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Frontlines: Fuel of War

Every time we fill our gas tanks, we wonder how it could get any worse. Frontlines: Fuel of War imagines just how bad it can be. In the year 2024, the rapidly dwindling oil supply has led to the beginning of World War III. On one side are the United States and the European Union. The villains are the Red Star Alliance, comprised of China and Russia. With the remaining oil wells drying up, what better way is there to help solve things than by launching a full-scale war comprised of gas-guzzling tanks, hummers, helicopters and fighter jets? I guess the world leaders weren’t really thinking that through.

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The premise may be somewhat illogical, but the large-scale combat is sound. Kaos Studios, which consists of the people that made the excellent Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942, have taken many of the good things from that game and brought it into the current generation. The multiplayer mode, which can hold up to 50 people at once, makes for some heated bouts that can sometimes compare to the best that the Xbox 360 has to offer. Still, the overall package leaves much to be desired, and that doesn’t just include the lackluster single player campaign.

“These are essentially lethal remote control cars and helicopters that can be detonated”There are some slight twists to the Desert Combat formula that was perfected six years ago. On massive maps, soldiers fight it out with jets, tanks, hummers and helicopters, which most players greedily horde so badly that they ignore the happenings on the map. The team that captures all the spawn points or has the least deaths once the time limit is up wins. This should all be familiar to anyone that has played any variation of the Battlefield series. The main difference in the core premise is the use of front lines. Capturing a parallel set of points (usually two or three at a time) displays the next set of points on the map and makes them conquerable. This means there isn’t much of a reason to be behind enemy lines and forces all the players to fight over a couple points at a time. This actually works well since it prevents all the players from being too spread out.

The six standard classes of soldiers to choose from (heavy assault, sniper, anti-vehicle and so on) are overly familiar, but the different roles that can be assigned to each class are the fun part. These serve as secondary weapons and skills. If points are captured and enemies are killed, then these skills are upgraded. The most enjoyable one is the drone tech. These are essentially lethal remote control cars and helicopters that can be detonated and eventually fire deadly rockets or unleash barrage of machine gun fire. Hunting down hapless soldiers is a great time, although it can be frustrating to die from something that looks like a toy. Another awesome role is the air support, which rains down a splendid array of explosives on wherever is targeted.

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It’s impossible to say that playing this over Live can’t be a good time, but a nagging feeling of déjà vu hinders Frontlines: Fuel of War. There just isn’t much new or exciting that we haven’t seen over the past half-decade. With only one standard mode that has been done time and time again, coupled with the lack of split-screen, Frontlines: Fuel of War is underwhelming. Speaking with the headset is also awkward, with the listeners being limited to whoever is in your unit. At any time, a unit can be created and several players can be invited. Orders can be given by the leader, although this feature is underutilized. One good thing is that it does filter out the pre-teen racists that seem to populate most voice chats on Live. It’s a shame that the multiplayer never feels fully developed because the online battles are appropriately massive and epic. Jets dropping missiles on a group of tanks is a sight to behold due to sharp graphics and impressive pyrotechnics. There’s just little meat beneath all this.

“It was a stunning moment that stood out in the otherwise forgettable six or so hours it took to fully complete the missions.”Despite its flaws, the multiplayer is the best aspect of Frontlines: Fuel of War since the single-player campaign is so ho-hum. The cutscenes follow an imbedded reporter covering the super-manly Stray Dogs division as they fight from Kazakhstan into the heart of Russia. These scenes, which bookend each of the seven levels, do a great job of fleshing out the dystopia, and supplemental information in the extras section further expands the narrative. Hearing about this detailed struggle is great, but playing through it is another story.

The campaign does a great job of mixing up various gameplay elements, such as tank battles, city firefights and traditional corridor-crawling shooting. This doesn’t make up some of the annoying aspects. First, fellow soldiers are absolutely useless. Their accuracy and aggressiveness is embarrassing. This stands in contrast with the enemy soldiers, who have eagle eyes and impeccable accuracy. They aren’t particularly intelligent, but even when there are groups of allied soldiers around, you’re pretty much on your own. The sole thing to make an impression through this brief tour of duty was a memorable tank battle. Throughout this stage, nukes are dropped and create a terrifying effect on the environment. It was a stunning moment that stood out in the otherwise forgettable six or so hours it took to fully complete the missions.

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The idea of a world with a severe oil shortage is a terrifying notion that hits close to home, but the game surrounding that idea is much less engaging. If some occasionally fun Xbox Live multiplayer action is all you need, then Frontlines: Fuel of War is worth some time, although its lack of modes, options and originality are disappointing. The single player campaign is merely an afterthought in what is yet another average game.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

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