The year is 2024 and the world's fuel reserves are running low. Global warming is a reality, and food is now in short supply. Russia and China have formed the Red Star Alliance and they are hungry for resources. The Western Alliance stands between them and their much needed fuel. Welcome to Frontlines: Fuel of War.
Pedigree is what this First Person Shooter is about. Built on the Unreal Engine and developed by the team which created the popular Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942, this game is all about the multiplayer experience.
That being said, the solo game is your boot camp where you can hone your skills before taking on the world of Xbox Live. In the solo campaign you command a squad known as the Stray Dogs, and what starts as a simple outpost mission turns into a fully fledged battle. Missions unfold as you complete objectives while at the same time new weapons and gadgets are introduced.
You start with your trusty automatic weapon which you can spray, or by engaging the sight, pump rounds into the enemy. The weapon also serves as a handy club.
You soon encounter enemy vehicles and the missile launcher. There is however more than one way to skin a cat, as you can also pick up radio controlled mini vehicles that you can suicide underneath a tank for devastating results. More difficult-to-reach targets can be taken out with hover drones or radio controlled helicopters. Difficult to handle at first, but once mastered these add a whole other dimension to the game.
You soon get to drive your own vehicles and like their radio controlled counterparts they are a bit quirky to drive. You control the turret with one control stick while the other controls the body of the vehicle. Sounds easy, but just driving in a straight line is initially a challenge. They do however pack a punch, with the tank guns and rocket launchers ranging out further than you can see. Radar targeting allows you take out the enemy way before you actually see them.
One aspect we did find frustrating is how some of the weapons seem underpowered. The sniper rifle, modelled after the Barret .50 cal, often required two shots to secure a kill while the shotgun seemed to still pack a punch at range. It's likely that these quirks are a product of balancing in the multiplayer game.
The multiplayer experience owes a lot to its Battlefield heritage, with big expansive maps. With a maximum of 32 people in a game there are numerous ways to approach an objective. Fly-boys get to deliver mayhem in helicopters and jets, while ground units have a full range of vehicles and drones at their disposal. The better you play the more talents you can unlock -- nevertheless, team play is essential to ensure you meet your objectives.
There are six troop types you can elect to play. These are Assault, Heavy Assault, Sniper, Spec Ops, Anti Vehicle and Close Combat. Each have their benefits and drawbacks, but the key is to get the right combination in your team to achieve the objectives. The drone assault can be particularly effective. Combine the UAV to hunt out hidden enemies, the assault drone with its Gatling guns to root them out, and the obligatory suicide drones to deal with the armour, and you hardly have to expose your own troops to enemy fire.
Graphically the game offers nothing spectacular and although it would be unfair to say they were lacklustre, they certainly cannot be called stunning. Terrain is at times sparse in detail and environmental effects are limited. Some terrain items do destruct, but objects are largely static, resulting in an almost sterile feel to the battlefield. Weapon sound effects are a cut above, though, with good loud explosions and big booming guns.
Overall this is a cracker of a game that certainly deserves a look by first person shooter fans. However, it does need to be viewed as primarily a multiplayer game -- the solo campaign is good but short, and is really just a precursor to the main event, when you head online.