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Field Ops Multiplayer Impressions

We take an updated look at this real-time strategy/first-person shooter to see how it fares in multiplayer mode.


LEIPZIG, Germany--Field Ops is an interesting idea from French-based Freeze Interactive, because it combines real-time strategy with first-person shooting. The result is a game that combines tactical thinking with operational precision for two unique perspectives on the battlefied. Being able to move multiple units in one go and then use one of them to make that all-important head shot had never been tried before, and the game caught our eye when we previewed the single-player mode a few months ago. Now out at the Leipzig Games Convention, the team has a playable build of the multiplayer mode for the first time.

Shown off to us on two laptop computers, Field Ops certainly looks like a novel multiplayer experience. The game features three different multiplayer modes that will be familiar to fans of FPS games, namely VIP rescue, bomb run, and conquest. Before you set up a multiplayer game, you have to create a customised team squad, built using an allocation of multiplayer points that you can spend on different skilled individuals. In the demo that we saw, we could choose from medics, snipers, and special-operative soldiers, although more classes will be available in the full game. From the setup menu, you can also choose how you want to group your soldiers before you enter the game so that you can start deploying them to tactical locations on the map as soon as you get started.

Getting started is something that we were eager to do, as we wanted to find out if the combination of RTS and FPS is something that works in a frentic multiplayer game. With one team playing as US counterterrorists and one as the terrorists, the conquest game requires you to capture key places on the map in order to take over, although killing off all of the opposing team will also earn victory for the map. As in most strategy games, units can be deployed individually or in groups, and those closest to the edge of a building will automatically scope out round the corner. Fog of war affects the battlefield in multiplayer, so you can't monitor your opponent's movements until your units actually see them firsthand. Generally, you'll use the RTS mode as reconnaissance, and as soon as you spot the enemy, you'll jump into the body of your soldier and make the kill.

While you can leave the killing to the AI, it's much more effective to control the engaged units yourself, especially if you can perform headshots. While the combination could ultimately turn out to be a gimmick, combining your skills in the two genres is an essential part of the gameplay. Though you could stick to one discipline, you'll ultimately suffer unless you embrace the advantages that each perspective has to offer. As well as offering greater aiming precision, the first-person view helps you to aim smoke grenades more accurately, helping you to hide your movement from the enemy who will be unable to see you.

The full game will feature online and LAN play for up to six people, and because the game scores you on your losses and victories, you should be able to match up to players of a similar ability. A number of different character classes will be added that we didn't get to see in the demo, including heavy machine gunners, technicians, engineers, and demolition experts. The demolition experts for the counterterrorists are robots that can be remotely detonated, but on the terrorist teams the designers have chosen to use suicide bombers instead. It's something that made us feel slightly uncomfortable when we were talking to the developer, especially given the recent high-profile incidents that have been happening around the world. While the idea of controlling terrorists in Counter-Strike is perhaps morally dubious, we can already predict the newspaper headlines that suicide bombers will earn Field Ops. When pushed, the developers conceded that they may have to be replaced before the game is released, so we'll have to wait to see how that one pans out.

The mix of two complementary genres in Field Ops makes it an interesting proposition, especially for fans of the two styles. While the multiplayer demo had its share of problems at this stage, such as slowdown in the first-person mode and a lack of playable classes, there's plenty of time for Freeze to tidy it up before the Q1 2007 release. We look forward to seeing the fruit of its labour next year.

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