Painting a bleak, depressing but very believable vision of the future, Frontlines: Fuel of War takes place during the oil crisis of 2009. With limited resources, industries and governments start to crumble. With soaring petrol prices and economies faltering across the globe it isn't long before total anarchy prevails. United by these events, Russia and China join forces like Voltron to create a Communist super power. Before long World War III between East vs. West is underway.
In traditional American style, instead of developing new energy supplies or technology, they send in men with guns. All in the strategy to gain control of small pockets of oil that still reside in the middle of nowhere.
At this stage you may be wondering why they don't get out their nukes and play a radioactive game of Badminton with each other. However, as explained in the introduction, long distance warfare has become redundant with technology. Both sides possess advanced satellite-based defence systems that can neutralise any airborne attack from afar. This stalemate can only be solved by good old fashioned close combat, which is where you step in. You are part of a frontline squad of soldiers and must secure areas, deploy scouts and retrieve valuable data in order to win the war.
The game is set in a timeline that is very close to home. The oil supplies are running low in 2009, and by 2012, the world is in the middle of Armageddon. This slight leap forward in time has brought with it new technologies to the battlefield. Frontlines features hi-tech drones that you can control to spy on or detonate nearby enemies and new visual aids allow you to pin-point targets from afar.
Looking at the visuals and from the storyline, many will assume this game is yet another shooter in the ever-expanding genre. From a distance this game appears to be a mix between Call of Duty, Battlefield and Gears of War. But despite its low-key marketing and extremely unappealing title, Frontlines is still one of the most enjoyable first-person shooter games around currently.
The action is quick and intense without the frustration levels that the other aforementioned games contain. For starters you can run for as long as you want without the need to have a quick sit down and rest. Perhaps not as realistic as Battlefield but a motherload more enjoyable gameplay wise. It means you can cover longer distances to get to the action and also lets you explore the maps faster. Shooting enemies has become fun again too thanks to the ragdoll physics and quick reloading times of most weapons. Finally and almost most importantly, ammo supplies are plentiful. No more running around with a pistol that only has one bullet in it which you were saving for yourself for when you needed a rest anyway.
Graphically, the whole game could be summarised by the colour brown. If there was an award for the most one colour-paletted game then Frontlines would win it hands down. But this isn't an insult to the game. With the missions mainly set in desert-like locales, the colours are certainly appropriate. Even with the similar shades, the textures and models of everything in the game are still extremely detailed.
The maps also deserve a mention for their impressive size and versatility to suit all methods of play. There are pleny of rooftops for snipers, narrow alleyways to duck down and explosive hazards scattered everywhere. Most maps offer wide open areas and interiors to explore as well.
The controls will be familiar to any first-person shooter fan. Grenades can be thrown with the left trigger and clicking down on the left stick allows you to duck or go prone. Reloading and running are bound to the shoulder buttons which leaves the main interface buttons for weapon select, using items, melee attack and jumping. Throughout the game you will also get to hop into vehicles like helicopters or tanks and the controls work equally well here.
Multiplayer wise, Frontlines resembles EA's Battlefield's formula. Before entering a map and each time you die, you select your choice of weaponry or class. They range from Assault, Heavy Assault, Sniper, Anti-Vehicle, Special Operations, Close Combat or Pastry Chef. Okay, we made this last one up. But from these six types you have a variety of pros and cons that must be combined for a team to be truly effective. For example, Heavy Assault players are slower and may need vehicle drop-offs, while Anti-Vehicle types will need backup for close-quarter combat. On top of this, the multiplayer mode gives you four seperate roles to select from including Ground Support, EMP Tech, Drone Tech and Air Support. Each one comes complete with a different array of technology at their disposal which will come in handy when capturing checkpoints and gaining an advantage over the other team.
Frontlines: Fuel or War could be one of the most under-rated games of the year. THQ don't have the kind of advertising moola of EA or Activision but this game stands up well against their franchises on many levels. Although it lacks the finesse of Call of Duty 4, it excels in fast-paced action that any Battlefield fan will enjoy. Single-player wise, most gamers will get around eight hours of play but expect at least a dozen more in multiplayer.