War: It's good for video games (2 of 2)

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In January, I had a chance to check out the Frontlines single player demo. It gave a nice cinematic intro, and a brief “the story so far…” moment. Today, I finally took the time to try the multiplayer demo which has made its way onto the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Frontlines, again, has an amazing story concept, and very good combat execution. Allow me to share with you what I posted on Unscripted360’s forums back in January. The following, about the Single Player demo, was my micro review of the game.


I think the game is going to be pretty damn good. Then again, the Demo for Blacksite: Area 51 made me drop $50 on that the week it came out, and I sold that four days later!

Still, the graphics are impressive, the story line is eerily plausible, and the idea that the game is acted out by the player as a soldier, but told from the point of view of an Associated Press writer is pretty freakin’ brilliant (English major geekyness coming out!).

I love Squad Based combat games, where you don’t really have to rely on the squad or direct them. Much like Halo. You get the feeling of a large battle, lots of people fighting along side you, but you don’t have to worry about giving them orders like in GRAW or Rainbow Six. Area 51 was similar, where you could give a few orders here and there, but a lot of it, the AI handled themselves. I like that.

The graphics are certainly “this gen” – not much has been spared here, save for a bit of dynamic lighting, which might be nice… then again the level is broad daylight in a desert-city, so maybe ‘night-time’ missions will be a bit more impressive.

All in all, I’m fairly excited about what I’ve seen so far, and will certainly consider picking it up!

After reading a few people’s comments, I think I can counter a bit of it. The game does indeed feel a little slow, but some of us are used to Halo, where we’re playing a super soldier. This is still supposed to be contemporary combat – think of the “America’s Army” games. I thought that demo had even slower player movement than this.

Similarly, with the ‘sluggish’ tank controls… I’ve never driven a tank, but I don’t see them changing much in the next fifteen years. I don’t think a tank is intended to speed along the way they can in other games (again, Halo?). It takes a few seconds to get it going from one direction to another… but if you hold down that ‘sprint’ button (RB, by default), like you’re running, it gets a bit of a boost. I did have some awkward troubles with it only wanting to turn one direction, even after I pressed the opposite, but I figured I just had to learn the controls a little better.

Also, as far as the AI goes, I’d like to see a bit more of it. Just because it’s not ‘aggressive’ doesn’t mean it’s no good. If I were in battle and saw someone jump out in front of me, I might instinctively turn and run, too. I had a few instances of it running from me while I was in the open, and a few instances where I was getting tagged, and I couldn’t tell from where!

Now, onto the more recent multiplayer demo.

Frontlines: Fuel of War’s multiplayer demo menus are clear and easy to navigate, but the lack of a clear lobby is very confusing. I was suddenly presented with a battlefield. No clear description of the map, or level – just “do you want to join this game?” I pressed a to join the game. I then chose a class (a weapons loadout), and deployed. Deploying seemed to take an inordinate ammount of time, considering the match was already udner way. In some instances I pressed the deploy button several times, only to go back to the loadout screen! Then I saw a smoke signal and headed right for my first objective.

Upon arrival I expected instructions for capturing the site, or at least a timer, showing that if I stayed in a certain area long enough, it would capture the zone… but nothing. I get the capture point, get killed, then stay dead for a few minutes, until it’s the end of the match and I’m back at the main menu.

Upon joining another match, my lag is so bad that pressing the dpeloy button multiple times, again, does nothing. I change teams, then deploy, and it works – but every step I take sends me backwards ten.

Finally I connect to a relatively lag free server. The smoke points actually were capture points, and there are other communication stations you capture by standing infront of a computer and holding the X button. It sure seems like a dangerous thing, especially with the lack of communication I was experiencing from my team, but it worked out pretty well in the end.

The fun part comes as the “front line” of the war changes. When the game starts, the map is dividied in half, with capture points in the middle. The team that captures those expands their control of the map, and more capture points, deeper in the losing team’s territory, are assigned. You are fighting for the front line, that is all. It does no good to run to a capture point that is not active and unguarded. It was a very smart use design that allows them to use these large scale maps, but localize the battle, rather than having it spread all over.

Match lengths can be anywhere from five minutes to an hour. Seems a bit overkill – let’s hope somebody simply WINS in that ammount of time… I’m not the kind of patient person that wants to play an hour at a time, on one map… I suppose with the right company, it could be fun, but I would need to understand if and how they have implimented a party system a little better, when the full version comes out.

As a sort of bonus, the multiplayer demo also includes more of the “story so far” in a Field Guide. You can learn more about the nations involved in the war, weapons, vehicles, loadouts, and role equipment. My favorite little feature is the War Timeline. A quick read of that shows just how much thought went into this universe. While I may have found a few typos and inconsistencies in what was written there (English major geekyness strikes again!), I assume it will be fixed when the game launches, and I believe it is that story that is going to sell to a sometimes forgotten niche market, those who love storylines in their shooters!

All in all, I enjoyed the demos, but I honestly expect that I will be picking this game up shortly after launch, if not at launch. But I have to admit, I think it’s mostly because of the single player storyline!

One thought on “War: It's good for video games (2 of 2)

  1. Good review, I wish I could have got the Single Player Demo now, totally missed on that. I’m loving the MP demo and like squad/team based game play too. I need to work on the joining squad feature next time I play, it has chat in that area with your team. Not sure if I can buy it at release, but hope to soon after. Signed up for a contest to try an win it at least too.