Pandemic
THQ
Strategy/Sim
1
06.01.04

Full Spectrum Warrior


After playing Full Spectrum Warrior at E3 2004, I had a pretty good feeling that this game was going to be a hit. One of my favorite genres is war and this game does a good job of satisfying my war requirements. This military game is like nothing you have ever played. FSW is based off something that the actual US Army uses. I must say, I am really impressed with its presentation, because the training alone made me feel like I'm ready to join the military.

If you ever seen the movie Black Hawk Down, protecting the convoy is one of the first things you'll be doing. The story is about terrorist attacks in Europe and South East Asia that are targeted against the USA and UK. The main account is that the country of Zekistan is filled with ex-taliban and Iraqi loyalists. You are after their leader, Al Afad. The game manual does a superb job in giving details about his background, as he is basically a terrorist trained by the CIA.

Gameplay

For those who don't know, Full Spectrum Warrior is based on strategy. Once you choose the difficulty level (Sergeant or Sergeant Major), the game begins. It all depends on how and where you place your 2 teams (Alpha and Bravo). The teams each consist of 4 members. You control one team at a time, and you can switch between them at any time by pressing the Y button. Sometimes you control a third team (2 man team), Charlie. You don't really have that much individual control, but there is enough "control" in this game to keep fans of Conflict: Desert Storm, Ghost Recon, Medal of Honor, and Rainbow Six 3 extremely happy. Just because this is a strategy game, it is by no means an excuse to ignore this title. This game is action packed, and you are right in the middle of it.

Each soldier has a name, and their own background. Each squad consists of a Team Leader (TL), Automatic Rifleman (AR), Grenadier (G), and a Rifleman (R). The TL has the highest ranking and gives the orders. The AR is second in command. If the TL goes down, he takes over. The Grenadier (or M203 Gunner) has a grenade launcher attached to his rifle. Finally, the Rifleman. He has the least experience, and provides aid. There are 3 types of grenades that you can target at enemies. By holding down the X button you bring up your options for them. You can throw either a frag grenade, smoke grenade, or use the M203 launcher. At this menu, you can also call in an air strike. Besides having to press down hard on the buttons, bringing up and ordering all this action can be executed pretty easily since the button layout is setup so well.

There are so many commands to issue. To give you a little taste of what you can expect, there's more than just the command to move your team to a location. You can give them another command where the first 2 team members walk up with their weapons ready to fire away (to the fire sector you choose), while the other 2 fire on that position until the first 2 are there safely.

Taking cover is pretty much the motto in FSW. The whole time during the training (MOUT), I was craving and craving for some real action. FSW pays much attention to detail. The training missions don't even use real loaded guns (safety covers on). Once the battle starts, when you take cover there will be a little icon above each person's head of your team. The shield icon lets you know if you have cover or not. Due do destructible objects, your cover may not last.

One of the features that has been missing in war games is the ability to carrying wounded soldiers. To make the action even more challenging, if one of your boys goes down, you have to carry him with you. No one get's left behind. Giving a Sit-Rep (Situation Report) is a way to save your progress. There is definitely never any problems finding save points, there may actually be too many of them. The only problem that I had with the gameplay was that sometimes the game does things for you automatically. For instance, it will break out into a cut scene and re-position your men. I wasn't used to that, but in the end it turns out for the better.

After a long battle, you can stop at the casevacs to get medical supplies and ammo. The entire team is effected when someone gets shot. For example, if your grenadier gets hit, you're not going to be able to launch grenades using the rocket launcher. Therefore, you have must pick up the fallen soldier and carry him on your back to the nearest casevac (or complete the mission that way). You will be down two gun men (the injured one, and the one carrying him), and the gameplay will require some of your own strategy.

After 2 or more team members are injured and you failed the mission, you can either load up the last save point or view the replay. You can even jump into the action from the replay. The replay's would be a lot cooler if you could get an overhead view of them, but all you see if the same view of what you did.

You always have a good idea of what direction to head in due to the blue objective marker. By pressing the black button you bring up the GPS. This shows you the map, and the objective list. Hold R to see blurry areas. The blurry areas are the "Fog of War." These are spots where your team cannot see and are vulnerable to getting hit. Moving your squad is as simple as using the left thumbstick and pressing A.

Graphics

Seen Black Hawk Down the movie? Black Hawk Down environments exist in FSW. I really had a hard time finding anything wrong with these graphics. The sky, the clouds, and the heat haze from the blistering sun, (which make these some next-gen Xbox graphics that we've all been waiting for) are truly excellent. Thousands of bullet shells fly out of your teammates weapons and then bounce all over the ground. Posters, graffiti, bullet holes, are some of the details that can be noticed on buildings throughout the city. Debris flying through the air, trees blowing in the wind, the ground shaking from RPG's, sandstorms, buildings collapsing, fires, only allow me to rave about how greatly detailed FSW is.

All of the men have different faces, and their fatigues are unique to themselves. When one of your men gets shot, the camera shows a close up of him in slow-motion getting hit. The blood spills out all over the place. Sounds awesome, doesn't it? It is. I'll say it again, I've never seen graphics this good before.

My one problem with the visuals - it's kind of weird how a soldier can die sometimes. Sometimes they will fly really high in the sky in slow motion, and that would be the only non-realistic thing that I found while playing this game.

Sound

Radio break-ups, explosions, wind, and every other war element seems to be here, and can be heard loud and clear. The music sets the mood for each level appropriately, and it really shows that they took their time with it. FSW has a really good atmosphere to it, because there's lots of chatter between the team members, and their personalities are great. Swearing and everything else goes on as if you were watching a war movie.

Replay Value

You'll probably go back and play this game a few more times, especially on Xbox Live. The co-op Xbox Live play is a great feature, but split screen co-op would have been nice too. You can also go back and play it on a harder level. As you play, you unlock bonus video footage, some of which you already saw during gameplay though.

Bottom Line:

More...more...I want more Full Spectrum Warrior! Ever since I played the 100% completed version at E3, I wanted more. Now that I have played it, I still want more. I played through the 11 missions pretty quickly it seemed. I hope THQ has a (longer) sequel in the making! Out of all the military games I have played on Xbox, this one feels the most authentic. Full Spectrum Warrior offers a new way of controlling a military squad, and it's non-stop intense action. If you don't buy this game, you're crazy.

Just because you don't press the R trigger to fire, does not mean you don't have full command of what's going on. Because you do. THQ and Pandemic came out with something huge. With their top selling MX Unleashed, and now this, THQ is in for a great year. This may not even mean that much, but Full Spectrum Warrior has the best loading screens I have ever seen in a video game. So, if you're ready to learn how to flank an enemy, and follow everything according to proper procedure and protocol, I believe it is time you stepped into the world of Full Spectrum Warrior. Hoo-ah!

Related Links:

Official Full Spectrum Warrior Website

-Steve Melanson




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