Vehicles also play a massive part in Frontlines, with confirmation of around 60 in the final game. Although we only got to experience a handful, you can look forward to a full complement of ground and air vehicles, including the usual staples such as jeeps and tanks, as well as attack choppers and jets. From our playtest, both the handling and attack controls felt slick and intuitive, with a refreshingly pick-up-and-play feel to the whole thing. One slight concern as far as the single-player element was concerned was whether it would provide much of a challenge. With a somewhat forgiving recharging health system, it was a simple process to repeatedly duck back whenever you took a few hits, let your health top up, and not really engage the battle as carefully as you might. And with just seven chapters, a few question marks remain over the longevity of this otherwise solid part of the game - ones which we hope to have answers to soon.
As much as THQ and Kaos appear keenest to talk up the single-player element, the general consensus among those of us present at the event outlining the game was that the multiplayer might actually be its biggest selling point - in theory, at least. 32-player support, a neat, flexible set-up system, and a broad scope over the type of role you want to take up lends it precisely the kind of appeal that made Battlefield-style games such a popular and enduring sub-genre.
In-keeping with its experience with Battlefield series, Frontlines' multiplayer is fundamentally based on a combination of playing choice and teamwork as you head for each capture point and try to stand your ground long enough. Obviously, as complete noobs we were annihilated repeatedly by the gleeful Kaos mob, but in the short time we got a hands-on it was easy to appreciate the breadth and depth of what was on offer.
Each side has a load-out, front and a role, so you have to swiftly decide whether to, for example, go for a more hands-off sniper approach, or take the fight to the enemy close up with an assault rifle - or perhaps even be the one tasked with taking down vehicles with your rocket launcher. And then there is the choice over which role you take on - ground support, for example, lets you repair things or deploy miniguns with which to shoot down attack choppers, while EMP tech leaves you invisible to the drones, and deployable sentry guns enable you to lay out your defences in such a way as to force the enemy to come in on foot only. You might prefer to take an Air Support role and utilise your cluster bombs when things are getting really hectic - it's up to you.
Role out the barrel
Whichever role or loadout you choose, you're always mindful of the disadvantages in some way - but that's where working together, laying out your defences and choosing when and where to use the plethora of ground and air vehicles (all multi-occupancy, remember) makes it a fun trial-and-error experience. In addition, we were told that you can also rank up areas of your choice during a match. Our hands-on time was sadly too brief to get a full grasp on the impact this will have on the way you play, but we'll be sure to pay close attention once a final build wings its way to us. What we did learn was that at rank three the Coalition would be able to call in a Gunship minigun and rain down a vicious hail of shots, while the Red Star mob have carpet-bombing up their sleeves. War: nasty business, unless you're playing a videogame version of it.
Meanwhile, with maps that range from a quarter of a mile to four miles in scale, and terrain diversity which goes from the Middle East right up to Moscow, Frontlines promises the kind of gameplay variety in other areas which ought to bode well. Whether you're playing on a sprawling solar farm in the middle of Kazakhstan maps or a more confined map, it should prove to be another great addition to the slew of online shooters out there. Whether it delivers on this promise...that's hard to say right now.
Technically speaking, it's a game with plenty going for it, with the kind of detailed, sprawling and convincingly realistic environments you'd expect from an Unreal Engine 3-powered title. Benefiting from a solid frame-rate, highly detailed buildings and terrain and a pleasing degree of destructibility, Frontlines doesn't disappoint in any area. Despite featuring such sprawling terrain, compromises are few and far between, with the draw distance holding up well, no glitchy v-sync issues to report, and an impressive amount of attention to detail in all departments. Whether leaping out of a jet and parachuting down, driving a tank or clearing the confines of a building, Frontlines is a game which tackles whichever facet of war is thrown at it.
With a decent single-player campaign and a hugely promising multiplayer offering, Frontlines: Fuel of War is possibly the first game of its kind to successfully combine the immediacy of a scripted, cinematic FPS with the multiplayer depth of the Battlefield series. Rather than reduce the single player experience to a bot-laden training exercise, both elements of the game appear to stand up well in their own right and we await its release in February with interest...
Frontlines: Fuel of War is due out on PC and Xbox 360 on 15th February, with a PS3 version currently scheduled for April.