03 February 2010
Somewhere in the timeline between DOOM and Halo first person shooters got a reputation as being senseless endeavors with little substance. It’s true that cookie-cutter titles exist in the market, but that’s true of any genre. Especially in this glorious console generation — where A-list titles pop up year-round for all systems — there has been a backlash against what some people perceive as stupid shooters.
Into the flooded market appeared Frontlines: Fuel of War. It had neither the hype of Halo 3 or the depth of Bioshock.
But guess what?
I mean really fun. I mean “keep it in the console until you’ve beaten it and then take it online immediately” kind of fun. Does it have to be anything else? Does it have to aspire to touch the heart and bridge the gap between film and first person shooter? Does it have to make a difference in my life on a personal, private level?
No. It has to be fun. And it is.
This is not to say that Kaos Studios didn’t round out the game with a decent, timely story about our energy crisis and one possible future. They did. They even included a journalist embedded with the soldiers that I obviously found endearing. But while the story in Frontlines is a fine skeleton, the meat on the bones is the fun factor.
You’ll feel it the minute you fire your first weapon. I don’t think I’ve seen tighter gunplay in a shooter. It’s not just that targeting and hits are done flawlessly; it’s that the guns feel amazing. They’re tight, responsive and satisfying. And they sound fantastic. I bought this game when my wife and I had our first kid. With a newborn at home I played all my games with a set of Sennheiser RS130 Wireless RF Headphones. These are serious headphones, and they came in handy with Frontlines because the sound is so good. (It’s probably better that I didn’t play the game with my surround sound system because the two women who walk their dogs by my house 38 times a day would likely think there was a firefight going on in my living room.)
FPS fans will be able to pick up and play this title easily. When you do you’ll quickly find that the war zone is littered with not only weapons and warriors, but tons of hardware. You’ll pilot a variety of vehicles in this game — which all handle satisfactorily — but the real fun starts when you stumble across the game’s many drones. These are remote-controlled, scale-model helicopters, tanks and other weapons of war that you can safely send into battle while you hide in the distance. I especially liked the helicopters, which pack an amazingly destructive arsenal of weaponry on their tiny frames.
In closing, allow me to explain it like this: When I got my copy of Frontlines I took it to a friend’s house where a poker game was to commence. I figured we’d check it out after we played cards. He was anxious to try the game so I fired it up and handed him the controller.
“This is awesome,” he said after a few minutes.
He was right. (And we never managed to put it down long enough to play cards.)
Frontlines: Fuel of War was not the defining moment that heralded the future of shooters. But it’s fun; a lot of fun.
And that’s awesome.
By Victor Paul Alvarez