STAFF REVIEW of Tom Clancy's End War (Xbox 360)

Monday, November 17, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Tom Clancy's End War Box art Ubisoft takes the Tom Clancy Series in yet another direction and honestly does quite well with End War as a real time strategy game. In essence you could call this a game of technologically advanced ?Rock, Paper, Scissors? since each class of vehicle is dominate over one yet vulnerable to another. With the addition of a voice activation command system that is quite frankly perfectly done, this game has plenty to offer the casual gamer as well as the hardcore strategist. The voice command system and the online persistent war are just 2 solid features that should have any gamer impressed and definitely wanting to play the game more than once. So what is End War about and how is the gameplay? Well, lets talk about that right now.

In the year 2016 someone finally pushes the button and a nuclear attack takes place on Saudi Arabian soil. Of course this is where you find the world's primary oil production so the world is crippled by the attack. The following year the United States and Europe form a coalition ballistic space program to ward off anymore nuclear attacks across the world. Meanwhile, Russia becomes a world super power once again as they are the primary supplier of the world's energy and they see massive economic groths. As the year 2020 rolls around 3 super power factions have formed across the world's regions ? The United States of America, The European Federation, and Russia. Each faction has a wartime expertise over another faction in the theater of war. And so our game begins.

Graphically the game is done well and can be considered next gen as that seems to be the gage all gamers like to use when judging a game. The game gives you a three quarter top down view of the battlefield that allows you to easily jump from unit to unit by selecting the unit in your battalion and pressing the X button. The level of detail both up close and distant in very well done. You can zoom in or pan out of most areas which allows you to get up, close and personal with units and see what exactly they are doing.The maps are simply laid out and easy to understand.

As for the sounds, you'll hear the typical battle cries of squad members across the battlefield as you do with most shooter games and real time strategies. There is your typical voiceover acting that you see in games like this which try to help move the storyline, but it really isn't anything over the top. But where this game stands out is the voice recognition system. Ubisoft seems to have all but perfected the voice command aspects of video games in End War and really has done an outstanding job incorporating it into the game, but have also given it a very natural feeling and makes you want to play this game solely using a mic for the most part. I'll discuss how the system works with gameplay a bit later, but let me just go on record stating that this feature is definitely a high point of the game and one that should be tried. Sure voice activation has been done before, even by Ubisoft themselves, but folks this system works so well I the game that the bar has been set for all other game developers.

You'll find both single player campaign which really helps you get accustomed to the game as well as an extensive persistent war online between the 3 factions. From the main menu screen of the game you will find the following gameplay options ? Theater of War, Skirmish, Solo Campaign. There is also a Community extras location where you can download some exclusive content in the game just by linking your gamertag with You can also view saved game replays from this option which could ultimately help you create better strategies and hone in on your weak aspects of the game.

The solo campaign is of course the single player experience of the game and the Prelude to War campaign is basically an advanced tutorial of sorts that prepares you for online play. This option also gives you the basic storyline of events and missions that lead up to World War III. So I highly suggest that you definitely complete the Prelude to War. Not only will you learn the basics, but you'll also learn why the 3 factions are fighting and now engaged in an all out battle amongst each other. Once you have rolled through the Prelude to War and have learned the main aspects of the game you can then proceed to the World War III option.

You'll begin your solo campaign by doing a voice analysis. As I stated early the voice detection system is well done and honestly probably one of the best I have ever seen. The game will record and learn your voice pattern eventually calibrating itself to understand your every word, or at least the commands that are used within the game. Most of the time with voice activated games you have to be strong on your words and belt them out with some authority and extreme clarity. I am completely impressed and happy to say that with End war's system you can talk in a normal voice tone as if you were commanding real life units over the radio. Once you have ?trained? the game to recognize your voice you'll find that the voice command system is simple and almost perfect. It also adds a whole new side to the game instead of just sitting there directing a cursor around the battlefield and pushing the A button constantly.

To command your units you'll use commands such as unit, attack, move to, retreat, etc. One example of an attack command would be - ?Unit 1 Attack Hostile 2?. This will command whatever vehicles or infantry you have assigned to battle unit 1 to move to and attack the enemy hostile battle unit 2. As I stated earlier, its a game of advanced rock paper and scissors and each group vehicles or infantry in vulnerable to one group while dominate over another. For instance, Helicopter Gunships are effective against tanks, but take a beating from transports. And transports are effective against Helicopter Gunships but vulnerable to tanks. You'll also have infantry groups which include engineers and rifleman. These groups are used for assaulting positions on the ground quickly and securing uplinks which is one of your objectives in many game modes. As for other vehicles classes, you also have available to you both Artillery and Command vehicles As you progress you'll gain access to thing such as air strikes and WMD attacks as well.

