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More importantly, however, iD brought an enhanced version of the Doom 3/Tech 4 engine for ET: QW to run on. Much has been made of the engine's central feature - the MegaTexture - and not without reason. The application of one, vast texture to the base landscapes has helped Splash Damage create environments that are expansive, distinctive and packed with detail, with draw distances that go on forever and some fine use of reflective water and instanced vegetation to bring all that hard rock to life. Meanwhile, those rich outdoor settings transition to believable interiors without a single pause or glitch. Perhaps it shows how far we've come that ET: QW's visuals, which once seemed unbelievable, now merely look good against what we're seeing in Gears of War or Medal of Honor: Airborne, but the character and vehicle models, not to mention the weapon and explosion effects, put the game miles ahead of its obvious rival, Battlefield 2142. It's a sumptuous feast for my beloved Asus GeForce 8800 Ultra, and it still looks great on lesser hardware. It's safe to say the ET: QW is undeniably the most impressive large-scale online FPS of the moment.
Surprisingly, though, the thing that sells ET: QW to me is not what iD has bought to the graphics, but what Splash Damage has bought to the gameplay. My problem with Battlefield has never been the features or the game mechanics, but that it's always been a game with loads of potential that only occasionally lives up to it. For every game of Battlefield I've played in which two matched teams clash in a dizzying showcase of teamwork and strategy, I've played two in which one third of the team wanders around in confusion while another third nicks all the vehicles for showboating solo attacks on enemy installations. Meanwhile, the other third plays as if it's just another deathmatch outing. Don't get me wrong - I've always had fun, but only rarely have I found the experience 100 per cent satisfying.
ET: QW plays a little bit smarter. As in Battlefield, you pick a class before spawning, and you can change class between re-spawns. Both the Strogg forces and the GDF have the same basic occupations: a standard grunt made more attractive by the ability to use explosive charges; a medic with additional support capabilities; a spy who can take on enemy form, hack enemy weapons and objectives or scramble enemy vehicles; an engineer who can repair vehicles, place mines and deploy anti-vehicle or anti-infantry turrets; a field operative with the power to deploy offensive artillery or call in air-strikes. There are minor differences in the secondary capabilities, but each side offers essentially the same mix of battlefield roles.
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