Warsow, nothing to do with fighting pigs.

Unless you count one of the player models that its…
No, Warsow (or War§ow) is a Freeware online FPS that is actually bloody good. Most of these free first person shooters always seem to be missing something to me, OpenArena was like Quake 3 with all the charm removed [1], Wolfenstien:ET does not appeal to me as I have Team Fortress 2 [2]…

Anyway, enough of that, lets just say I have found one that I like.


The first thing that stands out in Warsow is that it is cell shaded (more screen shots after the jump), you won’t find ultra realistic graphics here. Edges tend to glow, making the layout of the map easy to see, particle effects are very limited. I believe that in a competitive shooter this is actually a huge plus point, cleaner graphics make it easy to see who is shooting at you and just what is going on in general, something that Valve used to excellent effect in Team Fortress 2. It is all very well adding extra bloom and particle effects but when you make the game harder to play as a result you are doing something wrong [3].

If the first thing you notice about Warsow is the graphics the second is the movement. Warsow is built on IDTech2, so if you have played Quake or Quake 2 online you have some idea about the movement, but it has been tweaked to be very fast paced and reliant on tricks like bunnyhoping. The following from the Warsow website sums this up.

The base gameplay is focussed around the art of movement, meaning moving, speed and tricks play a big part in the gameplay. Besides this, mapcontrol, aim, teamplay and fragging skills play their role too. For the movement we’ve basicly looked at four games: Quakeworld (legendary for it’s speed), Quake3 CPMA, Jet Set Radio and Speedball.

If you have played Quake then you could probably jump into this a do OK, but I really recommend checking out the movement tutorials first or people will be running[4] rings round you.

The most important thing to do is to assign the “special move” command to a button you can press easily, I use mouse 2 myself, which I think is the default, but if you don’t like that you must change it. This button allows you to perform a lot of the tricks you won’t have seen in Quake.  It is context sensitive and allows you to jump off a wall, slide up ramps at high speed and when used in conjunction with another movement button on level ground will make you dodge like in Unreal. This takes a bit of getting used to but can be used to move around the arena far faster than on foot as it were, taking short cuts and getting to otherwise unreachable locations.


I suppose I should also mention the weapon system as it is also slightly different from other first person shooters. Shooters tend to come in two schools, those with an alt fire mode for guns that is accessed by hitting a different key and is usually a more powerful attack at the expense of time or more ammo, like Unreal Tournament, and those with no alt fire mode at all, like Quake. Well Warsow does things a bit differently. There is only one fire button but each gun has two kinds of ammo, the first, weak, kind is collected by picking up the guns themselves, either from a pick-up or a dead player, and the second, strong, comes from ammo packs around the arena. You don’t get to pick which to use, you simply have two ammo reserves for each gun and it always uses strong ammo first, this adds some interesting tactics to the game as holding position around a good gun is not enough, you need the strong ammo as well and often the map maker elected to put it on the other side of the map.

Weapons themselves are fairly standard, you start with some sort of pistol/melee weapon that has no strong ammo to collect for it. When you are out of ammo (or if you are close I think) it switches to melee mode. It is useless, don’t expect to kill anyone with it, run to another gun as soon as you can. Upgrades includes a shotgun, rocket launcher and railgun equivalent, each with a more powerful strong ammo to be picked up. To be honest I would say that the weapons are mostly heavily modelled on the Quake 3 weapon set, just without an ultra powerful weapon to replace the BFG, but I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing, the waepons are fun to use and very satisfying, particularly when you get the strong ammo.


Powerups and armour are again lifted from the likes of Quake so I won’t go into them in detail, why change something that works? There is the ususal damage amplifier and the heath that gives you 100% on top of whatever you had (up to 200% of course!).

DM – Deathmatch, DA – Dual Arena, TDM – Team Deathmatch, CTF – Capture The Flag and CA – Clan Arena are the main game modes, most play exactly as you would expect. Dual Arena, lets two people fight and the rest spectate, winner (first to a set number of frags) stays on. In Capture the Flag you have to wait by the flag for a pre-set time to pick it up, with the game being as fast as it is this is very necessary to give the defenders a chance. Clan Arena has two teams start with full weapons and ammo (there are several ammo layout choices) and fight with no respawns until one team is victorious. All of these modes (maybe not Clan) can be played in insta-gib mode if that is more your cup of tea.


The final game mode is an unusual one. It is called race, and as far as I can tell has been taken out of the official build (bar a couple of maps) but has been moved into a mod for Warsow and is being developed separately. The idea of race is to get to the other side of the (specially built) map in the shortest time possible using all your trick jumping skills. This is not something that particularity interests me as I am not good at the trick jumping so I have not tried it myself, but I feel I should mention that it is available for anyone who might like that sort of thing.


For a game that is still in beta it is very polished, it will be interesting to see how they improve it with future versions.
Come play Warsow, it is quite fun!


[1] Of course it was meant to be a clone of Quake 3, so that solves that puzzle.
[2] Don’t try and convince me to play it I have enough games to be getting on with at the moment*.
[3] This is why I prefer Unreal Tournament 2004 over Unreal Tournament 3**, and Quake Live over Quake III.
[4] Or at least jumping.

*Damn you Steam and your weekend deals!
**Since writing this I have got quite into UT3 actually…



2 Responses to “Warsow, nothing to do with fighting pigs.”

  1. March 30, 2009 at 14:56

    I’m don’t play straight-shooters, my aiming skills are terrible, it does look interesting though. I had heard of it while reading various Linux forums but didn’t know what it was.

    Now I do, thanks.

  2. March 30, 2009 at 15:26

    Yes, it probably isn’t for you as I couldn’t call it anything but a twitch shooter. I’m not exactly good at this sort of game myself (I lost 20-1 in a dual on quake live the other day) but I still find them fun.

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