Will You be Happy in the End?
Excuses will be made, exceptions have to be considered, and expectations must be lowered when it comes to judging an RTS game on a handheld system. Long the domain of the PC, RTS games are notorious for their depth of gameplay and complex control scheme. War-game nerds cry foul when such games are “dumbed down” on the consoles with limited commands and control. So, you can expect an even further streamlined version of the genre when it appears on a handheld.
Tom Clancy’s EndWar is available for all the next-gen consoles including the PC. But, in this case it’s the PSP version that we’re concerned about, and you should seriously be concerned. This is not a port of the console version. This is a simple, turn-based strategy game that has little in common with its big brethren. First and foremost, the novelty factor of voice commands is not available on the PSP. Your commands will be performed the old-fashioned way, by selecting them from the option menu. The going is slower as there are two main stages for commands, the movement and the action. Both of these are performed individually, but they play-out simultaneously. The process requires that you move your units and corresponding weapons and vehicles into position, and then you launch your assault. The fact that both stages are performed at the same time simulates real-time, but basically EndWar on the PSP is a turn-based strategy game. Did I mention that it looks like hell as well?
It may not seem like EndWar has a lot going for it, and frankly it doesn’t, at least in terms of production values. But it does deliver an engaging game with a decent variety of campaigns. There are some 90 battles scenarios in the single-player campaign mode, and there’s even a two-player Ad-hoc mode. An editor allows you to customize scenarios and battlefields, so that no two games need ever be the same. Unfortunately, there is a lot of repetition in the gameplay, graphics, and audio, so that you’ll always be aware of treading over old ground.
In the very close future, the world is composed of three main controlling factions: The U.S., Russia, and Europe. A time of peace has all but eliminated the threat of nuclear war, but resources such as gas and oil are in short supply. All three factions know the implications of domination from another nation and decide to take matters into their own hands in an effort to overtake the other two. This is the war to end all wars, for the victor will ultimately rule the planet.
You will be able to play as each faction with a total of 30 scenarios for each. There’s really no advantage to playing as any particular faction, since they are all generally equally balanced with the same units, weapons, and vehicles. Real world locations such as Washington D.C, London, Paris, and Moscow have been included to add some realism. Thankfully, you will see iconic landmarks such as the White House and the Eiffel Tower to remind you of where you are, since the maps are devoid of any flair and generally lack detail.
Troops are composed of ground, air, and sea units, but the majority of the campaigns will feature ground units. Vehicles include tanks, jeeps, trucks, ships, submarines, and jet fighters. You’ll have all kinds of artillery at your disposal including rocket launchers and missiles. Experience points are collected to increase your unit’s overall effectiveness.
Stars in the form of medals can be collected, up to five for each unit. Points are also awarded after successful missions. These can be used to build bases that will churn out more units, weapons, and vehicles, or help to repair damaged ones. With some good strategic planning, you can even capture enemy factories and facilities and use them to reinforce or replenish your war machine.
Battles become increasingly challenging but not always in an expansive way that would indicate greater depth, the difficulty comes in the form of more restrictions. In some missions you have to be virtually mistake-free right from the get-go. While there are different ways to win each battle, you don’t want to lose any units since that can make all the difference. A handy tutorial guides you through the first three scenarios instructing you on the objectives as well as giving you tips on strategic deployment and the issuing of commands. If you’re having troubles in some missions and have to replay them a number of times, the CPU will sense your weakness (and/or stupidity) and grant you some extra units to help you out. Overall, these are not incredibly difficult battles but some trial and error is required at times.
The two-player mode is technically sound with the exception of the control issues which occur occasionally. Sometimes commands performed with the D-pad just don’t register. Fortunately, the gameplay is not adversely affected since it’s not in real-time, but it’s still annoying; as are the static graphics, the satellite transmissions during each battle, the radio-static chatter that passes as voiceovers, and the low-quality 2D graphics. The military-themed music is perfect, as it’s well recorded and obviously relevant, but there could be more variation. The explosion sound effects are also worth mentioning, it’s just too bad that the animation is not on par with the audio.
Tom Clancy’s EndWar is not a bad game; even taken with a grain of salt it won’t necessarily leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.3 Graphics
Awful, low-res, 2D graphics make this game look cheap and difficult to see units. 3.0 Control
Simplified control system lacks depth. Some commands don’t register. 2.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Lack of voiceovers. Sound effects and soundtrack are good but repetitive. 3.3 Play Value
Decent strategy game with lots of variation including two-player mode. 3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.