in Macbooks or the Macbook Air- you should look elsewhere to get your FPS fix. This game doesn’t support integrated video cards. Sorry.
Like other games offered by Aspyr this game is copy protected. You need to insert your original DVD to launch and play the game, even though its not really necessary for gameplay. There is no DVD content being loaded for each map you play. As I’ve stated before, this is an annoyance to the legitimate media owner who licenses the software as allowed by the EULA. My past comment here remains that I simply do not wish to risk damaging or losing my original media. It is a lot better to make a backup and use it as required along with the CD-key I also need to provide before playing. If my dog eats the backup or my daughter eats the dog who ate my backup.. no problem.. I’ll make another. No such luck. But copy protection appears to be the price of getting the titles we want on the platform we love.
Pros: Ground breaking graphics, multiplayer online gaming is top notch, complete parity with the PC version of the game (THANK YOU ASPYR!) A thriving online community, Fairly reasonable system requirements.
Cons: High learning curve (even for some FPS veterans like myself), Copy Protection, Intel Macs only.