There's not much that's advanced about Advanced Battlegrounds: The Future of Combat. And when you get down to it, there's not much that's new about it, either. Despite the fancy name, Advanced Battlegrounds is simply a repackaging of the 2003 first-person shooter Chrome. There's nothing notable or new here that we could detect, aside from the fact that it's now been patched to address some of the stability issues from the original release. Unfortunately, the passage of more than a year hasn't made the gameplay of Chrome any better.
In Advanced Battlegrounds, you assume the role of Bolt Logan, mercenary to the ruthless corporations that run outer space. After being double-crossed by his old partner, Logan hooks up with a new one and takes jobs to protect the miners looking for "chrome," the most valuable substance in the universe, though it's still not quite clear what exactly chrome is or what it does. Anyway, it's hard to like Logan, mainly because he comes off as a complete jerk. He's not even a lovable jerk. Just listen to the way he constantly puts down his partner Carrie, and you'll wonder why it is they even bother sticking together. Still, though poorly conveyed, the game's plot does show some promise, especially in the way it branches near the end, allowing you to decide which faction to side with.
Ultimately, Advanced Battlegrounds comes down to Logan traveling to a planet and blasting his way through huge outdoor and indoor levels with a variety of weapons. However, it's not all about shooting. One of the interesting aspects of the game is that you can loot bodies, RPG style. This means that instead of simply picking up any weapons and ammo that the enemy dropped, you can search him for equipment. It also means that it's practically impossible to run out of ammunition, medkits, or even weapons, as you can always loot enemy bodies along the way. Logan also has access to different implants that can improve his abilities--such as hardening his skin against damage or toggling heat vision to see through walls--and these have their obvious uses in places.
As with most first-person shooters, the heart of the game is in the combat, and in this regard, Advanced Battlegrounds is a lackluster affair. Even though you can be armed with a variety of pistols, shotguns, submachine guns, and assault rifles, most of your weapons feel decidedly underpowered. However, this won't stop the enemy from being hurled into the air, as the rag-doll physics are over the top in this regard. It doesn't help that the AI is a bit frustrating, alternating between complete ignorance of the fact that some of its buddies may have just been blown up a hundred feet away and knowing your exact position at all times. The latter can cause some headaches when you're going room-to-room in a building and the AI fires on you the split second a door opens. And in terms of tactics, the AI doesn't do much other than stand its ground, crouch, and shoot at you. It doesn't look for cover or fall back when wounded, so it's fairly easy to take enemies down. Meanwhile, you don't have to worry so much about the damage enemies inflict upon you, as the tactic of loading up on medkits and activating them before a fight still works. Basically, even if you are at full health, you can activate several medkits, and they'll delay their healing effect until you start to sustain damage.
There are also vehicles in the game to help you speed through some of the larger outdoor environments. These include a speeder bike, an armed transport, and a two-legged walking tank. While some of these vehicles look good, they're a mess to handle, as the driving controls and vehicle physics are awkward. It's far too easy to slam into objects by accident, whether they're buildings, trees, or rocks. Meanwhile, the vehicle combat isn't that exciting. For example, there's one notable vehicular sequence in which an AI character is driving and you're manning the main gun as you move through an enemy base, and the entire affair feels like a low-speed police chase with no energy, despite all the attempts by the music to rouse you.
Graphically, the game hasn't changed at all, which is both good and bad. There are portions of Advanced Battlegrounds that still look quite sharp, in particular the lush forests and jungle terrain. However, other parts of the game look downright crude in comparison--especially the facial animations, which look like the artists just pasted some textures on a flat polygon. The sound effects are another issue, as most of the weapons sound weak and underpowered, and the music is completely forgettable. And to compound things, the voice-overs sound like they were recorded by actors who just weren't trying. You get the feeling that you're supposed to relate more to these characters, but that is completely undermined by the poor quality of the voice acting.
The multiplayer in Advanced Battlegrounds is still limited to the traditional gameplay modes of deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination. Despite the fact that Chrome has been available for over a year, there are barely any servers online, and most of them are empty throughout large parts of the day. And there's still not a lot of content to chew through in terms of maps and such. Finally, despite the fact that Advanced Battlegrounds is the patched version of Chrome, there are still a few crash bugs, as well as some inordinately long load times, even on machines that far exceed the minimum recommended specs.
Though Chrome showed a lot of potential in 2003, its current incarnation feels dated. Chrome benefited from the fact that so many high-profile shooters were delayed until 2004. But then 2004 arrived, and the genre made a huge leap forward with games such as Half-Life 2 and Far Cry, which raised the bar for graphics, physics, animation, and AI. Prior to this evolution, the gameplay in Chrome displayed some promise. But it's left in the dust of its competitors in 2005.