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Review by: Brian Pipa
Published: January 30, 1997
Most games released now have some form of multiplayer Internet play, and multiplayer online-only games are becoming more prevalent all the time. Games like Ultima Online, Subspace, Tanarus, and Terra: Battle for the Outland are just a few of the most recent ones. Now, Headland Digital Media adds netWAR to this ever-expanding list.
NetWAR pulls no punches: it is an action game through and through. The basic idea is to choose one of four different warriors and battle it out over the Internet in one of four different types of games. The gameplay is amazingly simple. Your warrior is controlled by the four arrow keys, SHIFT, CTRL, and ALT (or a joystick/gamepad can be used). CTRL fires your weapon forward, ALT fires backward, and SHIFT gives you a limited burst of speed.
Vehicles, weapons, and powerups are dropped from helicopters overhead during the game. These items give you things like tanks, hovercraft, helicopters, boats, and even jetpacks. The powerups give you things like invisibility, a flamethrower, and double fire. Your default weapons are deadly when used correctly, but the powerups and the vehicles can turn an ordinary soldier into a killing machine. One of the easiest ways to rack up frags (kills) is simply by running over the enemy with a land-based vehicle, smashing them flat. Most of the vehicles move faster than the players, so it takes a smart soldier to avoid the likes of the tank’s treads.
The most common game played is Mayhem — an all-out war where there are no teams and no friends; it’s kill or be killed. This is most similar to a Quake deathmatch. This is the type game I ended up playing exclusively while reviewing. The other solo (non-team) game is Deathmatch — in this game, it’s more of a tournament. Sixteen players play a Deathmatch and you score two points for each kill and lose one point for each death. After the first round, the top eight players move to the second round, then the top four move to the third round. The top two in the third round move to the final round and the first player to kill the other three times is the winner.
In the Teamplay game, there are four teams of four to six players each. For the first ten minutes of the game, teams collect resources, powerups, and flags to strengthen themselves. Players killed during the first ten minutes will be respawned, but after the ten minute mark, death becomes real — if you die, you’re out of the game. The flags that are captured give teams resource points which are used to purchase vehicles. Unfortunately, both Deathmatch and Team games require at least 16 players and a game of either cannot be started until 16 (or more) players are ready to play. I was unable to play either because of the lack of players for either game. You select a game (a Team game, let’s say) then put your name in a list, and go off and play another game (Mayhem). Once enough players are in the list, you are pulled out of your current game and placed into the game you signed up for. I never got to try either Deathmatch or Teamplay for a lack of players. One expanation for this is that the shareware/demo version does not allow you to play Deathmatch or Teamplay, so it is restricted to registered players. On a brighter note, Deathmatch and Teamplay tournaments are in the works, so Teamplay and Deathmatch games may be easier to join.
There is also a Practice mode, but unfortunately, you must be connected to the Internet just to practice. I would really have liked to see an offline practice mode that I could use to hone my skills against even rudimentary computer AI. Yes, I realize that goes against the idea of a ‘Net-only game, but it would be a nice addition. I was having trouble with my ISP for a week or so and could not get a good connection to the netWAR servers and because of this, could not play or practice. This, of course, is true of any Internet-based game — no ‘Net, no game. One good feature of netWAR: with the purchase price, you get one full year of Internet play at no additional cost, unlike some other online-only games.
NetWAR is a good idea and I think, with a few more tweaks and additions, it could pull me in. As it is now, it just seems to lack that certain something that makes me want to keep playing. If you’re an action fan, though, I highly suggest giving it a try — there are always people playing and many of them are absolutely fanatical about the game. NetWAR just didn’t create the same enthusiasm for me. Read on for details.
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