Among the crowded pack of shooters available for the Xbox360, first person shooter Frontlines: Fuel of War really sets itself apart. It feeds the ego with a healthy dose of power thanks to its array of brutal and high tech weapons. Particularly notable is the variety of different “drones” that can be operated like remote controlled cars and planes from a safe spot and sent to self destruct in a huge explosion wherever a pesky, heavily armored unit lurks. An abundance of weapon crates are scattered throughout the levels and their supply never runs out. It’s not easy running out of ammo when it can be replenished so often and it’s only a short walk to the nearest crate. Rocket launchers are plentiful and powerful and just the thing for giving any enemy unit a real beating. And then, there’s the best weapon of all… a hacking unit that allows the enemies’ own air strike to be called against them. This definitely ranks up there as one of the best weapons ever provided in a game, and it is deeply satisfying to use because of its sinister nature. Of course, the old standbys are available here as well, including rifles, shotguns, and sniper rifles. In a lot of ways, Frontlines: Fuel of War feels more arcade than simulation. Purists will probably scoff at the abundant arsenal of ultra-powerful weapons and plentiful ammo. But for many others, huge explosions and the power trip this game affords provide a new level of excitement and fun.
This game is all about moving the frontlines forward by securing enemy operations centers and blowing up their important assets. Reaching these targets and completing the missions advances the frontline forward. The AI in this game is smart, and enemies use flanking and other techniques to increase the challenge that may have otherwise been too diluted by the sheer power of the available ally weapons. Control and aim for all of the weapons is excellent, as is character movement and the camera. There’s no stick-and-cover (pressing up against a wall or other object to take cover), so standing or going prone behind an object has to suffice for keeping hits enemy hits at bay. Ally AI is also fairly smart, taking cover and helping out; however, they have a bad habit of running in front of your line of fire, which is a minor annoyance to say the least.
The story is interesting and relevant in a very satisfying way. Scientists are already talking about the depletion of oil supplies in the world, and documentaries about this are all over The Discovery Channel and National Geographic Television. It’s nice to see game developers examine a real issue the world will be struggling with and think about how it could play out as the problem escalates and each country seeks to claim enough of these limited resources for themselves. Unfortunately, the story can be completed in less than ten hours, which for a shooter isn’t that big of a deal.
Sound in the game is superb, with excellent original music and realistic sound effects. The graphics are less impressive, as distant objects and buildings look like shadows with no detail. This may imply that the “fog of war” blocks your view, but it doesn’t look good. Closer objects and character models look good, though.
The online multiplayer for this game is another great example of how this game sets itself apart from the competition. Online matches support up to thirty-two players… yes, thirty-two. A choice of weapons is available at the start of each round, including rifles, sniper rifles, and even rocket launchers. Tanks and other vehicles are also readily available for anyone who wants one. With so many players and such heavy weapons, the online multiplayer is ridiculously chaotic, exciting, and fun. There is an occasional split second of lag, but this is rare and doesn’t have a big impact on the game. The feeling of anonymity in such a big group is another boon. This game gives you the opportunity to really blend into the crowd, and concentrate on having fun instead of worrying about your score. It is well advised to choose one of the matches using the KAOS servers, as players’ own servers’ ability to handle such a large group is not reliable and more technical issues may be encountered. In-game chat is limited to clans. Anyone can create a clan and invite anyone else on their team who is available. This eliminates a lot of the incessant chatter that would have probably bordered on unbearable with so many players. The maps for the online multiplayer are varied and interesting.
Frontlines: Fuel of War is a thrilling power trip with awesome weapons, an interesting and relevant single player storyline, and exciting online multiplayer for up to thirty-two players. Some minor graphical drawbacks, the lack of a stick-and-cover system, and the short length of the storyline hold this game back from perfection, but it’s certainly an experience no shooter fan should pass up.