The game is simple, yet it can be quite advanced in the same retrospect. The combat tree I mentioned earlier that pertains to which vehicle is more effective against which vehicle is rather simple and easy to remember. The command system can be quite basic but there are a lot of things that can be done across the battlefield which will take some time to learn and grasp. Especially when you go online against opponents that have fully upgraded units. We'll get into this a bit more when I discuss the multiplayer aspects. Not only are you responsible for commanding your units to attack or move to cover, but you'll be responsible for setting rally points using your sitrep, calling in reinforcements and what kind of reinforcements they will be, securing uplinks, setting landing zones, etc.

As you progress through the single player campaign your units will gain rank and experience with each and every battle they fight in. Units can be completely destroyed or just incapacitated. If a unit is incapacitated, you will not be able to assign them any orders, but they will still show up in your squad until they are evacuated safely from the battlefield. Evacuations are done automatically but that does not mean they will always be successful. If you want a unit to survive and be evacuated safely you'll have to attract an enemies attention away from the disabled unit until the evac chopper arrives and carries the unit off.

In campaign mode as well as multiplayer mode the voice command system works amazingly well and really does allows you to complete multiple tasks across the battlefield from one location rather than jumping from point to point and clicking on spots and using the A button to execute commands. While the game has many different facets and tasks to be completed during a battle as I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, using the voice command system makes these things all the easier to be completed and you'll soon be strategizing with the best of them. I truly think if the voice system was difficult to use or it had trouble recognizing commands that this game would really suffer from that in the end. But thankfully all is well in the land of voice commands!

Now of course in todays video game world if you don't include online multiplayer then you are putting your game out on an island where many folks will ignore it. Ubisoft has included multiplayer in a big way, incorporating an online persistent war that has thousands of gamers participating. You'll go online and compete in head to head battles of 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2 fighting for the faction that you choose. Your units will gain experience and cash which can be used to upgrade your weaponry, and this is a must. A new player that enters the online world for the first time will not stand a chance against a more experienced veteran of the game mostly due to the fact that their forces are so much stronger. Trust me, I learned this first hand. The ultimate goal of you faction that you choose to fight for is to control all three capitals in the world

There is plenty of upgrading and customization online as you gain experience and rank. Your units will start out with the rank of Recruit, but you can work your way up to the highest rank of Legendary. There are a total of 6 ranks altogether online. As a unit increases in rank they will gain valuable attributes such as higher morale and better combat capabilities as well as access to better upgrades.

You will find multiple multiplayer game modes over and above the persistent online war. These game modes can be found in the Skirmish option from the menu. These matches are not ranked. You can find AI controlled opponents or face off against friends or matchmaking opponents.

Since the game has the voice command system you'll have to use the right bumper button to speak with opponents when playing online. The only time you can talk freely with your opponent without pressing a button is during the pregame lobby and the after match lobby. Honestly though, this really isn't a big deal because I know I will be using the voice command system all the time when playing. I had to admit though, I really wondered how it was going to work before heading online the first time. The same goes for 4 person multiplayer matches as well where you have a teammate. You'll needed to press the RB to open up a voice chat line with them. This may be annoying to some but its quite necessary when using the voice command system.

Overall, Tom Clancy's End War delivers a solid gaming experience even to those who are not so much fans of the real time strategy games. Real time strategy players will find plenty to love in this game and as I have stated several times the voice system works extremely well and adds even more value to the gameplay. The graphics are good and the sounds are what is to be expected. The online persistent war is a definite high mark in my book and adds plenty of replay value to the game. The only downside to the online play would be the fact that you really don't have a chance as a casual player against a veteran player who has put a lot of time in the game and upgraded his units to the fullest of their abilities. I would hope for a more solid matchmaking style system that always places you up against a player of the same caliber or at least in the same ballpark when it comes to abilities. There may be matchmaking involved but so far I haven't seen it as I have only run up against very experienced players well above my stature. I would highly recommend the game to anyone that enjoy real time strategy games, but I would also suggest it to the casual gamer as well. Its a fun game in every aspect and should be enjoyed by most.

Please refine the online matchmaking system to find opponents of a similar skill level. I have been annihilated many times online due to my opponent having all the upgrades for their units or at least having many more than I myself had. I would also like to see standard ranked matches apart from the persistent war online that earn you cash to spend on upgrades. Other than that I can't say enough about the voice command system. Great job.

Overall: 8.1 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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