|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 Derek Hidey
While the future isn't clear, Kaos Studios, the developers of Frontlines: Fuel of War, have their own take they'd like to share. Imagine a world torn apart by the need for natural resources such as oil, and with two factions, the Red Star Alliance, a group formed around an alliance between Russia and China, and the Western Coalition, which is a grouping of Western European and North American nations, fighting over what remains. As a member of the Stray Dogs, an elite infantry group of the Western Coalition, it is up to you to take on the hardest missions of the war and win victory over the Red Star Alliance.
The single-player campaign is composed of eight different large-scale missions, each with its own sub-missions and objectives. When you begin the campaign, you're given the low-down of what has happened to the world from the perspective of an embedded press reporter. What would normally seem like a rather bleak and scary take on future events comes off rather unemotional and uninteresting. The characters are predictable and the player will not only find himself not caring about who just got killed, but wondering who it even was. On the other hand, the unique and artistic cutscenes that help unfold the story are a nice touch, but not enough to make the player feel immersed. And while Frontlines' story isn't all that unique, obviously borrowing from other games such as Battlefield 2142, which is based around the events of another ice age and the forming of two warring alliances, its realistic and political spin on the future may be appealing to some. The campaign can be completed in less than five hours easily, which could be more of a blessing for many.
While the premise for Frontlines isn't anything new, the game still attempts to bring a large amount of ambition to the table. The "frontline" concept of the game, while sounding fresh, is more of a cosmetic addition than a gameplay tweak. Once a mission begins, the player will be given several objectives placed throughout the map. These objectives are represented by small dots, which then connect to each other, forming a line-the frontline. Then, as these objectives are captured, the player receives new ones, causing the lines to redraw, forming the next frontline. The only noticeable way this affects the gameplay is through the enemy A.I., which will react to your capturing of an objective by retreating to the next one. Moreover, on occasion and only during certain missions, the enemy is scripted to counter attack. It is during these moments where the player can see the A.I. actually attempting to retake objectives. Unfortunately, even if they do retake an objective, as soon as the majority of the counter attack has been repelled, the mission will end, despite the enemy holding one of the objectives. Other than that, the frontline system just helps the player remember where he has been and where to go next, a part most developers let the gamer manage.
The acclaimed open world environment feature of Frontlines is another ambitious endeavor that falls short and may be misleading to many. While the levels are broken down into different objectives, which seem non-linear on the surface, the player's options are still very limited. For example, when a level begins, the player isn't given the option of storming the final base first. Instead, the player is only given maybe 1-3 objectives, and until they are complete, the remaining objectives won't even be available. Therefore, rather than getting to move freely over the map, the player's choice boils down to the order in which to complete the objectives. So while Frontlines does give the player some freedom to progress through the story, at its foundation, the game is still very linear and script-driven, which any seasoned PC gamer will be able to immediately recognize.
The destructible environments are a nice touch, but they aren't easily identifiable. At first, the player will have to spend some time figuring out exactly what kinds of concrete walls can be destroyed and what kinds cannot. Unfortunately, destroying a small building actually takes longer than just running by the windows and killing the people inside, so there really isn't much of a need to even do it. Nevertheless, Frontlines does provide the player some with satisfying moments like collapsing a building on some enemy soldiers, but this isn't anything someone who has played Half-Life 2 or Crysis will be particularly impressed by.