The Future Is War
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.
Fuel for thought
March 2, 2007 – In the modern-day world, fossil fuels are one of humanity’s most precious and limited resources. More specifically, oil is the lifeblood of modern human existence. As the world’s population continues to grow, the amount of oil necessary to sustain us increases. With increased demand comes higher consumption, higher prices, and a rapidly dwindling supply. Combine this finite supply with the fuel’s incredible importance to everyone’s day-to-day lives and our future begins to look bleak.
Every country in the world will want to ensure that they will have enough oil to support their own populations. This rationale may eventually lead to violence in order for these countries to guarantee their necessary supply of oil. This not too distant and horrifying future is the backdrop for Frontlines: Fuel of War.
Fuel of War’s gameplay takes place in the year 2024. By this point, the lack of oil has driven societies to begin fighting one another to procure every last available drop. Eventually, two global powers emerge to decide the fate of all that remains of this precious necessity. Developed by Kaos Studios, Fuel of War will have players joining the Western Coalition (USA and Europe) or the Red Star Alliance (China and Russia). Kaos Studios may be a fairly new development team but they are well versed in the art of war. Several of Kaos’ members have helped to create the Desert Combat modification for Battlefield 1942 and worked on Battlefield 2. With this kind of pedigree, we can expect some great things from their upcoming release.
To help differentiate Fuel of War from the other war games on the market, Kaos Studios has implemented a new Frontline mechanic into the mix. To win a battle, players must advance their frontlines, effectively pushing their enemy into a retreat. While on the battlefield, players will be given objectives that will vary depending on what is happening in the skirmish. If the enemy begins to seriously attack an important placement, the player may be given the objective of defending it against the onslaught. Unlike most war games however, battles will not be won by a player’s Rambo-esque character turning the tides of the fight. Instead, gameplay will be heavily focused on teamwork and strategy. Players will need to constantly outthink the opposition and work together like a well-oiled machine to complete objectives and achieve victory. Fuel of War should satisfy fans of single player and multiplayer gameplay alike. The single player experience will unfold in a nonlinear campaign with varying objectives to keep players on their toes. Multiplayer however, as mentioned before, will be heavily team focused. While no official number of online players has been given, all three versions are said to support 32 or more players at a time.
Also new to the game are several role-playing game elements that have been added to the gameplay. Players will be able to customize their characters by choosing their role (class), weapons loadout, and by leveling up essential skills. There will be four roles to choose from, each with their own advantages. Some examples are ground support, which specializes in armor, defense, and repair while drone tech focuses on using remote-controlled drones for reconnaissance and offensive purposes. Players can switch between roles and level up each of them for more diversity. Each role will receive bonuses when they level up that will equip the player with essential battlefield skills. Players will also be able to change their weapons’ loadouts to suit the situation. With over 60 near-futuristic vehicles and weapons to choose from, there is a good weapon for every style of player. To keep these vehicles and weapons from feeling unrealistic, they are all based on real world designs that currently exist.
Players looking forward to this game should be pleased no matter which version they play. All three versions are supposed to be basically the same. The only difference comes in the PS3 version’s Sixaxis implementation. The Sixaxis’ motion-sensing movements will be used for object interaction, controlling helicopters, aiming, and more. This may initially seem to be an advantage, but after reviewing how poorly the Sixaxis has been implemented in games to date, it quickly becomes questionable.
Until we get a chance to play this game, we will just have to keep our fingers crossed that Kaos Studios can make it work properly. No matter which system you play it on, look for Fuel of War to spark some excellent single and multiplayer combat upon its release.