Ubisoft returns to the Tom Clancy pot of gold with the abruptly titled End War. Tom Clancy’s End War is a modern era real-time strategy game that takes a leap forward in voice recognition technology in gaming. Let the games begin.
Ubisoft Shanghai approaches the RTS genre from the left field by taking advantage the unlikely application of voice recognition technology. Merged with standard real-time game mechanics, Tom Clancy's End War's presumptions point towards in a new direction for strategy games is refreshing. In a move that will embarrass you in front of your friends, you have total freedom to use your lips to control the action rather than a series of button presses. The trade-off is your willingness to let go of the lifetime of game training and try a new approach to traditional methods of gaming.
The story behind End War is your typical Tom Clancy world domination scenario. Three world super-powers set forth a series of traumatic events leading up to World War III. In a not-too-far-off scenario dated 2011, the United States of America and European Union co-develop the technology for a anti-ballistic missile defence system that will defend the world from the use of missile warfare, mainly nukes. Russia who was left out of this treaty between the two mega-powers accelerates its own missile defence technology that puts the United States, Europe and Russia in power struggle. Along with the worlds energy crisis other countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran become unstable which all leads up to into the mix and ultimately confrontation. Not only is Russia and the United States a major player grasping for control, Europe has created their own Federation (European Federation-EF) with their own greedy palms looking ready to contribute to global war. This becomes the "War to End all Wars"... the End War.
Tom Clancy's End War is a multi-platform release with the PC version expected to ship in the first quarter 2009. For this review we are taking a look at the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 release. The Xbox 360 owners can fire up their original mic and expect excellent quality in End War, and Playstation 3 owners you can use the new Official Blu-tooth Headset from Sony, it is fully supported--- Thanks Socom: Confrontation. When starting a solo campagain you run through the microphone set-up progress which is extremely easy and painless. As you set up the headset volume and test the fluidity of your words, you will start to see the brilliance in Ubisoft Shanghai decision to use this innovative approach. Voice recognition software has come along way and End War has made me reanalyze how far the technology has evolved and furthermore how it could be a wonderful addition in gaming.
The microphone abets the player to feel like they are the army general. By pressing a single button and speaking the pre-listed commands you can rally your troops to advance in war. A sample of a voice command could be “unit one, attack, hostile four”, or “unit four, camera”. The commands are simple to use with the constant help from the on-screen overlay. If you’re not into the whole “voice” deal you can still play End War traditionally with the controller, or bridge them both together. Either way, the results are the same; the voice control just gives a greater sense of power.
The gameplay in End War is your basic RTS. You are not going to find any surprises in the streamlined objectives, unit selections and core gameplay. The campaign mode doesn’t do a great job motivating the player through each mission and feels like an extension of Theatre of War, End War's main online mode. The simplistic nature of the plot trickles over to a mindless confrontation between units on the battlefield. This makes End War feel like a painted up version of rock-paper-scissors. The three factions in the confrontation add some variety, however the differences between each groups is under whelming. Plus the limited amount of units (7) makes for weak divergency.
End War is still fun strategy title if you have been on the lookout for a modern RTS experience for the consoles. The action can heat up later in the game when the numbers grow. Thankfully the complete control of the camera and scaled back “sit-rep” view can help you get a handle of the action so End War never feels out of control which can happen with a lot of busy RTS games. End War might seem like an impersonal experience, and for the most part it is, but with the controls you can jump right into the battlefield and watch the action unfold up close. Some scenarios can feel epic when you look past the lack of diversity. Assault scenarios are a little weak, but getting into the action a little more is the control point capturing in the Conquest missions. I’m not sure how welcoming End War presentation helps draw in new gamers, so I am lead to believe End War was created for the core strategy audience. Another possitive bullet point is the co-op gameplay which can be fun with the right people.
The Theatre of War mode online is a hoot. Its fun to watch the results of your actions spread across the map like an infection. Logging on and taking part of the persistent online game couldn’t be any less fun. In fact I had more fun with End War when I searched out a game online then offline. Theatre of War is basically a map where all three coalitions battle it out for supremacy. Your actions in the game effect the overall situation in the globe with the ability to upgrade your units and build a bigger, stronger army. This doesn’t change the gunships over artillery/ transports over gunships gameplay, but it does make for a more interesting battle. It is also interesting to have an online match-up that lasts over a few days. This makes End War particularly right up the ally for some clan-like battles with colour loyalty. Besides human opponents are always more satisfying to take down when you know someone has a hold of the controller on the other end.
The visuals in End War walk in the middle of the road. They look great, but not outstanding. This never hurts the gameplay and you won’t get sick of looking at your TV as you play. Room for improvement is evident, however not really necessary. The audio doesn’t meet up with End War in the same spot on the road as it clearly crosses the road from average to superb. The war-like chatter, loud explosions and subtle soundtrack all help pull you in the experience. The quality is there, the voice command technology is crystal clear and the entire project seems to come into one immersing pot of 'Clancyness'. For differences between the consoles, the Playstation 3 version and the Xbox 360 are identical in the quality of the production and gameplay. Besides the long PS3 install (5GB), no version bests the other.
Compared to other creative RTS titles End War is your plain Jane, if you exclude the voice command feature. Without using the voice controls the innovation slowly dries up when the game starts. This doesn’t mean End War isn’t a fun RTS, it is, but it is not an exceptional one. Using the voice commands along with the persistent Theatre of War mode helps make End War a more satisfying purchase. In a generalized sense I can’t recommend End War for everyone as it seems the target audience is a little too narrow compared to other Tom Clancy games. Given the lack modern RTS titles, I’m marking up End War as a clear rental and cautious buy. Hopefully the online popularity of End War continue to grow and give more value to the Theatre while increasing the demand for a more dynamic future follow-up.
Gameplay: 7.5, Graphics:8, Sound:8.5, Innovation:7.5, Mojo:7.5 Final: 7.8 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 11.20.08