|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: 1-32||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
January 18, 2008 - Kaos Studios and publisher THQ have come together to create a multiplayer FPS that looks like it will stand out from the ever-increasing crowd of online shooters. What make this title so different from others are the ever-present and malleable frontline system and the use of team tactics. Yesterday the CCCChamps got to take on two multiplayer maps called Mountaintop and Village, and man did we have fun! The 32 man multiplayer action of Frontlines is shaping up to be something special, a real game changer.
The Frontline mechanic of the shooter allows for expansive level design without the dilution of action. Several key points of military interest will make up the frontline and act as choke points that concentrate the action into fiery pockets of death. These hotspots are neutral or are controlled by either the Alliance or Coalition forces. Thus, a line is drawn from objective to objective that demarcates the battlefront. This front is constantly changing as the targets fall to the various squads on the field of battle.
Your team's goal is to control these zones, in any order, and gradually and constantly push back the frontline all the way to your enemy's base. The only game that comes close to this mechanic is the War scenario in Call of Duty 3. However, this is not a very good comparison for two reasons. First, there are multiple objective points that can be taken in any order. Second, your team will be broken up into squads that use specific soldier load-outs (kits) and communication via the headset to achieve your objectives. The haphazard, how-fast-can-you-spawn, chaos of CoD 3 is replaced by deliberate and efficient strategy.
The use of team tactics is paramount to your success in these rich multiplayer battles. As part of a squad, you will have a specific role. This role can change with each death by changing your load-out, but generally you will play a key part in your team's success by taking on specific responsibilities. This may seem confusing right now, but it is actually quite simple.
You are able to choose from various weapon builds including Assault, Heavy Assault, Sniper, Anti-Vehicle, Special Ops, and Close Combat. Sounds familiar, right? Wrong! You'll combine these basic weapons packs for your soldier along with a role. You will be supplied with additional tools and weapons depending on which role you select. These roles include Ground Support, Air Support, Drone Tech, and EMP Tech. Ground support can repair and set mines. Air Support will be able to call-in airstrikes. Drone Techs are able to use a multitude of little robots in order to support their squad. The drones available to you will depend upon your team's affiliation and your skill level. I'm not going to go through each drone, but let's just say that there are awesome little helicopters, mini-guns, and mortar cannons. These remote controlled, mechanical helpers can be utilized in order to take out perched snipers, get your squad a better view of the battlefield or sent in to take out heavily armored vehicles. Drones are not invincible, however, and armor isn't either. They both can be foiled by strategically placed EMP Techs. EMP Techs are able to stop vehicles, stay concealed from recon drones, and have the positions of both those drones and their operators available on their HUDs in order to silence the threat of their Drone Tech enemies.
So, what does this all mean? Lots of variety and tactical nuances. For example, you can build your soldier with various load-out and role combos that will best suit your squad's needs. Maybe your squad is going to need a good long distance guy that can defend a position by taking out the bad guys before they get too close to an important objective. In that case, have the player choose the Sniper load-out and take on the Drone Tech role. That way he'll be able to send up a scout drone to give him a better view of the area and then set up sighted death lanes with his rifle. You could also have someone be a menace to enemy armor choosing the Anti-vehicle load-out and the EMP Tech role in order to give him a dual-mode rocket launcher that can stop the vehicles in their tracks and then finish them off with fireworks. These are just a couple of the 24 possible combinations. Are you beginning to see just how different this game really is?
After you've gotten everyone's roles ironed out, you will be supported by excellent squad communication. Comms will prove to be crucial in the use of proper team tactics. You will be in constant contact with your squad mates in order to meet your objectives efficiently. This allows your squad leader to issue orders to certain members to flank around the side, cover your six, or find a perch to rain down fire. The combination of specific role build-outs and team tactics from communication within your squad will make Frontlines: Fuel of War an amazing multiplayer experience that simply can't be duplicated by any game.
This game is shaping up to be an amazing online blitz. I hope players will really take advantage of all the wonderful tools that they have available to them. During our play test, a lot of players, including myself, were too used to the old way virtual fighting. We were not using load-outs and roles correctly, and we kept using the various vehicles in a chaotic rather than methodical fashion. I suppose we weren't quite ready for the shift in tactical paradigm. However, I'm sure that will all change after just a couple of sessions and I am anxiously anticipating its release in late February. Meanwhile my trigger finger is getting itchy. I also hope the single player mode that will be included will rival the multiplayer fun. If it doesn't it would be a shame, but it won't be particularly consequential. Frontlines: Fuel of War's multiplayer action is so good it could stand alone. Check back in six weeks for a full run down on the final version.
CCC Lead Contributor / News Director