: Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
: Splash Damage
(in association with Id Software
: May 28, 2003
: PC (Microsoft Windows
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was originally planned to be a retail product - a 'stand-alone expansion' to the hit World War II-based first-person shooter Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The package would have included a new single-player campaign (developed by Mad Doc Software), which was reportedly a prequel to the Wolfenstein series concerning the exploits of B.J. Blazkowicz and Agent One in North Africa and featuring computer-controlled A.I. squad-mates. This was to be complemented by a new multiplayer game developed by Splash Damage, the London-based developers who had previously worked on Quake 3 Fortress, as well as the Tram and Market Garden multiplayer levels for Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Unfortunately, publishers Activision were dissatisfied with the progress Mad Doc Software were making on the (highly ambitious) single-player portion, and so decided to cancel the project. This loss turned out to be the online community's gain, as it was decided that the multiplayer game should be made available for download free of charge.
Enemy Territory represents a refinement of the multiplayer game first seen in Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The players (ideally between 12 and 32 in total) are split into two teams, representing the Axis and the Allied ground forces. The opposing sides each have objectives that they are trying to carry out, for instance dynamiting gun emplacements, stealing Nazi gold from a bank, or holding out against a beach landing. To carry out these tasks while contending with the enemy, players can choose from five classes (Soldier, Medic, Engineer, Field Ops - the new name for Lieutenant - and a new class, Covert Ops.), each with unique abilities and weapons. When a player is killed they can 'tap out' and choose a new class and/or weapon for when they re-enter the game ('reinforcements' are generally set to spawn every 20 to 30 seconds).
The game provides six multiplayer maps 'out of the box' (figuratively speaking), split into two campaigns (Central Europe and North Africa). Each of these maps is quite large (although not quite as large as Market Garden), and most include around nine objectives that have to be carried out (or defended against) to win the map. This represents an increased level of complexity over RtCW's maps, as now a number of secondary objectives (some of which are reversible) have to be carried out to allow the ultimate objective to be reached. In most of the maps this process involves the escort of one or more vehicles along fixed routes. (For example, a bridge needs to be constructed by engineers to allow a tank to cross a river, the team then needs to escort the tank, which on reaching its destination blows a hole in the wall of an enemy base, allowing the soldiers to get inside and destroy the fuel dump). The implementation of vehicles isn't exactly as sophisticated as in Battlefield 1942 (to say the least), but it adds an extra dimension to the gameplay - instead of focusing on fixed 'choke points' on the level, the game is turned into a tug of war as the teams alternately damage and repair the vehicles and barriers, with the vehicle edging ever closer to the objective point as the time ticks away. To help manage the increased scale and complexity, all players have access to a live map showing the position and status of objectives and team-mates.
All of the player classes have been tweaked in Enemy Territory, ensuring that they are all useful and worthwhile to play, and giving each a variety of new toys to play with. The Soldier class can handle heavy weapons: The Panzerfaust rocket launcher and flamethrower return from RtCW; the Venom gun has been replaced with the mobile MG42 (best used when lying prone); and there is a new addition, the 3-inch Mortar Cannon.
The Engineer can wire up (and disarm) dynamite and repair mounted guns and vehicles. They are given much more to do thanks to their new ability to build structures at designated points on each map- ammunition and health stores, command posts and gun emplacements as well as bridges, fortifications and water pumps. Furthermore, they now have the ability to plant landmines which are visible to team-mates, but not the enemy unless their Covert Ops. specifically search for them. (Another cool thing about landmines is that they detonate when the victim steps off of them, allowing quick-witted players to freeze and call for help when they hear the tell-tale hiss).
The Field Ops. class requires a little more planning and care to play than the others. They have the ability to drop ammo packs for team-mates, place a smoke marker to call in an air strike, and use their binoculars to direct artillery fire. The 'artillery fire' command can now be used to mark a target for soldiers with mortar cannons, too.
The new class, Covert Ops., is extremely effective in the right hands. They can throw (cool-looking) smoke grenades, plant remote-controlled satchel charges, and use their binoculars to detect enemy landmines (which are then visible to all the members of their team). This detection ability also goes for any enemy players they see, who will also be marked on the map for everyone as long as they remain in view. The Covert Ops.'s best and sneakiest ability however is the ability to steal the uniforms of fallen enemies and disguise themselves. From a distance they will be indistinguishable from the person they disrobed, even flashing up their victim's name when aimed at. They will be able to open 'team-locked' doors, and in the heat of battle will have ample opportunity to attack people from behind.
Medics remain pretty much the same as they were in RtCW, able to dish out health packs and revive fallen comrades. Medics only get issued the standard gun and one grenade to defend themselves. (The larger maps and shorter reinforcement times arguably make the medics less useful than before, certainly in my experience revival was a rare occurance, although I could just be playing with bad teams.)
If all of those abilities weren't enough, Splash Damage have even implemented a mechanism by which skilled players can gain access to additional ones: the Campaign system. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory implements a limited form of persistence that further promotes teamwork. As mentioned earlier, the maps provided are split into 'campaigns' of three missions each. Instead of 'frags', players gain experience points for successfully performing tasks (killing, healing, building, and so forth). These experience points are carried over through all three maps of the campaign. As more experience is gained, the player is promoted through the ranks and bestowed with bonuses and new abilities. Abilities include health and stamina bonuses, the ability to wield dual pistols, the ability to run with heavy weapons, the Medic's ability to administer adrenaline to themselves, and the Covert Ops.'s excellent 'Assassin' skill which allows sneaky players to instantly kill enemies by stabbing them in the back. Teams that work together with each member specialising in a complementary role can rapidly ascend the ranks and run circles around less well-organised opponents.
Another thing about Enemy Territory that deserves a mention is the standard of presentation, which is on par with pretty much any commercially released first-person shooter. The menu system is slick and uncluttered, incorporating a highly configurable server browser. The in-game 'limbo menu' (a screen you can bring up at any time showing the status of the game, so called because it's where you change your class and weapon while in 'limbo', that is, when you're down but not dead, and waiting to be revived) gives players an annotated map and a quick-reference list of the current objectives, complete with an optional (and completely gratuitous) 'Pathé News' voiceover explaining the mission for newbies. The scoreboard screen now includes all the medals and promotions gained over the campaign, as well as a Super Smash Bros. Mélee-style 'awards' screen, listing the best player in each class, the player with the most kills, the highest accuracy, and even the dubious honour of most team-kills (the 'I Ain't Got No Friends Award').
There are a couple of shortcomings however (although it seems mean to find fault with something that they're giving away for free): it could be argued that there are too few maps (although it's fairly likely that both the mod community and Splash Damage themselves will provide some more over the coming months), and the mousewheel weapons switching is extremely slow and unresponsive (only a problem for people like me who are too lazy to learn the number keys assigned to each weapon).
Overall, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory is an excellent multiplayer shooter, consciously designed to encourage and reward teamwork instead of hoping to stumble across it as a happy accident. The super-low price is another mark in its favour, and had done wonders for the game's popularity. I would recommend this game without hesitation to anyone with a fast enough PC who's tired of deathmatch and Counter-Strike style online games. You have nothing to lose but your evenings.
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