Review By: David Pulgar
|# Of Players:||1 (32 online)|
|Accessories:||Xbox Live (online play)|
It doesn’t take much imagination to put yourself into the world Kaos Studios created in Frontlines: Fuel of War. Echoing today’s energy crisis, Frontlines is a preview of the worst that could happen. This morose future finds two factions, the Western Coalition and Red Star Alliance, fighting for control of the world’s fuel reserves. Though mediocre when compared to games like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4, Frontlines has some endearing qualities that make it a fun FPS. Its sense of scale and excellent audio effects are a treat for any gamer, but its lackluster visual appearance and awkward controls mar what could have been an excellent game.
I started Frontlines like I do any other game, with the single-player campaign. Many of us dismiss FPS single-player as training for the multiplayer battle to come, but I disagree. If you’re going to have a single-player experience, then make it worthwhile to the gamer. In this department, Frontlines does more than most FPS games. Sure, there’s not much story behind it, but the flow of combat does make the single-player campaign entertaining. Throughout missions players will be tasked with a variety of objectives that all flow together. You may start on foot and then find a vehicle somewhere that can be used to take an objective. Then, return to foot and use drones (one of the nifty gadgets in Frontlines) to infiltrate a base before sending in troops. There are vast expanses of desert and plenty of buildings for those to prefer urban combat. However, although there’s plenty of landscape variety, artistically maps are generic. Gamers will find the same muted color scheme and generic rock formations in most of the levels they fight in.
Another flaw in the Frontlines single player is A.I. It’s not incredibly bright is all I can say. For example, if you shoot enemies from a distance, there’s a 50/50 chance that they run for cover. In most cases they strafe back and forth shooting at you or charge in. And in cases where they do hide, they rarely crouch and when they crouch it’s very easy to see a pattern when they peek up from behind cover to shoot. You’d think this makes single-player easy but, no, there are balance issues that compensate for A.I stupidity. Enemies have an uncanny ability for accurate shooting. In one mission, I tried to snipe a couple of enemies on a ridge. Imagine my surprise when I shot them and discovered my rifle was out of range. However, their puny assault rifles could somehow pepper me with bullets right on target, dealing enough damage that I had to withdraw until my health recovered. Now that’s ridiculous, but even with A.I. issues and crummy visuals, Frontlines is still an average game. Not horrible, not spectacular, just average. But then again we can dismiss these shortcomings because Frontlines is meant to be played online, right? Right? Well, lets look at multiplayer then.
Multiplayer is Frontlines’ golden goose. Immense maps, the ability to play with numerous people, a variety of vehicles. It’s on the scale of Battlefield, maybe even bigger in some cases. You can almost smell the burning fuel around you when you’re trekking through these maps. Though lackluster visuals persist in the multiplayer, the sense of scale and audio effects really turn the game around. You’ll find plenty of opponents to play with online but one thing to be aware of is that Frontlines is a game best played with friends. Why? Because of the capture system the game uses. In order to advance the front line, players must capture two points adjacent to each other on the map. Once these points are captured, the next series of points may be taken. This process repeats until the final point to capture becomes the enemy base. The immense maps and tons of vehicles give multiplayer battles enormous potential, but the game can turn sour if you’re stuck in a map with a team that has no coordination and no teamwork skills. Be warned.
Once you enter an online game, players must choose a class. You’ve got all the standard types: support, close combat, covert ops, sniper, etc. Each class has access to it’s own unique weapon too. What’s interesting is the role you pick after your primary class. Players have a choice of air support, electronic warfare, drone technology and ground support. Each of these roles has three levels that advance as you kill opposing players and capture points. Each level unlocks a more powerful ability. For example, at first, a drone operator only has access to one aerial drone with the ability to self-destruct and kill a foot soldier. As that operator progresses, it’s possible to gain access to mini-tank drones with gatling guns, mortars and more. And now that I’ve mentioned drones, let’s talk about them. The drone tech role is one I fell in love with. It gives you the ability to attack enemies from unseen locations and scout dangerous places. Drones add a distinctive layer of strategy to the game. Now it’s not just the sniper you need to worry about not seeing. Ah, and snipers, you’ll hate them in Frontlines. With no post-death camera to reveal their locations and no smoke trail attached to their rounds, snipers can be hard to locate. And that means lots of campers all over. And it’s not just with snipers. Ground support specialists camp too. Their more advanced role levels give them access to automated turrets, which most gamers deploy at spawn points to harass the enemy. It almost feels like I’m playing on the PC again!
For those who’d prefer not to hoof it, Frontlines provides a plethora of vehicles for the lazy digital soldier. Jeeps, APCs, tanks, anti-aircraft vehicles, helicopters, fighter/bombers, you name it and it’s there. And, with the exception of the jeep, most of the vehicles are easy to pilot. They’re great for hiding from enemy snipers while your electronic warfare specialist hunts down that pesky sniper or drone technician. Every class has its place in Frontlines and in a heated online match only the team with the best mix of specializations will win, if your comrades take the game seriously.
Even though Frontlines is entertaining it fails to deliver a memorable gaming experience. It feels like the game is unfinished. There is no single thread within the game that links graphics, game play, sound, controls, vehicles, weapons and all Frontlines’ other elements into one cohesive experience. And that’s what prevents the game from reaching it’s potential. It just looks rushed and nothing can cover that up. This is definitely a purchase for the discount bin.
Posted: 2008-09-10 07:05:36 PST