And the way you control the game has a big part to play in that. You can control the game with a joypad, but it's designed to be used with a headset through speech recognition. Name the unit, pick an action, select a target and they all troop off towards it (e.g. Unit 1, move to, position Lima or Unit 2, attack, Hostile 3). It's simple and seemingly very effective, coping perfectly well not just with my own fairly straight English accent, but with a range of Australian, New Zealand, American and European tones. It helps, apparently, that the team at Ubisoft's Shanghai office comes from across the globe. Do you feel like a bit of a twit at first? Undoubtedly? Will you be barking orders at the screen two hours in? You bet.
In fact the challenge isn't getting used to voice controls - it's getting your head around the battlefield and the various combatants. Battles will feature a variety of objectives and game types, ranging from simple annihilation missions to domination tasks and raids, and remembering where 'Position Foxtrot' is or who 'Hostile 3' is takes a little getting used to. Luckily, keeping track of your own units is easy, as large icons at the bottom of the screen remind you of who and what they are, and keep you up to date on their current condition so you can order them to press forward or call (literally) for the retreat. Troop types cover infantry, tanks, helicopters and a number of transport and artillery vehicles, and the game makes it fairly simple to track which types are more or less vulnerable to which others.
From the fairly simple skirmish I played, Endwar is a blast. The view and the voice controls really do add immediacy to the action, and switching from unit to unit and dispensing orders is surprisingly fast. It's cool to see the different squads at work, and the amount of dialogue gives your troops a certain amount of personality. The big questions are over how well the game can handle more complicated battles, which will be essential to its long-term appeal, and how effective the friendly AI is at navigating around the game's nicely rendered (and recognisable) urban environments. In a game where you can't directly control movement mouse click by mouse click, you don't want your tank squad going the long way round or getting stuck behind the scenery.
Still, we're promised some spectacular combat, including the use of air-strikes and tactical strikes that should, as in World in Conflict, see whole battalions, not to mention huge sections of the game world, blasted into so many glowing chunks. Another key selling point is set to be the online options, whereby the world's gamers can sign up for one of the three factions, then engage in skirmishes that will affect the movement of the battle lines and the occupation of cities and installations over a period of three weeks or so, leading up to a decisive finale. I'm not sure the PC RTS hardcore will embrace EndWar that willingly - it has more depth than you might think, but fans of Company of Heroes or (especially) Supreme Commander would call it lightweight - but if there's any game that has the potential to convert the Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4 playing masses to the genre, this is it.