Frontlines: Fuel of War
7th Dec 2007 | 14:00
EA's Battlefield 2 is good - huge open worlds, 32 players, vehicles, a range of weapons and checkpoint capturing fun. But how would you like a war game that's even deeper, more open and includes one of the most unique team-based scenarios since CTF?
That's what Frontlines: Fuel of War aims to be. 'Depth' and 'choice' are the two key words Kaos General Manager, Frank Delise, uttered when we asked him to sum up Frontlines.
Made by the guys responsible for Desert Combat, the massively popular Battlefield 1942 expansion, you can see the obvious similarities between Digital Illusion's BF series. But with even bigger worlds, new weapons and gadgets, and a unique frontline mechanic, this takes the BF formula and expands on it.
The mechanic we're talking about is what decides the winning team in any battle. When you start a game the map is divided in to - half coloured red and half blue.
The line down the middle that separates the two zones is the frontline, and placed along this line are three mission objectives (or capture points). Both teams spawn at their bases on either side of the map, and then scramble to the frontline to capture those points.
The team that does capture all three points has its half of the map extended as the frontline is pushed deeper into enemy territory. There'll be more capture points at the new frontline, and so the battle ensues until on team controls the entire map space (or the time runs out).
Choose your destiny
The whole point of Frontlines though, is that it gives you seemingly endless ways of going about your tasks. Just like in BF, you choose your class before you spawn, which dictates your weapon set. So, there are heavy gunners, snipers, anti-vehicle infantry and the like.
But beyond that, you also get to shoot what type of Role you want - which is basically like a secondary weapon. You can either choose drones, EMP Tech, ground support or air support.
EMP Tech lets you deploy a defensive zone around you the disables all vehicle use round you, including drones. Air Support gives you air strike powers and ground support hands you deployable gun turrets that pack a serious punch.
But the most exciting is the drones - you get a selection of mini remote-controlled military vehicles, used to sniff out your opponents and deal out some death.
Bites louder than its bark
At first you only have a helicopter without guns at your disposal - it's primarily a recon vehicle used to spot enemies. With one of these babies left hovering overhead, enemies will show up red on your screen, and the screens of allies, making them easier to shoot.
But if things get hairy, these helicopters can also be detonated, taking out an enemy gun turret or group of soldiers in one blast.
The cool thing is that using your Role weapons to frag enemies earns you higher ranks, and in the Drone Role's case, a higher rank means new drones to use. You can get a nippy little car packed with C4 - handy for taking out tanks. A miniature tank packs a lethal chain gun that does a remarkable amount of damage considering its small size.
Our favourite is a helicopter with side-mounted rocket launchers. You can do incredible amounts of damage with that thing, and flying it is brilliant fun. You see everyone scrambling to escape your fire as you fly through raining down rockets.
I've got a big one
If you prefer your hardware to be larger in size, there are plenty of vehicles around to pilot. Too many to remember. We've driven all manner of personnel carriers - fast trucks that simply get your where you want to go, tanks, helicopters and even fighter jets (which you can jump out of at any time a parachute down).
Imagine the chaos on the frontline when you have 32 players in a battle whipping out drones, rumbling in with tanks, sniping from afar, launching air strikes and whatnot at each other in their efforts to capture the objective points.
Walls actually crumble under the carnage, and in some cases levels that start off full of perfect structures are left with war-torn wreckage sites at the end.
It's nuts and, at first, somewhat overwhelming. You have so many options and so many weapons, that it's hard to know which ones to go for until you've played for a few hours to get a feel for everything.
But, crucially, the best thing is that you never feel like there's nothing you can do to counter an enemy's choice of attack. The numerous options means there always an obvious way to counter your enemy's actions, it's just a matter of team work and putting your counter plan into action effectively.
Going it alone
Frontlines is, just like BF, primarily a multiplayer experience, but Kaos has used the frontline mechanic to put together a fully fledged single-player campaign.
The plot, set twenty years in the future, is based around the world's dwindling oil supply, and a fight that ensues for the remaining drops of oil found.
Single-player missions use the same frontlines mechanic but, instead of throwing you into the same maps as the multiplayer in 'fake single-player' bot matches, you are sent into sprawling new campaign maps with multiple objectives to complete.
The missions on the frontline vary from similar capture points, to rescue missions, planting C4 on enemy guns or equipment, assassination and more. Complete the objectives on one frontline and it moves pack, giving you your next set of missions.
Again, choice is of the essence, and that means that not only can you complete any of the objectives on the current frontline, but levels are large and open enough to give you a true choice of routes to your objectives.
Not a Call of Duty-style split path - that's linear design disguised as openness. We mean true open-ended levels. And you always have a choice of weapons too. You're attacking an enemy base, for example. What do you do? You can run in with big guns and do it CoD style, picking off enemies one by one like the super soldier you are.
Or you can deploy a helicopter drone and scope the place out before detonating it to weaken their defences. Or you could just rush in with a vehicle you spotted earlier, blasting fat explosives at anything that moves.
Enemies are reasonable intelligent, too. You'll see them running from cover to cover, pushing forward when they think they can take you and retreating when they realise they've no chance of defeating you.
It's not the ultra-refined, cinematic experience that Call of Duty 4's single-player is, but we blasted through four levels and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Our only concern was that the normal mode was a little on the easy side, and we could take far too much punishment before dying. We're talking rockets straight to the face and we'd still be standing. So weapon balance may need some thought.
But Frontlines' focal point is in the multiplayer gameplay. With 32 players on 360 and PS3, and 60 players on PC, the battles are colossal, and the endless tactical choices available make for plenty of depth.
Check back next week for a huge interview with Frank Delise - General Manager of Kaos Studios, who talks more about the game, working with Unreal Engine 3, and his thoughts on the current console war.
For now, check out the newest screens of the action below. Also, get your butt over here to find out how you can get yourself on the multiplayer beta in our exclusive beta key give away.