Intuition: a word ever so slightly incongruous within the confines of the real-time strategy genre. After all, it's only via a mouse/keyboard combo that it's possible to truly enjoy such genre pearls as Supreme Commander, Age of Empires 3 and Rise of Nations on PC.
Okay, okay, so the C&C 3 expansion pack Kane's Wrath is toting a radical re-invention of pad-based play, while Halo Wars - built from the ground-up for 360 - should also pass muster. However, Ubisoft have decided to approach the dilemma from a entirely new, and it has to be said, incredibly innovative angle - voice commands.
Having heard some rather embarrassed game journos issuing forth such orders as "Red unit, capture strategic point delta!" in a multitude of diverse European accents, we're impressed at the almost perfect speech recognition tech Ubi have employed. Naturally, you can use your pad to direct troops as well, but that'd be a cop out...
End of Days
Actual on-field conflict largely boils down to a massive ruck for possession of territory. Each of Endwar's forty (!) battlefields are littered with uplink beacons, all just begging to be realigned to your nation. Capture (or lose) a certain number and it's Game Over, yet there's also a massive resource-based bonus to be had from stealing the initiative from your opponents by snagging these bad boys sharpish.
For instance, the Ruskies will gain access to tactical nuke strikes, while the Yanks receive the ability to wreak napalm-related red ruin on their foes. It gets better; command more than 50% of the uplink points on any given map and it's satellite-guided laser cannon time... Mmm, tasty.
While it's easy to imagine this large-scale destructive weaponry often decides the fate of Endwar's skirmishes, crucially it's the small things that count too. Take, for instance, the game's cover mechanic - a somewhat pioneering endeavour in this particular genre. From looming hills to brick walls, if you're tucked behind them the enemy can't see you - and that basically means only one thing: SURPRISE ATTAAAAACK!
Online is even more dribble-inducing. Imagine a persistent online war that'll wrack Live like no other game before it. Entering the multiplayer battlefield presents you with a global map, depicting just where the conflicts that'll decide the future direction of Planet Earth are currently raging. You can then jump in and, just perhaps, triumph in the decisive battle that'll eventually win your boys the war and save our skins...
So, while we have slight reservations regarding the actual complexity of Endwar (it does feel very much like an RTS 'lite') there's no doubt Ubisoft's Shanghai team have once again crafted a compelling, if frankly wrist-slashingly bleak (thanks for that, Clancy) vision of the near future. Still, sod appeasement and all that; we're all about the bodycount. As in: "Troops. Take no prisoners. Burn bodies. Copy?"