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Previews

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Preview: Redefining "online crack"

Usually they'd ship us off to Los Angeles or somewhere equally glamorous (there's probably a debate over the use of the word 'glamorous' there), but for our first hands-on with the massive multiplayer shooter Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Activison sent us to Splash Damage's HQ in Bromley, Kent. Next to the kebab shop.

The studio's location behind the local Safeway's adds a plethora of other problems you wouldn't find in your average Santa Monica op, like the blokes repairing the power outlets in the next room, which we managed to blow-up with the combined power of our linked-up uber gaming rigs.

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But, like old granny used to tell us you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and there's certainly an awful lot of talent tucked in-between the supermarkets and taxi ranks of Bromley.

OFF THA RICTA

If you ever played Wolfenstein Enemy Territory or fantasised about Stroggifying your Battlefield baddies, then Quake Wars is bound to make you moist in the loins.

At first glance it takes the Battlefield big-battle formula and adds distinct character classes, lots of familiar sci-fi guns and some frickin' amazing art - which is good enough on its own for shooter fans.

On one side is the bog-standard Earth military force GDF, which comes with a nice selection of tanks, quad bikes and slightly-futuristic hovering attack jets to fend off the Earth invaders. The Strogg meanwhile is naturally a lot cooler than those plain old GI Joes, with fancy video distortion effects flying around and an arsenal of weapons you'll recognise from Quake games gone by.

When the two face-off in Quake Wars' objective-crammed campaign battles it's the most streamlined, carnage-filed battle experience yet. With spawn points constantly updating to keep you close to the action and way points directing different classes into their roles everything falls, almost unintentionally, into a massive cabaret of teamwork.

The first map we played for example, Valley, tasks the GDI forces with repairing a downed bridge. Only an engineer player can actually tinker with the bridge controls so straight away roles are being formed; there's a small ridge for special ops to lay sniper cover, a valley and for vehicle and soldier skirmishes and a section of building space for stationary turrets to blast down from the sky.

Vehicles are plentiful and fast-spawning so you're never left forming a queue for the decent rides. There's also a surprising amount of depth lavished on every one of them; the giant Strogg walker for example can run, duck under cover and there's even a button to stomp on brave soldiers than drift too close.

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Thanks to Carmack's fancy mega-texture tech it all plays out on a massive scale with not a single cloud of fog to be seen. You might not have found the fog that noticeable in Battlefield 2 but we certainly appreciated Carmcack's coding wizardry the first time we picked off a bee-like Strogg aircraft with a rocket launcher, and watched its flaming carcass rapidly increase in size as it came crashing at our feet.

Beyond the second round of running over Strogg soldiers and being the dirtiest sniper campers ever though we noticed Quake War's much-touted mission system in the top left of the screen, which is by far the single most significant advancement over other games in the genre.

Pressing the M key will whip you up your own in-game mission objective specific for your character class. As an engineer for example you could be tasked with repairing a bridge or as a soldier told to liberate a spawn point.

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