While there are plenty of first-person shooters on the market, Call of Duty and Halo have really raised the bar in terms of quality, with both interesting single player campaigns combined with feature-packed multiplayer modes. Some FPS games have come and gone unsuccessfully over the past few years, because they simply didn't bring enough new to the table to warrant a decent look. So the goal must be to create a game that has solid gameplay and provides enough new interesting features to get people to play the game in the first place. A game that has an extreme amount of potential to do just this is Frontlines: Fuel of War.
Available early next year on the 360, PS3 and PC, Frontlines is, at it's heart, a shooter set in a wartime scenario. We had a chance to sit down with the first three levels of the game (which were quite hefty in size), and can safely say that this is going to be one to keep an eye on. Set twenty years into the future, two sides are fighting in a war to take control of the world and it's resources; the Western Coalition (the US and the European Union), and the Red Star Alliance (the Russians and Chinese). The campaign does a good job of setting the tone of the game world, linking actual past events to the events in the future to help explain the situation you're going to face as you play through the game. It makes the whole experience seem a lot more 'real' and makes you question whether or not an issue like this could actually take place, and gives you a pretty good reason to want to fight for your side.
The premise of Frontlines is that you are always moving further and further ahead, effectively capturing each 'frontline' as you move forward and complete objectives. Each frontline will have a few objectives that you must complete, and once you do so, that territory becomes yours, and allows you to move ahead to the next frontline which will have different objectives to tackle (along with plenty more enemies to take out.) What we found great about Frontlines is that the campaign is extremely non-linear, in that you can tackle objectives in any order you choose to, and each one can be handled in a variety of different ways. To reach certain objectives which include planting C4, securing an area, hacking a computer and more; you can run in head-on with your team and fight your way through the front door, or if you prefer, you can sneak around to the side and climb a ladder to get inside, infiltrating the enemy from within. Perhaps you'd like to send a drone in to do some recon, and take out some of the opposition without even getting your hands dirty. There are plenty of options in completing each objective, which leaves potential for multiple play-throughs of the campaign.
A fun addition to the gameplay (incorporated into both the single and multiplayer parts of the game) are the numerous drones that you can control to get the job done. During our time with the game, we witnessed little helicopters that can fly around and shoot enemies with. This means that if there is a building full of baddies, you can literally fly through one of the windows and take them all out from within while your character stands comfortably around the corner with the controls. Then there are flying drones that you can direct to a certain point and then detonate to take out a whole bunch of enemies at once, and drones that work like little cars on the ground that can be driven underneath enemy tanks before being detonated, taking out the tank completely. Being able to simply send a drone in and work out where enemies are positioned (which is then placed on your mini-map) is extremely helpful, and adds an element of stealth to what could otherwise be seen as an action-heavy experience.
Drones are picked up like other weapons in the game, so they are limited to what you can find - but from what we saw, there are lots of opportunities to use them. They all control and handle differently, which makes each drone experience a unique one. In fact, there are over 60 unique vehicles and weapons featured in Frontlines (including air strikes, which are oh so sweet), so you have plenty of different ways to fight for your side. There's also Javelin rockets which, if aimed at something long enough, will then act as homing devices so that you can effectively shoot the weapon from around the corner or fire into the sky and then wait for the destruction as it zeros in on your target.
Overall, Frontlines: Fuel of War is coming along quite nicely. In the preview code that we played, there was plenty of detail in the characters and environments, with the explosions looking very cool and the various vehicles all visually impressive as well. The sound was equally effective, with loud weapon fire and lots of yelling both from your own squad and the enemy. There was some great echo when inside big warehouses, and the whole product seemed reasonably polished already - considering the game is still in development, it's nice to see the presentation looking as good as it does. There's plenty more to know about Frontlines, so keep an eye out in the coming months for more information on this fun shooter.