It sounds like a marriage made in gaming heaven. Splash Damage invented the multiplayer add-on to Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory) which was released as a free download and became a massive hit amongst the online community.
Meanwhile iD Software, creators of the mighty Doom and a string of first-person shooters like Hexen and Heretic, had been concentrating more on single-player action (culminating in Quake 4). In an age of accelerating online gaming, the time was right to bring the two companies together and combine their strengths.
What has emerged is a fast-paced, graphically intense and strategically intelligent shoot-‘em-up that follows the structure of the original Enemy Territory. It couldn’t be more straightforward: one team defends and one assaults, with the aim on each battlefield being to achieve a number of Primary Objectives within a specified time limit.
There are three game types: Objective (a one-map battle), Campaign (three maps in succession) and Stopwatch (where teams alternate between attacking and defending and try to complete the Primary Objectives faster than their opponents).
Chronologically in the Quake universe this is effectively a prequel to Quake 2, where the invading aliens, the Strogg, are doing their damnedest to conquer Earth and the valiant human defenders (the Global Defence Force) are fighting a desperate battle to crush them first. You can choose to be any one of five character classes (Soldier, Engineer, Medic, Field Ops and Covert Ops for the GDF and similar types for the Strogg) but you’ll discover that most missions will require a combination of all these skills in order to be completed.
As you gradually meet your targets and help your team, you gain XP points which will later be rewarded with upgrades and increases in rank. Both land-based and airborne vehicles can be commandeered and steered and several classes allow you to deploy weapon systems like radar and defensive turrets on the battlefield.
Up to 24 people can play online in any game and newcomers, who might normally be frightened off online shooters because of hard learning curves, can be encouraged that the HUD includes clear guidelines on which mission might suit you best at any one time. However, although you can practice to some extent offline with bots, a more thorough tutorial would not have gone amiss, as even the Easy setting can be quite daunting for first-timers.
Once you launch yourself in, though, and give it a few hours to become immersed, you’ll find the depth of gameplay, the range and variety of the maps and the stunning nature of the exterior graphics in particular compellingly addictive.