Frontlines: Fuel of War Hands-On First Look
Kaos Studios' near-future squad-based shooter will incorporate popular multiplayer elements into its single-player campaign, and we tried it out.
The battle's frontline really is the name of the game in Frontlines: Fuel of War, the upcoming tactical first-person shooter from Desert Combat developer Kaos Studios. The forthcoming shooter for the Xbox 360, PlayStation3, and PC envisions a world set in 2024, in which the US and the UK have teamed up against Russia and China in a war over the world's dwindling resources. We tried out both the single- and multiplayer portions of Frontlines at a recent THQ press event, and it seems like the game will combine winning elements of various other shooters with a few unique twists to create a shooter that felt pretty original during our brief demo.
We got to try the first mission of Frontlines' single-player campaign in the Xbox 360 version, in which your tight-knit squad and one embedded reporter enter a combat zone via helicopter only to be shot down by enemy troops. This causes you to lose about half of your teammates and stacks the odds against you as you fight your way through an oil refinery in an attempt to escape enemy clutches. The basic gameplay elements should be familiar to anyone who's played recent tactical shooters; you can zoom in with your weapon, crouch, dash from one place to another, and so on.
What sets Frontlines' campaign apart from other recent shooters is its incorporation of elements you may be familiar with from online multiplayer shooters, such as the Battlefield series. In the mission we played, we were presented with a "frontline," indicated with color-coding on the minimap, which showed how far we'd pushed our foes back. Along the frontline, two or three objectives will be scattered at any one time, and you'll have some flexibility deciding which control point to tackle next. You'll capture some objectives, such as the initial crash zone, simply by being within the right boundaries. But other objectives are more goal-oriented, such as a computer we had to access or a door on which we had to plant explosives to clear a pathway.
The similarities to online shooters didn't end there in our demo of Frontlines' campaign. For instance, when we died, we didn't return to a checkpoint earlier in the mission, as you would in many games. Instead, the battle continued to rage around our corpse, and the game pulled up a respawn window that let us choose where to restart from, based on which points we'd already captured. We also got to choose our weapons loadout here, from a basic "assault" infantry armament to an antitank assortment that gave us the rocket launcher necessary to disable nearby enemy jeeps and tanks.
Afterward, we got to try out the multiplayer component in the PC version of the game. As you'd expect, this mode shares many similarities with the campaign mode and will be instantly familiar to players who've cut their teeth on recent Battlefield games. Again, the two sides--the Western Coalition and the Red Star Alliance--will be fighting over control of the frontline, which will push back and forth in a sort of reverse tug-of-war as each faction captures control points along that line. Vehicles, such as tanks and jeeps, will be available for each side to use as well.
The most interesting aspect of Frontlines' multiplayer was the distinction between player classes and roles. You'll select your class as you'd expect; classes are available for assault and heavy assault, snipers, antiarmor, close combat, and so on. Your class choice determines your weapons loadout, which will determine to an extent what you can do in combat. But each class can also choose from one of four roles, which lets you further customize your battlefield capabilities to suit your tastes. For instance, the drone role gives you control over an assortment of remote-controlled robots that can perform demolition and other functions from a distance. The air-support role lets you call in a variety of air strikes. Countermeasure and ground-support roles will also be available. Each role will have three increasingly powerful abilities that you can gain control over as you progress through a multiplayer game, and the two faction's four roles will contain different (but purportedly balanced) abilities.
Kaos is currently targeting 32 players as the maximum for multiplayer games on all three platforms, but the developer says it has performed reasonably successful tests with greater numbers of players. The team is also actively looking at Microsoft's forthcoming Live for Windows technology, which will allow it to embed Xbox 360-style achievements in the PC version of the game. More importantly, this would theoretically allow PC and 360 players to participate in multiplayer games together, not to mention that it would let PC users run their own servers for the 360 game if they wish. Kaos hasn't committed to implementing Live for Windows functionality in Frontlines yet, but it sounds like it will benefit the game nicely if Kaos commits to it.
Kaos was talking a big game about a year ago when it first unveiled its plans for Frontlines, and now it looks like the Manhattan-based developer may well deliver on its promises. We were especially impressed with the multiplayer-specific gameplay elements that are present in the single-player gameplay, which will supposedly give you some control over how you tackle the progression of each mission. We'll find out if these ideas pan out in the finished game when Frontlines hits stores later this year.
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