STAFF REVIEW of Frontlines: Fuel of War (Xbox 360)

Sunday, February 24, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Frontlines: Fuel of War Box art Modern society is completely dependant upon the world?s oil supply. Each and everyday millions of people consume the world?s oil in one way or another whether it be heating, driving or operating machinery. What would happen if that oil supply ever ran out?

Frontlines: Fuel of War takes on that very scenario in this objective based game. The western world, primarily the US and Europe, have formed the Coalition, while the east, consisting of Russia and China, have formed the Red Star Alliance. You play as the Coalition throughout single player on a quest to stop the RSA from taking over the remaining oil supply located in the Caspian Sea region.

THQ and Kaos bring us this modern day shooter with a fantastic storyline and some unique multiplayer gameplay. The creators of the classic ?Desert Combat? and members of the R&D team for Battlefield 2 team up to bring us this brand new shooter. Dedicated servers allow THQ to push the amount of online players in a lobby to 50 for the first time in a console shooter. From experiences thus far, the games have been lag free so it looks as though THQ has really beefed things up and the servers will hold up quite nicely. The maps are laid out very nicely in order to accommodate the vast number of players per game and they also make for some interesting strategies. The game offers both single player and multiplayer modes.

Single player is a pretty straight forward style of campaign. You go through 7 levels, taking objectives to proceed further towards your final goal. The storyline is great, and makes you think what could really happen if the oil supply were to ever run out in real life. In my opinion, the single player career works as a great tutorial to prepare yourself for online battles and I highly suggest giving it a run through. But with this game, the online multiplayer is where the game shines.

Single player and multiplayer are similar in that you have to take objectives in order to win. These objectives are grouped along the frontline in each map. You will need to take the entire grouping of objectives on the frontline to advance towards your final objective. In single player, you and your squad, The Stray Dogs, will take objectives one by one advancing to one final objective to finish the level. There are 7 levels in total to finish the campaign. Enemies do not take back objectives in single player as they do in multiplayer for the most part; they are only out to kill you. Now multiplayer is a whole different story and we will get into that a little later in the review. Also in the single player mode, once you secure an objective the game uses its autosave feature so you will start at the last secured objective in the event you die before taking your next objective

The single player campaign allows you to select from 3 difficulty levels, with normal being the default. You can adjust one level up or one level down in difficulty if you prefer. Enemy AI at the normal difficulty is not stupid, nor is it the smartest AI either. At times, they?ll keep heavy fire upon you, but then suddenly seem to ignore the fact that you could still be hiding around the corner regaining health, and direct their attention to someone else. You can then jump out and gun down the opposition pretty quickly with little to no resistance. Your squad mates seem to help you quite a bit which is a welcome change from most squad based shooters. They will gun down enemies, use various weapons and drive vehicles without the retardation factor seen in some games.That?s not to say that they will never just stand around, or run the wrong way. It just doesn?t happen constantly.

The multiplayer experience will traverse across 8 maps, some large and some small. You?ll be fighting in close combat streets, or sniping across oils fields and mountain valleys. The best way to describe the online play rather than using the typical "objective based" term would be to call it a virtual tug-o-war of sorts. Both teams battle to secure objectives and move their front line closer to the final objective. The vehicles you have at your disposal will be dependant upon the map you are playing and yes, you?ll even be able to fly jets You?ll also pilot gunship choppers, transport helicopters, tanks, anti-aircraft vehicles, hummers, etc. Vehicle controls are a very good mix for both novice and elite pilots. The combat system in Frontlines focuses completely on teamwork between squad mates. Running as a lone wolf will more than likely get disgruntled team members rather than completed objectives. So keep that in mind when you go running off to go solo in the closest vehicle. A squad leader can give highlight targets, send commands and even act as a respawn point as long as he/she is still alive. When part of a squad you?ll also be able to see squad member highlighted on the map. A great feature in the game is the inclusion of VoIP chat in every game. All squads receive their own private VoIP chat channel which allows them to communicate only with each other without the hassle of excessive or annoying open chat during the game. No more trying to talk over the singing 10 year old that just won?t shut up all game. Let alone just a few seconds to allow someone else to talk.

