Few games have touched directly on the potential future of the dwindling petroleum resources in the world with some hinting at them even fewer have gotten into the potential end result what will happen when the oil wells run dry across the globe. The game I’m reviewing this time uses this in its plot line, setting the stage for a third world war between the West and East over the last reserves of black gold.
Frontlines narrative begins with a little back-story by (more or less) the protagonist of the story giving exposition and explains what has lead to this new Cold War of 2024 between the East and West. He explains that over the last 20 years global stability has weakened with depleting oil resources resulting in rising gas prices and severe blackouts in 2008, a deeply flu pandemic in 2009 and a global depression in 2012 has pushed both the Western nations (United States + Europe) and Eastern nations (Russia + China) towards war with each side forming the military alliances of the Western Coalition and Red Star Alliance respectfully (thanks fictional Obama). The current global stage (as of 2024) has the Western Coalition and the Red Star Alliance eyeing each other down over the last oil deposits that lay in and around the Caspian Sea.
The games narrative follows a reporter for the Associated Press that has been embedded with a Western Coalition unit nicknamed the Stray Dogs. His time with them is seen in-between missions during cut scenes as he interacts with soldiers of the Stray Dogs and as be gives exposition on the current state of WWIII. He seems like a pretty cool guy but unfortunately he’s the only character given more then just a basic personality (of the few characters you see) and it’s just a little above basic and sadly of the few characters you meet none of them are really that great or memorable.
The missions themselves you play I found to be pretty cool and fun with you combating Red Star forces along the Caspian Sea in countries such as Kazakhstan or Tajikistan and even into Russia herself. The storyline only really progress through the cut scenes and not through the battle itself with the battle being mainly a combat situation like a multiplayer game of Battlefield or Star Wars: Battlefront with less of story and more of a set of objectives you have to achieve such as taking a motor pool/command post, holding a position against the enemy hordes or destroying a radar station or fuel depot with a piece of well placed C4. The lack of battlefield narrative (outside of your contribution to war effort) I did find a bit disappointing but it does do the job of giving you a window in the narrative of the war.
The battlefields themselves you encounter along the game find yourself fighting in I found to be some of the best I’ve seen in a game. Like I saw with Battlefield Bad Company these battlefields are not quite liner but rather open ended more or less with you being given objectives to take or destroy and you have a variety of ways to achieve those objectives in the realm of strategies such as which way to attack a motor pool with you being able to charge the front gates, go in through the back, or bust open a hole in the side walls. Also like Battlefield Bad Company there not really aesthetically varied with a lot of dirt, rock, and grass mixed with Eastern European/Balkans villages/cities that doesn’t really come in many shades other then shades of green, gray, and brown.
While you’re introduced and shown the story of AP reporter and the Stray Dog, you won’t be playing a single character through the story but rather like Star Wars: Battlefront or the Battlefield series before Bad Company you’ll be playing as deployable troops that you can choose a class to play as on your deployment. The classes of soldier you have access to will depend on the mission and what weapons you will have access to at first. The classes as stated before will give you a certain weapon on initial deployment such as Riflemen getting a assault rifle, Scout getting a sniper rifle, Spec-Ops getting a silenced sub machine gun and Anti-Infantry getting a shotgun and rocket launcher
The game play of Frontlines is a shooter first and foremost with some interesting aspects and less than spectacular aspects thrown in. With it being a shooter you’re given access to a large arsenal of near future weaponry of assault rifles, sniper rifles, pistols, shotguns, submachine guns etc and interestingly enough both sides of the conflict get there own unique weaponry reflective of there own factions such as Western Alliance having machine guns based on the M249 and an assault rifle based on the XM8 while the Red Star Alliance gets there assault rifle based on the AK series and a machine gun based on the PK series.
You will also be able to use vehicles that you can use to achieve your goals, although they will be less then useful then the drones. Each faction like weapons and gear you can use vehicles such as tanks, IFVs, 4X4 FAV and even drivable attack helicopters that you can obtain through the missions that are either given to you or you can scavenge from the enemy. These vehicles will mostly be used by you for combat assistance or simply for radily getting from point A to point B although in the transversal department will be mainly be a pain in the ass. To be blunt the driving controls are really shitty with speed and direction controls being set to one control stick so you’ll have fight with it to change direction in you want to maintain speed and you’ll usually being forced to stop often and awkwardly if you want to navigate tight quarters making urban warfare in a vehicle really hard to master or simply even do with any sort of skill.
On top of an arsenal of guns you will also be able to use unique unmanned robotic drones to help win the day with each side getting there own special robotic weapons to serve there cause. These drones play a relativity important role in the game as in certain situations and on higher difficulty levels they can mean the difference between failure and victory. The drones come more or less in two flavors, recon and assault with a cool aspect of these drones comes in how each side gets different styles such as VTOL recon flyer for the Western Alliance or a Nolan Batmobile “tumbler” looking drone for the Red Star Alliance that can be used as a drivable bomb. If a more aggressive approach is your forte then the Red Star Alliance has a miniature rocket launching helicopter with the Western Alliance being able to deploy a mini tank complete with a Gatling cannon and grenade launcher. Unfortunately like the vehicles you can use the ground drones drivability is really really shitty and can be a real pain in the ass and next to impossible to master.
These drones are pretty cool all together that sets this game apart and adds a bunch of new dimensions that can be used to create new strategies to combat your foes such as using a aerial drone to recon the area before charging in, sending a “tumbler” bomb to tank out tanks or entrenched units or using a mini tank to even the 12-1 odd against you. Something that did bug me was that while you can find plenty of these drones to use, there often of the Red Star variety meaning that the drones I used I was rarely getting to obtain via my own side and rather scavenging from the enemy which I found weird that I was somehow able to just find and use all these high tech enemy drones.
Long Story Short: In conclusion Frontlines: Fuel of War is a bit of a mixed bag to me. It creates an interesting back story to this new cold war and world war III and it fully stocks both sides with a full arsenal of weapon, gadgets, and vehicles (I also enjoy when someone takes the time and energy to create a codex for a fictional universe). But it falls short in the narrative department with not giving us any real characters to the story that are memorable. Game play wise the game gives you some pretty fun gunplay with a nice battlefield outlay that give a wide set of tactics to your battlefield experience making the combat fun (at least on foot) but alas falls short with a lack of variety in the battlefield aesthetics and vehicles combat that will frustrate the hell out of you. All in all, it’s a mixed bag that I found pretty interesting though even for a short time.
- Outline of missions
- Lack of battlefield color variety
*All images from http://www.giantbomb.com