Frontlines: Fuel of War
11th Apr 2007 | 14:13
Say hello to Battlefield 2's second cousin, the one the family did their best to disown. Frontlines: Fuel of War only exists because its developers once made the Desert Combat mod for BF1942 - the one that laid down the template for Battlefield 2. EA brought them in to work on that, then cast them aside when it was finished.
Big mistake. Frontlines: Fuel of War, in multiplayer at least, fits firmly in BF2's mould: first-person shooter, two teams fighting for control of the map, character classes and vehicles. It's almost as if the discarded Kaos Studios have something to prove. But it's not a direct copy: Kaos have some big ideas.
The main premise is that of creating a battle-front, by tying together spawn points. Typically, when you're fighting for spawn points in other games they're separate entities, enabling you to grab parts of the map at random. Fun, but not entirely tactical, and leaving teams free to pretty much spawn where they please.
In Frontlines, you take objectives that are close together. Look at them on the map and you'll see that there's a little line connecting them. You can only push forward when you've taken all the linked spawn areas, spreading your assault along a single front and taking the map in a series of surges.
It's a smart idea, creating a happy medium for the people who like to choose their spawn point (they can choose from any of the liberated ones) and the tactical types who must keep pushing forwards. It binds the action together.
In addition to a typical FPS armoury, there are also remote controlled helicopters and cars, which can be used both tactically and offensively. You can spot and mark the enemy on the map without getting your character into any direct fire, but the little vehicles are also explosive, so you can launch a kamikaze attack on your foes.
There's also a single-player campaign, which uses the frontline system as a way of pushing through levels. The limited time I spent on the single-player makes it clear that traditional scripted action sequences are something they're avoiding. The levels are open, with the objectives spread out in the same way they are in the multiplayer: you choose where to attack and where to force the enemy back.
Accompanying you is a squad that follows your lead through the level. Although the AI is currently in need of a massive polish to support the loose and excitingly open level design: at several points the NPCs and squad froze or walked face first into walls.
If Kaos get it right, this could show up the bolted-on Battlefield singleplayer campaigns for the afterthought they really are.