E for All Hands-on / Tom Clancy’s EndWar

When I first heard about Tom Clancy’s EndWar I was a little skeptical. I didn’t really believe that the voice controls would work properly, and was a firm believer that RTS games belonged strictly on PC. However, I like the way Ubisoft has been going with the Tom Clancy universe, and has stayed relatively true to the author’s vision. So I’ll admit I was excited when I learned it would be at E for All in a playable form. The demo only had a choice of one level, which was the defense of Washington D.C., but it was was enough to make me forget about all my woes of an RTS on the console. Again, I only had about 30 minutes to get pwned by the computer.

What’s awesome:

  • Voice recognition: Yes it works (most of the time), and it works pretty well. All the voice commands are relatively easy to use, and not complicated. First you select your unit using the d-pad, and then simply begin saying a command. An example would be: “Unit 1, move to Alpha”, and generally they respond to the request and carry out the orders. There are options to create groups out of a unit (i.e. split them off), attack, and garrison within a building (riflemen) should you need to retreat. The commands are what you would expect a commander to say. That is, you can order your units to move, retreat, take cover, attack. One of the coolest commands was the camera command, and really helped you navigate across the battlefield. For example, I would say “Unit 1 camera” and instantly the game-camera would sail across the screen and I would instantly be atop Unit 1. Take that, mouse and keyboard.
  • Objective based (screw mining stuff): The one thing I hated about RTS was the resource gathering concept. They seemed all the same to me. Build some type of mining unit, go mine, build structure, build more mining units, and then build bigger structure. In the demo I played, there are things called command points. Both sides start with no command points (Alpha, etc) and it’s a frantic race to capture them. You use riflemen to capture these points (think of them as mini-bases) who storm the building and then load an up-link. Capturing these points enable you to call in more units. From what I could tell, there is no currency to worry about. The best way I can explain this is that it’s an action man’s RTS.
  • WMD’s: It’s not exactly the WMD’s I like (even though they are flashy), it’s the way they are implemented. Instead of it being a race to buy a WMD and wipe out your opponent, you get the option to use a WMD as a “last resort” method. This only happens when your opponent has more command points then you, or is–for lack of a better term–whooping your ass. It is then that the option comes up and you are allowed to drop it on a command point of your choice.

What’s worrisome:

  • Voice recognition: Even though I said it works it still is a double-edged sword. There are some times that the game simply doesn’t recognize what you are saying because you are talking too fast. Odd, considering that when there are a battalion of tanks rumbling towards your unsuspecting riflemen, you can’t help but talk fast. It’s annoying basically, since the stress of battle makes you rattle off things rather than think. Then again, maybe the game is telling you to just remain calm so you can assess the situation efficiently.
  • Graphics: They’re hit or miss. The WMD effects look awesome, and the motion capture for the human units look decent. The D.C. environment I played in looked drab though, and the explosions were lackluster.

Overall the demo kept me cautiously optimistic. But if you don’t want to take my word for it, go ahead and enter our EndWar VIP demo contest so you can try out the game yourself.