STAFF REVIEW of Warpath (Xbox)

Saturday, August 12, 2006.
by Adam Rivard

Warpath Box art Since the introduction of the Xbox Live service, Xbox gamers have been banding together online to battle it out on the virtual battlefield for glory and bragging rights. Thankfully, the big black box has seen a number of great Xbox Live enabled multiplayer games from the ones included in the Halo or Splinter Cell series to games made specifically for the service itself like Counter-Strike. Yes, Xbox fans have seen some great games in the multiplayer department and now Groove Games hopes to join their ranks with Warpath.

The story behind Warpath isn?t told through cutscenes in the game?s single-player campaign but rather the instruction manual. It seems that a planet on the Kaladi system of the galaxy is a paradise rich in natural resources as well as great beauty, and because of this reason three alien races wage war over it.

The mighty biomechanical Ohm wish to suck the planet dry of its resources while The Kovos wish to protect the planet since it is a Holy land to them. Finally, there is the Human Coalition who simply just wishes to live there in peace and since they have already settled in, they will be a witness as well as a participant in a war for control of the planet.

The problem, however, is that nothing really distinguishes these three races apart in the way Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict does with their cast of character classes. The only real difference between these races is that they wear different armor and use very specific weapons. The Human Coalition, for example, is partial to their Wolverine (a machine gun) and the Judge (a powerful rocket launcher). Each race has the same type of melee weapon like the Vibro Blade as well as well as an explosive charge. If you are expecting a special power for each character class you will be quite disappointed. What you do get is weapon specific upgrades that do change the manner in which your weapon will fire. For example, you can upgrade your Violator (the game?s version of a shotgun) with Smart Shells that embed fragments in wall that explode when enemy get too close.

The game, you will find out quickly, is best played with others but much like games like Counter-Strike the game offers a single player game with computer-controlled bots filling in as both your allies and your enemies. With no story or cutscenes, you basically embark on a series of matches you must win in order for your chosen side to dominate the Conflict Zones map. You move along a hexagonal grid and selecting a match that only includes four game types. There is Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, CTF (capture the flag) and Front Line Assault (where you attempt to capture the enemy base before they capture your base). The good news is that there are plenty of different maps and some even include three different vehicles like the Razorback (a jeep with a gun emplacement), Hornet (a one-man vehicle) and the Maverick (a sort of hovercraft). The bad news is that despite the many maps you will be seeing the same ones often and the vehicles are pale imitations of those found in the two Halo games. You can?t even run over an enemy with your Razorback!
Another negative aspect of the game?s single-player experience is the fact that the computer-controlled bots aren?t smart at all. Many of them don?t even try to duck for cover when you?re shooting at them. The worse part is that even your allies aren?t smart enough to get out of the way of a grenade. This, of course, is remedied playing the game with friends online or offline. Warpath supports an up to a 16-player multiplayer game using a System Link setup or play online through Xbox Live. The multiplayer mode?s ability to support up to 16 players makes up for the three-on-three matches of the single-player game and online the game moves at a steady framerate. Unfortunately, it was hard for me to find a match with more than five players. Still, the various maps have a nice assortment of power up items and you can always go against your own race?s arsenal and unlock and use weapons used by the enemy.
My final gripe is a major one because even if the game is limited in game modes or it?s not even a beautiful-looking game; the controls should at least make the game fun to play. Sadly, Warpath is not fun to play thanks to the awful controls. While the controls are quite basic for a first-person shooter, the controls make it difficult to gracefully turn and even aiming can become a chore. Melee combat is not recommended. I won?t even mention how hard it is to control a vehicle without being stuck between two crates.

Visually, Warpath is not a pretty game nor will it dazzle you with great visual effects. There aren?t even any cutscenes in the game?s single-player campaign mode so all you will be treated to when you win are screenshots of your chosen race celebrating their victory. Even the environments don?t look particularly pleasing to the eye but at least the terrain differs from level to level - althought many times you?ll be playing on the same map often. The enviroment is not very lively either it just feels plain and dull.

As for the game?s sound, the game?s music isn?t that bad but the sound effects could have used more punch seeing as there is no voice acting in the game ? that is if you count screams, groans and grunts as voice acting. Just about the only thing that really stands out is the game?s musical score that is not amazing but does a great job of making each battle sound exciting. The rest of the game?s sound effects don?t really stand out and there are no voices in the game so just expect to hear more screams of pain.

Sadly, Warpath just does not rise above its awkward controls, poor character classes and mediocre gameplay nor does it offer anything that comes close to rivaling the collection of excellent multiplayer first-person shooters already available on the original Xbox. While there are some fun moments in the game, they really aren?t enough to warrant a purchase. Do yourself a favor and skip this one or find a copy of Counter-Strike or Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict instead.

Overall: 6.2 / 10
Gameplay: 5.6 / 10
Visuals: 5.6 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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