Urban combat is by many considered to be the most difficult kind. There are so many things that they happen at any point in time, which means the squads that are set to such a scenario will have to be highly trained and led by a good commander. In Full Spectrum Warrior you play as that commander, shifting between a few small teams in an effort to hopefully solve your objective without any unnecessary casualties.
Right from the conceptual stages Full Spectrum Warrior was meant to be the definitive modern urban combat game, and in some ways it really is. This game, which is licensed by the US Army, can in some ways be compared with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, only it’s mainly in third person and it takes place over the course of 24 hours in some Middle-eastern city. You start the game by playing a fairly comprehensive training, where you learn pretty much everything that the game has to offer. By the end of it you’ll know how to handle quite a few situations, but you can be sure that when you ship out there’ll be some surprises on the way.
When you do ship out you’re briefly introduced to the members of your two primary squads – alpha and beta. Each of these have their own personalities, and may blurp out various comments during a mission, but rest assured they’ll all react as responsively as you’d expect them to. You only control one squad at the time, and using the digital pad you select one of the four members. Each of these is specialized in a certain area, such as grenades, rifles, heavy machine guns, and last you have the team leader. When moving the analog stick you actually move a small set of yellow dots around the battlefield. These are highly context sensitive, so if you set it by the edge of a wall the member you’ve selected will take the corner and the rest will stay behind. If you move the pointer to the side of a car the team leader (typically) will order the rest of the team to move there, and within about a second they’ll be on their way, and once they get there they’ll form the optimal formation. Remaining in cover is essential in Full Spectrum Warrior, but even though you may hide behind quite a few things some of them may also be blown to bits by explosives or prolonged gunfire. Thinking and moving quickly will help you a lot, but you also often have to command two or even three squads to solve a situation. Sometimes the alpha squad may be pinned down in a situation where both your team and the enemy are behind cover. This is in a way what you could call a stalemate. You could in some cases toss a grenade or something similar, but in many cases it’s best to swap control to the beta squad, which is done by the press of a button. Beta team then usually sneaks behind the enemy to finish him off. A Charlie team is sometimes introduced as well, so if Beta is stuck fighting someone else then it too be of assistance.
From a technical perspective there are just so many things that could go bad with a game like this. To make it believable you really need a dynamic gameplay and an AI that’s believable. Full Spectrum Warrior has this. When swapping between two or three squads it’s obvious that the camera also needs to work properly, meaning it should never get annoying. Even though you do have almost full control of the camera it does do some decent transitions on its own as well, so you normally won’t have to spend crucial seconds adjusting it just right.
So how does combat work? That’s a question that could be answered over a considerable amount of text, but I’ll try to summarize. Let’s say Alpha is behind cover and sees two bandits ahead, one hiding behind a car and the other just loafing around. They haven’t spotted you yet, so you have a few options. Using the digital pad you can swap between team members as you please, so let’s say we want to have our grenade guy launch one right into the car that enemy number one is hiding behind. By holding the attack button you bring up a grenade trajectory, but it also lets you choose alternative attacks, such as a grenade launcher, smoke grenade, and so on. We want our grenade guy to launch one, but before he starts we can swap over to our big heavy machine gun guy and have him direct his fire towards the second enemy. By holding the right trigger you can see what’s called the fog of war, which in short lets you see where your squad isn’t looking. This is useful because it tells you where the enemy could attack you from and your chances of survival would be lessened. Using some fairly easy key combinations we can have the rifle guy and the team leader look for attackers coming from behind, and then you launch Armageddon against the unsuspecting bandits. To me this is a lot more fun than Ghost Recon, but your taste may of course vary.
Throughout the game the difficult increases steadily, requiring you to be in several places at once, but many of the puzzles if you could call them that are solved in similar ways – using one team to pin someone down and then have a secondary team sneak around. The enemy doesn’t just consist of soldiers though, so prepare to deal with the occasional tank. Some of your team members may also be injured, in which case you can normally carry the injured soldier to the level’s safe zone where he’ll be picked up by medics. Some missions may also require you to save injured soldiers, a situation where you have to keep a close eye out for enemy soldiers, while one member does the actual carrying.
Full Spectrum Warrior’s gameplay is quite satisfying in many ways, even though you do very similar things throughout the entire game. I suspect it may be a game you either love or hate.
In terms of graphics and presentation the game scores high in my book. It’s not technically as advanced as Chronicles of Riddick (extremely few are), but for the most part it’s quite good. The framerate is usually steady and nice, and the overall detail is as high as you’d hope. The models are well modeled, realistically textured, and the environments just as much so. Since the game takes place in a fairly limited geographical area you can’t expect incredibly diverse locations, but obvious effort has been made into diversifying the experience. You can’t walk into buildings and there aren’t any civilians running around, but with a cheat-code you’re supposedly able to unlock the simulator used in the army, where those two features among other are included.
There isn’t exactly a lot of music in the game, but the voice-overs are great and the sound effects are naturally recorded using the real-life counterparts. Weapons, vehicles and everything military sounds authentic, so there’s not a whole lot you could want in terms of audio from a game like this. I mentioned earlier that the team members have distinct personalities, and much of this is portrayed by the voice talents. It may not have as much audio content as some other excellent titles, but it clearly holds its own.
Multiplayer is also included, so if you have an XBOX Live kit you can play co-op and more with your friends. If you have the proper gear I highly recommend you give it a go.
Full Spectrum Warrior is a solid game in most ways. Some things could’ve been fleshed out more and a couple of quirks could’ve been resolved, but both offline and online this game should provide you with some quality entertainment. Be aware that this is a fairly hard game at times, but if you’re up for the challenge then be sure to look this one up in your local shop.