The game is set during the Strogg invasion of Earth, making its fiction a kind of prequel to the events of Quake II. The game takes place across 12 maps, which are in turn subdivided into four campaigns across the Earth: Africa, North America, Northern Europe, and the Pacific. The highly individual maps are an impressive achievement on their own, and there's no single theme or look that ties any two together.
Each has a number of objectives that the different sides must either attack or defend, depending on whether they are Strogg or GDF. Some maps are tailored purely for Strogg defence, others for GDF. These scenarios are so detailed and specific that we believe this would be the first multiplayer shooter ever on which we could deliver spoilers based on the story alone. But we won't. Suffice it to say, the maps contain all kinds of assault missions, object-movement ops, and demolition objectives, and occasionally a genuine revelation.
The three-map campaigns are essential to understanding how ETQW works because characters and stats are persistent across the three maps. As in Enemy Territory you'll take on any one of five classes, and you can swap between them at any point in a game. However, if you stick with a certain class, and with a certain weapon configuration, you begin to unlock improved abilities. If, for example, you stick with the rocket-launcher variant of the soldier class, and get plenty of hits with that setup, then by the end of the first map you'll have a faster lock and reload time, making your performance better for the second map. By the third map you might have improved with a secondary weapon or class too. Once the campaign is over these stats are reset and the playing field leveled. ETQW's unlocks are available for a short time only.
All this combines to create an experience unlike anything else. The series of objectives and the way that players spawn in "waves" makes it a little reminiscent of Enemy Territory, but in other respects it's in quite a different category from its peers. This can only be a good thing.