Quake Wars is a game I've been watching for a long, long time. Not quite as long as I spent watching BioShock perhaps, but still a very long time. You see, I was just the right age to fully appreciate the original Quake when it first came out and I spent many hours talking to my brother, working up the nerve to play what I was convinced at the time was the scariest and most realistic game there could ever possibly be.
I've been a massive fan of the Quake series for a long time and it was a high point of my life when I got to meet Todd Hollenshead shortly after starting work at bit-tech and played a game of the Quake Wars beta against both him and Paul 'Locki' Wedgwood. I came away from the preview event all tingly with the afterglow of having fulfilled a lifelong wish (next up: beat John Romero in a game of Doom) and I was very impressed with the game.
Of course, it was only a beta and that is far from indicative of what the final game may be like. Just look at the original design for Gordon Freeman if you don't believe me.
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A game can change dramatically between the beta and gold versions. Levels and features can be cut or remade, characters can be added or removed and storylines can dramatically shift from Nazi bunkers to underwater utopias. so, how has Quake Wars changed since I last had a look at it? Let's find out...
Story?! In games?!
John Carmack has been famously outspoken on his opinions about how important story isn’t in a computer game, going so far as to say that games are like adult films because the story is expected but not ultimately important.
With the big push on story-telling and cinematic experiences in games though, gamers have made it clear that they want to see a bit more story in their games. In fact, the Quake series is a perfect game to chart how important story telling has become in games. In the first game there’s no plot to speak of and players are running around collecting runes, fighting blobs and battling laser-wielding troopers in a medieval/gothic setting.
By the second game things make a little more sense. There's these guys called The Strogg, led by a dude called The Makron and you've got to kill as many of them as you can. The next game in the storyline, Quake 4, delved into things a little more deeply and players are given specific missions and squads to work with as the story is more fully explored. The most recent title, Quake Wars continues this trend and brings storytelling to the multiplayer side of things.
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In Quake Wars, maps and levels are set in the Strogg war and players must choose a team to ally themselves with as they wage war for or against humanity across a large range of locations on Earth. The vile, cybernetic Strogg move with a hive mind and a single goal; to wipe out the human race and assimilate them all into the Strogg. Opposing these robo-baddies is the newly formed Global Defence Force, or GDF, a multi-national human army who are quite literally fighting for the survival of their species.
Each of the available maps in the game is set in a different location and is a re-telling of an individual battle in the war, with campaigns set up over a number of battles and with a number of objectives. For example, the first map may have the GDF trying to penetrate a bunker and steal some data. The second map may then have the GDF trying to move this data to a new location or to repel a Strogg counter-attack.
It’s a fantastic way of working the admittedly limp Quake backstory into a multiplayer game and fantastically showcases how the story has evolved across the last few games. What started as nothing more than ‘go here, kill that’ has now grown to include a variety of objectives which lends the game more of a strategic feel – this new tactical feel to the series is certainly something communicated in the gameplay and interface too, so let's look at those next.