Full Spectrum Warrior Hands-On

The PC version of Full Spectrum Warrior is almost here, and we find out how this revolutionary tactical game translates from the Xbox.

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Realistic military-themed games are a dime a dozen on the PC, but it's safe to say that we haven't seen anything quite like Full Spectrum Warrior. After debuting on the Xbox earlier this year, THQ is set to release the PC version of this squad-based tactical simulation soon, and we've been playing around with a near-complete version of the game to see how the action translates from the console version.

You can't hit that guy while he's behind cover, but he's close enough for a frag grenade--if you catch our drift.
You can't hit that guy while he's behind cover, but he's close enough for a frag grenade--if you catch our drift.

You may have heard that Full Spectrum Warrior was originally developed as a training tool to help teach soldiers decision-making in urban combat. In the game, you'll command Charlie 90, a US Army squad composed of two four-man teams--code-named Alpha and Bravo--as it undertakes missions in war-torn Zekistan, a fictional Middle Eastern country. These missions may range from eliminating insurgents to securing weapons caches and escorting convoys through dangerous city streets. But the twist in Full Spectrum Warrior is that you don't wield a weapon yourself. Instead, you view all the action from a third-person perspective while issuing orders to your troops.

Due to its origins as an Army training device, Full Spectrum Warrior's theme revolves around using realistic military tactics. This means using your two teams in conjunction with each other to pin down and flank the enemy, which represents an age-old infantry tactic called "fire and maneuver." As your teams maneuver down the narrow streets and alleyways, you'll want them to use cover to protect them from enemy fire. As one team suppresses the enemy with gunfire, the other team will leapfrog around, looking for a position where it can unload lethal fire on the enemy.

At your men's disposal are a range of standard Army weapons, including the M4 carbine, the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and the M16/M203 grenade launcher combination, as well as fragmentation and smoke grenades. But perhaps your most powerful weapon is the radio, which your men can use to either call in strikes to take out enemy armor or request overhead recon flights to detect enemy positions.

The PC version contains the same content as the Xbox version, though it does look a lot sharper thanks to the higher resolutions and high-res textures that are possible on the PC. With antialiasing turned on, the game looks incredibly sharp, and you don't get any of the jagged lines that you get with the Xbox version, which was an impressive-looking game in its own right. Other than that, the PC version is essentially the same as the Xbox version, save for the two bonus missions that together serve as an epilogue of sorts for the Charlie 90 storyline.

We should note that we are impressed with the control scheme. Rather than translating the Xbox gamepad controls to the keyboard, the developer has managed to make the game almost entirely playable with just the mouse. By using the right mouse button, you can call up and issue movement orders. The left mouse button directs your men to fire at a target, while holding down the left mouse button will order suppression fire to keep the enemies' heads down. Finally, clicking on the mousewheel or middle mouse button switches between teams. About the only time you need to use the keyboard is to toggle grenade controls or to use the GPS system (which calls up a map of the surrounding locale and reveals the positions of your teams) or radio.

This team has managed to flank this machine gunner, while the other team has kept him distracted.
This team has managed to flank this machine gunner, while the other team has kept him distracted.

The PC version does offer a cooperative multiplayer mode for two players, so you and a friend can each control a team in battle. It should be noted that the PC lacks the built-in voice capability of Xbox Live, which makes it a bit tougher to coordinate efforts, though you can use a third-party application to provide voice support.

Full Spectrum Warrior for the PC is looking good, and while the gameplay hasn't changed from the Xbox version, it should appeal to fans of realistic military games. The PC version went gold recently, so check back with us soon for our final review of the game.

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