You?ll have access to multiple weapons, both allied and enemy. You can pick up weapons and trade out to secondary weapons by pressing the ?Y? button. In the weapons selection screen, you?ll be able to select your primary weapon, secondary weapon or your specialized ?roles? which include drone control, airstrikes, ground support and EMP technology. I?ll discuss the roles shortly. Ammo boxes are located throughout maps and only require you to walk up to them to load up on fresh ammo. One thing to keep in mind is that if you prematurely reload, you drop the entire clip and any remaining ammo in that clip before loading up a full clip. You have 6 weapon classes to choose from in multiplayer:

? Assault: Assault Rifle w/grenade launcher, Pistol, and Frag grenades
? Heavy Assault : Heavy Assault Rifle, Pistol and Frag grenades
? Sniper: Sniper Rifle, Pistol, Frag grenades
? Anti Vehicle: Rocket Launcher, Pistol, Anti Vehicle Landmines
? Special Ops: Sub Machine Gun, Pistol, C4
? Close Combat: Shotgun, Pistol, Frag grenades

It?s been said that the weapons/targeting in Frontlines is not very good. Most notably the sniper rifle and its supposed inability to one shot kill. I can say for a fact that the sniper can and will take kills in one shot if you hit what you are shooting at. If you have been hit by a sniper, you know that it does damage just by seeing the blood red screen and knowing you are close to dying. But I am glad to see that you MUST be perfect with the sniper rifle for one shot kills rather than having an abused overpowered weapon. But in general, all the weapons seem to work very well for the task they are meant to do.

Along with the weapon class selection, you can select a specialized role. These roles allow you to use special weapons and abilities. This is where the game can get very interesting online. Each role has 3 levels in which you obtain by killing opponents and completing objectives. Your roles show on the lower right hand corner and become yellow when that ability level is obtained. A good squad will have player of each role enlisted in battle and can work together. One of the extremely unique but fun roles is the ability to control drones. Some drones have weapons such as machine guns or rockets, while other drones are used strictly for detonation purposes and spying. Each drone can be used in various ways, and many users will probably get very creative with their uses. Drone controls mainly consist of basic thumbstick movements as well as trigger and bumper presses.

At the time of release, online game modes only consists of the frontlines mode in which you grab objectives to move the battle lines closer to the final objective. As in single player, you gain all the objectives on the frontline and the front moves forward to the next set. The difference with multiplayer is, now you have an enemy that can take back objectives you have already completed. Hence the importance of having a squad or multiple squads that works together in search of a common goal. If you lose a previously secured objective to the enemy, than the front line will once again move back to the prior point and you will not have access to the next set of objectives until you recapture the enemy secured objective. The online play can be a complete chess match which can include guarding of objectives, sniping, use of vehicles for quick movement of squad members, etc. I am sure there will be folks out there looking for strictly death match and capture the flag style games, but honestly, that is not the point of this game and unnecessary.

Many people have been concerned with the graphics after playing the single player and multiplayer demos. While I will admit that the graphics are not eye-popping, I cannot see how anyone can say they are terrible. Yes, there are some jaggy edges at some points, but nothing unbearable. The only downside that I have seen in the graphics is some slowdown when a lot of action is taking place on the screen at one time. The screen can tend to get a little jumpy on occasion, but again it?s nothing unbearable. People tend to compare games to the big boys of the industry, and sometimes that?s just not fair. This game holds its own in the graphics department, and more so in the gameplay.

One of the things I noticed immediately was the great sounds both distant and present. While the sound of a tank firing can be pretty typical and easy to replicate in most war games, the sound of impact the shell makes and the explosion thereafter in the distance is well done. You will also notice that sounds generate from the direction they are coming from. Say an explosion occurs behind you, the sound will be less prevalent than if you were facing it. The same goes with fired weapons and vehicles.

What makes this game a lot of fun are all of the little things and new innovative things. I had no idea that a parachute could be deployed when falling from greater heights or flying vehicles until I fell off of a smokestack and the command to deploy chute appeared on the screen. Very cool feature! You can also jump out of helicopters and jet to deploy your chute as well. Could come in handy when you are about to get shot down. Many folks have called this a Battlefield 2 rip-off and I have to say it?s quite the contrary. The developers have taken many things that worked well in both Desert Combat and Battlefield 2 and packaged them into a brand new game. Frontlines is probably the first squad based shooter that makes you focus completely on teamwork to be successful. Sure you?ll have a good game or teo playing as a lonewolf, but you?ll have a lot more success working with team members in a squad. This in itself should be something that all clans should look forward to. Summing the game up, anyone that has enjoyed Battlefield 2 or any squad based shooter should definitely think about picking this one up. Frontlines: Fuels of War combines great things that have been enjoyed across multiple titles into one nice package with an immersive style of gameplay that really sets a bar for squad based shooters. You won?t regret adding this to your library of 360 games.

Include in-game clan support as this game just beckons for such a feature. Of course downloadable content including new maps, weapons, and possibly vehicles would be a plus. New innovative game modes rather than the typical deathmatch and capture the flag. Also a co-op feature would be a definite must have in future iterations of the game.

Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 8.8 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.3 / 10


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