I’ve waited a long time for a game that listens when I shout at it. Well, specifically I wanted one where yelling “Die you bastards!” would cause the enemy to explode, but Tom Clancy’s EndWar is the next best thing.
The voice-command system, where you use a microphone to coordinate the near-future military hardware in this WWIII RTS, comes off as gimmicky at first. You have to speak in a William Shatner cadence (“unit... one... attack... hostile... four... Khaaaaaaan!”) until it learns your voice a little, but once I got used to it – and it to me – it was surprisingly effective. My troops correctly interpreted orders roughly 95% of the time – enough that I barely ever felt the need to issue orders by mouse. Being able to command a battle by barking orders really does give you a new sense of authority.
Voice command sacrifices speed and accuracy for the sake of novelty, but EndWar slows down the pacing enough to free you to speak commands that would’ve taken one-tenth the time to click, while units in combat to stay alive long enough for you to tell them what to do. The one exception is helicopter gunships: under anti-aircraft fire they often fall out of the sky faster than you can bark “Unit five, move to Bravo!”
Fortunately, there’s no base-building to divert your attention from verbally abusing your troops, aside from upgrading captured uplink centres to enable battlefield support abilities such as airstrikes and EMP. The goal of most maps is to either secure the majority of these uplinks or destroy the enemy, and it’s hard to do the latter without first accomplishing the former. There’s a resource economy only in that the more uplinks you hold, the faster you can call in reinforcements, so don’t expect a deep management game.
The war campaign is managed from a global screen, which looks like it’s going to give you full control over where to fight next but then disappointingly limits you to a couple of options per turn. From this screen you can also spend credits earned in battle to improve your veteran units. The interface does a poor job of telling you which enemy is which unless you mouse over them, so you’re forced to rely on the poor camera and mouse controls more than would be ideal. ‘Sitrep’ mode can give you a zoomed-out tactical view, but it doesn’t display your unit info.
Due to the lack of base building and player-controlled unit abilities, and the three essentially identical factions, missions become repetitive sooner than in other games. There are no units available at the end of a fight – or the entire campaign – that weren’t available from the start, so each battle plays out much the same except for the map. The several dozen maps do offer a good variety of settings, however. In multiplayer, the need for speed and precision will make you want to abandon voice control for the mouse, but that’s experiencing EndWar at its most frustrating. Co-op against two AI players is probably the best way to play with a friend.
EndWar isn’t the most strategically deep or visually stunning game – its tanks and choppers pale in comparison to World in Conflict – but it is the best attempt at voice command in a long time. There’s a long way to go before voice replaces mouse, but it wins serious points here by delivering a unique and very playable experience. Finally, a warning: this is not a game you can play quietly with your headphones on. If there’s anyone else within earshot while you’re playing, you’re going to sound pretty ridiculous.
PC Gamer scores games on a percentage scale, which is rounded to the closest whole number to determine the GamesRadar score.
PCG Final Verdict: 77% (excellent)
Feb 26, 2009