|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Kaos Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-64||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
January 2, 2008 - Acrid black smoke from nearby burning oil rigs obscured a clear view of the distant battlefield. The radio crackled to life; enemy forces were advancing the front towards our command center and it was time to act fast. Scaling the rusted ladder of the nearby communications tower afforded a false sense of safety amidst the sound of gunfire. The high-pitched metal whine of treads signaled the approach of enemy armor on one flank while the heads of a few isolated enemy soldiers crested the dune on the other side. Taking aim with the rifle scope, a few patiently aimed shots momentarily slowed the infantry advance until the warning of a missile lock signaled the impending end of my covert sniping spree. Seconds later, my virtual military career ended with an explosive spray of fire and shrapnel.
Since the PC beta version release of Frontlines: Fuel of War, countless variations of the above mentioned scenario have played out over and over again across the internet. When it's soon released, the futuristic military first-person shooter will likely bring even greater levels of war-laden glee to the masses as well as to those who have honed their skills on the early build for the PC. Set in 2024, Frontlines details the conflict between two military factions - the Western Coalition and the Red Star Alliance - engaged in a power struggle for the last remaining oil resources on the planet. With objective oriented play, the game places a major emphasis on advancing your army's front by capturing and holding strategic locations across the map. Though Frontlines will feature a substantive single-player campaign which will put you alongside a team of computer controlled comrades, online and local multiplayer matches are expected to be massive and engaging. Based on our lengthy hands-on time with the two multiplayer maps, the game is shaping up to be a strong competitor against other major war shooters on the market.
Both of the available maps in the beta build showcase different possibilities for unique play experiences in Frontlines. Oil Field is an immense desert map featuring a great selection of strategically placed buildings located around key objective points around the field. The open terrain is perfect for land and air vehicles which are plentiful. Many buildings and industrial towers include ladders which let players climb up to different levels to survey the battle, snipe unsuspecting targets, or mark locations for air strikes, among other things. Vehicle garages and stationary gun emplacements at certain objective spots provided bonuses for controlling those locations. The appropriately named Street map features a gritty, battle-scarred, urban landscape rife with crumbling alleyways, piles of scorched debris, and numerous other forms of cover. With a large number of players, this map makes for some intense firefights as each side struggles to gain additional ground without being decimated by high-tech gadgets and turrets. Street provides a perfect opportunity for players to test out the different mechanical drones available to the Drone Tech role.
In both locations, taking over an objective is a challenging process. In some instances you'll have to manually stand by a computer terminal and hold the action button while a meter slowly fills. Other times you'll have to wait patiently until charges are set to blow up enemy equipment, or remain prone by a smoke grenade until the spot is fully taken over. If an objective is controlled by your opponents, the process is even longer since you must first neutralize the target before taking it over. This is where teamwork kicks in. Other squad mates are required to work in tandem to stave off enemy attacks until objectives can be captured to advance the front.
A wide selection of more than 60 weapons and vehicles will allow for innumerable strategic possibilities when pushing the front forward through enemy lines on the battlefield. All of the vehicles, weapons, and equipment in the game are based on existing or future military technologies currently in development. There are subtle visual and play differences between equipment used by the Western Coalition or the Red Star Alliance. In terms of vehicles, the basic units include a light attack jeep, heavy and medium armored tanks, anti-air vehicles, transport and attack choppers, and a fighter jet.
While players will be picking from six fairly standard weapons loadouts, they'll also be able to select from one of four different roles on the battlefield. Weapon-wise, the loadouts are fairly uninspiring; there's the assault rifle, heavy assault rifle, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, SMG, and shotgun. Sub-weapons for each selection include a pistol and either frag grenades, landmines, or C-4 explosives. At this point, it appears all of the automatic weapons operate at full stream without the ability to switch between semi and full-auto fire. There is a minor level of recoil with the heavier weapons which makes aiming more realistic and slightly trickier.
The main weapons themselves may not do much to dazzle players, but the array of unique equipment and abilities which can be unlocked through the game's role system makes combat far more interesting. Ground Support specializes in repairing damaged vehicles and deploying a variety of turrets; EMP Techs are used for countermeasures such as stealth attacks and disabling enemy equipment; Drone Techs can deploy remote controlled robotic attack and recon devices; and Air Support calls in air strikes and bombing runs on the battlefield. Once a role is chosen, players begin with the first of three abilities available for that role. Gaining experience by wiping out foes, taking over enemy territory, and successfully using your skills will unlock subsequent abilities which can be used to your advantage on the battlefield. There are also slight differences in the abilities of each role depending on whether you're playing as the Western Coalition or the Red Star Alliance.
The two available maps highlight the intense, futuristic military combat players can expect to see expanded when the game ships in February. Whether or not the computer A.I. in the single-player campaign will pan out adequately is still to be seen, but at the very least players can look forward to some thrilling multiplayer bouts against human opponents in the not-too-distant future. Let's hope the full package lives up to the promising gameplay and intense action found in the beta.
CCC Freelance Writer