Apocalyptic story-lines in games are quite popular these days, and Frontlines: Fuel of War is no different. The world is either going to be hit by a nuclear bomb, run out of food, be ravaged by incurable disease, or in the case of Frontline: run out of gas. Through the gaming lull there is a huge back catalog of first-person shooters available for the Xbox 360 at bargain prices. Frontlines is one of those games. Perhaps we can handle one more corny story as long as the rest of the game is good, right?
Frontlines: Fuel of War starts out inside of a helicopter. The story is told from the prospective of an embedded reporter who is covering the oil crisis, and the war surrounding it. The United States and her allies seem to be doing well, until the opposing “Red Star” forces launch a war out of nowhere. Your helicopter crashes after being shot down by the united power of China and Russia and all of the sudden you are on the front lines of this war about fuel. Excited yet? That was just the first minute of the game.
Instead of modeling after a Call of Duty controller format, the developers for Frontlines chose to use a scheme more akin to Halo 3; sort of As you hit the ground in your first mission all of the sudden you are going to realize that you have no idea how to do anything. Without any sort of tutorial level you are flung into a war. Although many people gripe at the inclusion of the tutorial levels, Frontlines actually needs one. You’re going to run around for five minutes trying to figure out how to move, shoot, strafe, reload, crouch, lay down, switch guns, throw grenades, etc, etc. Once I figured out how to do all the aforementioned commands I just sort of sat there and said to myself, “What were these guys thinking? This is so uncomfortable.” I got over it.
Once you come to terms with the choice of controls you find yourself in a half-way decent game. It is obviously a rip-off of the Battlefield system, but imitation is the most sincere form of flattery! You’re set inside a massive map and have several objectives to complete at once. They may simply be to clear an area, or might be to take over a certain computer. You might just need to blow something up to satisfy your superiors. As you hop from one part of the map to the other more things will open up, allowing you to take control of the map. The objectives do not always go together with the overall theme of the mission, but it gets the job done. Some of those odd objectives end up being some of the most enjoyable parts of the game.
The story as mentioned before is told from the perspective of a reporter, although you never play as him. The cutscenes between levels show a big of in-game cinematic before or after a certain mission, along with a dialogue from the journalist…almost as if he is writing from a journal. It is definitely a different take on telling the story, and credit must be given for the creativity used in Frontlines. The presence of the reporter also adds for some tension between some of the soldiers, as no unit in the army really wants a reporter embedded with them.
While you listen to the dialogue you’ll notice that for a lower-quality title, the voice acting is fairly good. It is quite obvious that the assigned actors took the time to put some passion into what they were saying. As the reporter tells his story, it lights a fire under you to get the job done and get it done right! At home the cities are riotous, and you’re out there trying to fix that problem. After the reporter is done, you really want to keep going to finish the next level. The soldiers’ voice acting is a mixed bag of excellent all the way down to poor. This obvious variation in quality makes itself painfully obvious at times, and leaves you wanting much more, and the music is gives you the same desire. Whatever happened to the epic pieces of music that accompanied a video game? As development costs get higher, I suppose they just let the sound slip. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t special.
Despite what you might think about such a game, there still is a fairly consistent presence in the online multiplayer for Frontlines. All of the modes leave two opposing forces fighting for control of the entire map. As you take out objectives, you “own” more of the map. It is an enjoyable experience that requires speed, stealth, and a firm grip on the vehicle controls. There are enough armored vehicles, helicopters, and tanks to support each side. Even after being destroyed, they respawn after a time. It would be safe to assume that closer to the launch there were more people playing online, but there is still plenty enough to fill up a map for a shootout.
Frontlines takes a less serious approach to the character models. The graphical style looks good, but they obviously were not going for something that looks realistic such as Call of Duty 4. It carves out its style and it is consistent with it throughout the sound, writing, and graphics. The enemy soldiers all wearing green is a bit odd, but it does make killing them all incredibly simple. You do not confuse them with anything else. It was a strange design choice, but maybe they didn’t even think about it? Although obviously taking several cues from the likes of Battlefield, Frontlines manages to come unto its own in the terms of how it looks.
There is one obvious problem with the game that rears its ugly head once in awhile. Quite simply, it’s the lack of polish. At times it feels like the frame rate dips, leaving you with lagging graphics while fending off multiple ranks, rockets, and helicopters. Sometimes, as I’m really enjoying the game, there is an amount of hesitation on my part to even mention the fact that I did get my body stuck in a wall at the end of a level, and I ended up dieing and restarting at the beginning.
But don’t let that scare you. If you want a decent little FPS experience, you can deal with a lack of polish in a few areas. People tend to be afraid to try out a first person shooter that is not a AAA title and they end up missing out on quality, and I am afraid they’ll do the very same thing with Frontlines. Frontlines: Fuel of War deserves to be in the catalog of anyone who enjoys the shooter genre.
The game does not pretend to be realistic. It looks nice, and that’s all that really matters.
The controls are uncomfortable at first, and they basically cloned the Battlefield Series style of gameplay.
It’s great and absolutely horrible all at the same time. You do want to keep listening though, instead of turning it off.
Campaign was about 9-12 hours. There are a lot of multiplayer modes that not many play anymore.
It is definitely a fun little first person shooter to keep you occupied durring the downtime between AAA titles.