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Frontlines: Fuel of War on Game and Player

Frontlines: Fuel of War

Zach Hines  //  March 10, 2008

With some disappointments, a solid FPS experience.


t's nice when there is a message to a story. It's even better when that message is something we can all relate to. Frontlines: Fuel of War, developed by Kaos Studios and published by THQ, is a new FPS title with just that. It's 2024, not too far off, and the world is a much different place. Millions are dead from a multitude of natural phenomenon accelerated by years of neglect. The global economy is under a massive strain. Places that once thrived now struggle, and places that once struggled have all but vanished. To make matters worse, the planet has nearly run out of the very thing at the heart of modern economies — oil.

And the loss isn't just affecting one or two countries, but it is crippling the planet. In response to this, the world draws lines for itself that closely resemble the maps of the Cold War. The Russians and Chinese form the Red Star alliance, while the Americas and Western Europe form the Coalition. All of this is done in order to seize the last remaining reservoirs of oil near the Caspian Sea. The world is going to war over something that is all but gone, and you are right in the middle of it.

What's your strength? Choose
one of a half-dozen combat roles.
As a game Frontlines excels, but as a story, it's a bit of a disappointment. This is really unfortunate because it has the building blocks of a really solid story. The game is narrated from the point of view of a war reporter. During powerful cutscenes that precede and succeed the missions of the game, the journalist relates stories from the war's fronts, as well as information pertinent to situation at hand. The building blocks are there, but they aren't put together very well. Gameplay has little to do with the premise of the war. Throughout the game, you are a part of a squad called the Stray Dogs, tasked with marching towards Moscow. If the last bit of oil is in the Caspian, and is so important to protect and control, then why take Moscow? The opening credits speak of little mining towns set up in the span of weeks to accommodate the oil workers, while displacing the residents — "towns so small they aren't given names," as the reporter puts it. This is a great setting. A relatively unknown place becomes the world's very center, and yet almost the entirety of the game goes on elsewhere. As I said, it's a disappointment.

On the gameplay side, Frontlines does a much better job, though it is not without problems. As in most FPS games, the multiplayer is the heart of the experience — though both the campaign and the multiplayer play very similarly. The heart of the game is what Kaos calls the "Frontline System." Using the Frontline System, in both the campaign and multiplayer, players can advance the front lines of the war by capturing strategic points on the map — allowing them to move forward. Practically, this idea tailors itself better to the campaign in that you can't progress through the missions without capturing these strategic points. These points can take a number of different forms, from securing weapons caches, to disabling enemy radar outposts, and destroying antiaircraft emplacements. In both campaign and multiplayer, this is a very rewarding experience.

For the pragmatist: drones.
Frontlines is all about adding depth to a genre that lacks it. Not only is it a tactical FPS, but it's also a multifaceted one. One of its selling points is the inclusion of combat roles and technology, which shine brightest in multiplayer. In addition to choosing what type of weaponry loadout you wish (e.g., assault, heavy assault, spec ops, sniper, and anti-vehicular), you can choose what kind of combat role you'll take. For example, if you like to do your fighting from afar — then choose the sniper loadout. But that's not where your unwillingness to get your hands dirty ends. To supplement your ability to wreak havoc at a distance, you have drones. Drone Tech players remotely control combat drones within a certain signal area. And as with other roles, as players tally kills and point captures they gain access to more capable, deadly drones. Both Coalition and Red Star players start with small, flying drones useful for both surveillance and antipersonnel strikes — but each army features its own upgrade track.

Other combat roles include Air Support that equips players with increasingly destructive air strike abilities, EMP Tech that allows players to creatively control where and when vehicles can and cannot function, and Ground Support that allows for vehicle repair and turret emplacement. When you mix and match combat roles with the differing weapon loadouts, you create numerous different ways to play the game. In addition to this, the game incorporates ground- and air-based vehicles such as hummers, tanks, helicopters, and fighters.

With the different combat roles, point-capture system, and vehicular inclusion, Frontlines plays very similar to the Battlefield franchise. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Battlefield 2 attempted a transition to the 360 with mixed results; it was basically dumbed way down. However, Frontlines is just as complex and deep as the Battlefield series, but plays great on a console without feeling like a little brother. Unfortunately, the gameplay isn't perfect — no game ever is. The campaign AI is fairly dim, and presents little challenge. There are also a few graphical glitches that appear at times. These issues aren't inhibitive, just annoying. Aside from that, it's a solid experience throughout.

Graphically, Frontlines paints — paradoxically — a beautiful picture of a war-torn and destroyed world. The various weapons of war and gadgets found therein are modeled quite well and look and respond in a believable fashion. In fact, the game uses weapons and technology that many people might recognize as prototypes for actual weapons our military is developing; especially the drones. Tanks lumber across the battlefield with ambient heat visibly rising off of them, while fighter jets scream across the sky in blurs. Explosions are quite devastatingly satisfying to behold, while sand whips about your face as a result of the shock wave. Building facades crumble under the weight of heavy explosives, and combatants are rendered realistically and are highly detailed.

One of my favorite parts of the game is the multiplayer stage, Gnaw. It takes place in a deserted, and bombed out city. Everything is rendered in bleak earth tones with bits of paper and debris blowing across the street. Buildings are husks of their former selves, which provide ample cover for entrenched soldiers, and even more options for an ambush. As a whole, it is perhaps the most well realized multiplayer level for a FPS I've seen in a very long time.

Beautiful, terrifying.
Audibly, Frontlines delivers the constant distracting din that one would come to expect when embroiled in combat. Explosions echo in the distance. Bullets whiz by your head as you dash for cover. Gun sounds are captured in a very realistic manner and register with a satisfying ring. Tanks grunt and groan as they roll over rough terrain, while the deafening sound of rotor blades announce the arrival of a helicopter. Direct sounds created by your actions in the game, when coupled with opponent actions along with the preprogrammed stage-sound, immerse you in a wave of havoc that is quite appealing. Soldier voices are diverse and actually quite helpful in the campaign. They'll often call out the location of the enemy amid the chaos of battle. Multiplayer communication is limited: you can only talk to allies if you join an in-game squad with fellow soldiers. On the one hand it is nice for coordinating your squadmates, but it limits you at the same time. More often, in my personal experience, most sessions went without speech because people decided not to bother with setting up a squad in game.

War is hell. We all know this. But, under the right conditions (inside your house, on your couch, and with a controller in your hand) it can be very fun. Frontlines: Fuel of War offers a strong FPS experience that imparts a great deal of player freedom, though I feel it may fall below the radar. With Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and Army of Two out this month, gamers may pass on Frontlines due to the game's being less well known. I would encourage you not to do as such. Sun Tzu said, "The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemies will to be imposed on him." With all the tools at your disposal in Frontlines you can impose on others your will and much more.

Frontlines: Fuel of War



Kaos Studios



NA Release

February 25, 2008


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Deep, engaging multiplayer
  • Strong premise


  • Weak story implementation
  • Campaign AI lacking

G&P Rating

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