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Friday, May 12, 2006

Hands On With Enemy Territory, Jade Empire, Mercenaries 2

ExtremeTech sat down with some upcoming games:

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

To be honest, the game needs a little work. The structure is as follows: Two competing teams fight in multiple-objective maps, and then the maps string together to form a sort of online campaign. There are different classes (medics, engineers, heavy gunner types, and so on). All that stuff works fine. The map is informative and clear, the weapons seem satisfying. The problems the game has right now are twofold. First, the two sides are not visually different enough to tell friend from foe at a glance. Both the humans and Strogg side are outfitted in shades of brown and grey that made me have to put my crosshair over each person and look at the color of their health bar to see if I should shoot. This is less of a problem in a game that is slightly slower-paced like Battlefield 2, but the speed is ratcheted up a few notches here, and you need to clearly tell the teams apart. And within each team, it's hard to quickly visually tell apart the different classes

Jade Empire (PC)
Jade Empire is really what you'd expect from a good Xbox-to-PC port. It runs at higher resolutions, of course, and I was told that they're "looking into" widescreen support. Let's hope they add it. The conversion is being handled by the developers at Grey Matter, while Bioware is doing quality assurance and adding some new content. The new content isn't dramatic—there are no new areas to explore, added characters or quests, that sort of thing. I was told, "our story was complete, and if we added anything, it would feel tacked on." Comparisons were made to Star Wars re-releases. Fair enough. There are a couple of new fighting styles, though. One is based on sumo wrestling; the other is a snake style. Textures are upgraded to a higher resolution, and there are some added and upgraded effects. Still, the system requirements are low: 256MB of RAM, a 1.8GHz processor, and a GeForce 3 are all that's needed.

Mercenaries 2
The game is early but it's already quite playable, and it looks fun. The key feature of the first game was that you could blow up or destroy absolutely anything. That is still true, but a key new technology is something Pandemic refers to as "playing with fire." Basically, if it looks flammable, it probably is. To demonstrate this to me, they shot up an oil tanker. Oil poured out of the bullet holes and flowed realistically downhill using the Havok 3.0 physics system. A quick grenade and the oil lit, burned up to the tanker, and made it explode. Hijacking vehicles is a little more elaborate, too—you have to play a short button-pressing mini-game to hijack something really cool like a tank or helicopter.

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