The game front has been a bit slow as of late, this is the calm before the Christmas storm. It gave me the opportunity to finish off the last game on my list of second-rate shooters and that would be Frontlines: Fuel of War for the X-Box 360.
Frontlines was put together by the newly formed Kaos Studios, who were formerly called Trauma and worked on Battlefield titles like Desert Combat. This is what piqued my initial interest in this game as the Battlefield series has always been a well-respected online multiplayer franchise with its own distinct, clear-cut style.
And this indeed is what you get with Frontines: a clean shooter cut from the Battlefield cloth. I found two things working against it however. Its use of Unreal Technology didn’t separate the game from the herd on a visual level and the oversaturated genre that is the post-modern military shooter didn’t help this in this regard either.
As should be expected the story is as limp as the title. Fuel of War? That's just plain fuel. Filling up a tank is no different than any other combustion engine. You're not saying shit with that line. If that's what you went with then what titles were discarded? Gasoline of Battle? Petrol of Skirmish? Strange but it's an ironically apt title. Frontlines lacked individuality or personal style, its own soul, which is a shame because it played competently overall.
In addition to the standard arsenal of weapons Frontlines features drones, or remote controlled attack vehicles. Miniaturized versions of tanks and helicopters mixed up the gunplay and offered a new perspective of the battlefield. Less successful were the many vehicle sections that brought nothing new to the table. The best part of Frontlines was the large maps and multi-point objectives that you had to complete without a lot of direction. You were allowed to attack the problems any way you felt like and take the heat for your decisions. These levels rewarded exploration and a patient approach, which is a far better design model than pushing forward through a script in order to activate and deactivate spawn points.
If you like how Frontlines plays then it’s a good platform for your online multiplayer as well. There is a robust community and they are releasing downloadable content like extra maps. Myself, I’ll probably be crawling back to Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat.
I also downloaded Wipeout HD on the Playstation Network, a futuristic, anti-gravity racing game with an old pedigree. The slickness of its 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second is only matched by the cool techno soundtrack. The Playstation seems to be pulling ahead of the X-Box when it comes to downloadable games. This title, Ratchet & Clank’s Quest for Booty, and the episodic Siren: Blood Curse illustrate a high level of quality, a new game experience rather than a nostalgia trip. By comparison X-Box released Braid, a game with great art but essentially a Mario clone, and Duke Nukem 3D, still a really fun shooter but clearly a product of its times. LIVE is regularly touted as the superior experience but these days I mainly see that as spin.
So far 2007 was a better year for games than 2008 but it’s an unfair comparison. To that end here is a list of games and their release dates that are on the horizon. (I'll be updating and adding to this list as more information becomes available.
Dead Space – October 14
Fable 2 – October 21
Little Big Planet – October 28
Fallout 3 – October 28
Resistance 2 – November 4
Gears of War 2 – November 7
Mirror’s Edge – November 11
Call of Duty: World At War - November 11
Left 4 Dead - November 17
Okay, so now it's nine potential game purchases over the course of a month! This industry, it is recession-proof! All of these games are getting glowing previews and all of those games are coming from developers who know what they are doing. It is therefore a ridiculous amount of content that can totally reverse my personal verdict on 2008. I hope it does.