Announced in 2005, shown at E3 2006, and confirmed for the 360 in 2007, Quake Wars is still an awkward one to preview. The coders at id Software love showing off their technology but aren't so keen on going into specifics about the game, yet as the launch draws near, morsels of information are starting to emerge and once again we find ourselves looking at one of the highlights of the year's many online first-person shooters.
Quake Wars favors massive Battlefield 2-style maps, but adopts a much tighter structure. With a maximum of twelve players per team, each mission is broken down into a series of objectives that encourages a gradual incursion onto the enemy's territory; construct a bridge, advance through the tunnel, take out the shield generator, launch a missile, penetrate the enemy base, win - the game revolves around the aggressors' advancing frontline and the defenders' decreasing advantage.
But it's more than just an objective-based shooter - each mission tells a story of a key moment in humanity's defense of Earth, and in an online campaign that story can extend over many missions with players earning promotions and bonuses as they play.
Though it only supports twelve players per team on colossal maps, the careful focus of each mission ensures battles are localized and always packed with action. Okay, you've got your quad bikes, big stompy robots, helicopters, planes and gun emplacements lifted straight from The Outfit, but it's the advancing frontline and the carefully designed class system that assigns everyone a specific role that makes the game great. Where other large-scale shooters tend to see everyone running around doing their own thing, Quake Wars forces players to work together in a team.
Quake Wars is going to be putting its head above the defensive wall in a market that already has the likes of Rainbow Six Vegas, BlackSite: Area 51 and, very soon, Halo 3, which puts it firmly in enemy territory itself - but it plays a game that is quite unlike any of its adversaries, which should see it find an audience even if it gets released right in the pathway of Halo's mighty winter steamroller.