Release Date: March 2006
Ten Hammers picks up right where Full Spectrum Warrior left off, with an immersive tactical experience set in a gritty, urban environment. Not a studio to shy away from criticism, Pandemic (makers of Star Wars: Battlefront and Mercenaries) has tackled all complaints from the first title head-on, and the result of their painstaking work is an even more immersive combat experience than before. With the addition of more squads to command, armored vehicles, roof-top positions for sniping, and indoor combat, Ten Hammers looks to contend with the best online shooters out on the market today.
Set in a fictional region of the Middle East known as "Tien Hamir" or "Ten Hammers," it is a war-torn region in the midst of civil war. The Multi-National UN Coalition Forces, comprised of U.S. Light Infantry and U.S. Ranger Forces, are there to clean things up and stabilize the region. The single-player campaign is comprised of the UN Coalition's attempt to save the day over 12 grueling urban combat scenarios, and can be played solo or in cooperative mode with a friend. Exposition is given to the action by means of the press, who tirelessly follow your squad through battle. As events unfold, the reporter on hand gives a play-by-play of the action.
Publisher THQ describes Ten Hammers as "Tactical Squad-based Action." A better description would be a military-style RTS, but even that is an oversimplification. With a point-and-click interface, the command scheme is fluid and easy to pick up. If you are new to the Full Spectrum franchise, expect a concise blend of combat, squad management, and non-scripted AI (meaning opposition won't react in the same predictable manner time and time again). Critics of the first FSW expected it to be a run-and-gun first-person experience, but that was never the intent. Rather, it was designed as a military training tool first, and later fleshed out into one of the most realistic war games on the market.
The control scheme is easy and intuitive. In a point-and-click fashion, you click on a target destination, and your squad reacts accordingly. The key here is ease of use and streamlining the interface from the first FSW. Unlike similar titles, which often require a mouse and keyboard due to control complexity, Ten Hammers works just as well with a gamepad. A radar has been added to the HUD, which is now an essential tool for revealing how your squad will interact with the environment. Specifically, when you point on an object or location, this radar will show you exactly what your team will do once in position (i.e., crouch behind cover, lean around a corner for suppressing fire, etc.). Commanding your squadmates is often as simple as pointing and clicking on a target.
Like the first FSW, you command two squads (Alpha and Bravo) consisting of four soldiers each. New to Ten Hammers is addition of even more squads (now designated as Charlie and Delta). Though specific to certain missions and scenarios, you will have the opportunity to command up to four squads. For fans of the original, this addition is just a hint of the re-emphasis on strategy and tactics. You will now also be able to give orders to one squad while you directly control another, which will allow you to set up a team for flanking maneuvers while the squad you directly control sets down suppressing fire or smoke to serve as a distraction.
Another improvement over the original is the ability to enter interior environments. Not only does this add more strategy, but just imagine the possibility for Fallujah-style door-to-door combat! Squads can now be broken down into smaller groups known as "buddy" units. You can take your four-man squad and break it into two separate buddy units; the advantage here is that you can now micromanage a squad to do multiple tasks simultaneously. For instance, one buddy unit can provide covering fire while the second sets up "shop" on a rooftop. Once in position, the second buddy unit can now serve as an effective sniper team, raining down precision shots on the opposing forces. Adding to the action is the addition of Armored Humvees and Bradley Tanks. The Humvees are perfect for rapidly moving reinforcements to the point of conflict, while Bradleys are guaranteed to clean house. Thanks to the addition of interior combat, a well-placed round should take out any hiding insurgents.
As previously noted, critics of the original were none too pleased with the fact that there was no first-person mode. Ten Hammers has rectified that, but not at the expense of strategy or realism. New to the mix is an FPS-style precision shooting mode, which means you can jump into the boots of one soldier and target his fire on a limited basis. This precision-style first-person mode is especially effective when shots count the most. An example of this can be seen in the addition of the new sniper teams – simply "zoom" in on the soldier with the rifle, and get ready to go for some headshots. The precision shooting mode is especially vital when insurgents hide behind non-destructible objects and terrain, like cars or walls. Instead of wasting all of your ammunition in hopes of getting a kill, simply switch to precision firing mode, and wait for the target to pop his head out. This also applies to the armored vehicles. Just imagine this precision with the Bradley, and you have the makings for a very good sequel!
Ten Hammers looks very good on both the PS2 and Xbox, although you should expect the final version to look best on the PC (assuming higher screen resolutions and textures are supported). On the PS2, a maximum of four players will be able to play a match online, and for the Xbox and PC, up to eight players will be able to join in.
Multiplayer looks to be where Ten Hammers will truly shine. Online, you can play as a number of OpFor (Opposing Forces). Not only do you get to play the United Nations Coalition, but you can also choose among Al-Rahman Forces (Nationalist forces seeking to take over the region), Militia (local town volunteers who have chosen to break off from the rest of the crumbling government), and even the real-life Mujahideen.
Whereas most games focus on standard multiplayer modes (i.e., Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch), Ten Hammers bases each mission on objectives consistent with modern-day combat, and real-world complexity enters the equation of online play. For instance, one level pits the Mujahideen against Al-Rahman Forces. The victory condition for both sides is annihilation of the opposing force, but you could also recruit enough civilians to your side in order to storm the enemy's stronghold and take it. If their stronghold is taken, they lose their base of operations and must retreat to friendly territory, thus losing the match.
A welcome addition to the franchise is cooperative play with friends online. The ability to have another person play alongside you opens up a new dimension of squad interaction and combat maneuvers. For example, one player can field a Bradley Tank, using it as an effective roadblock. As the Bradley advances down the street, his teammates can use the tank as cover until they reach the end of the street. Couple this with the addition of multiple forces on the same battlefield (some scenarios have three opposing sides, all fighting for the same turf), and you have the recipe for some truly epic battles.
FSW: TH will be rated "M" for Mature and rivals F.E.A.R. (PC) in terms of expletives so expect to hear a lot of U.S. Rangers throwing some "colorful colloquialisms" at the opposing forces. While the mature nature of the language adds quite a lot of realism to the game, parents should be strongly aware of this before purchasing.
THQ states that the target audience is "strategy, military, and core gamers," but I believe that anyone who has an interest in modern combat will find this game to be very worthy. Whereas Ghost Recon is set in a fictional war with North Korea, FSW: TH takes place in the war-torn region we see nightly on the news. The emphasis of combat will be on teamwork and realistic scenarios. For those tired of the one-upmanship and smack talk so prevalent in titles like Battlefield 2, you will find Ten Hammers to be a breath of fresh air. In real combat, individuals must work as a team in order to win the day. Such is also true in FSW, so expect a much more civil crowd online for this title.
WorthPlaying will have more Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers as it nears release in March.
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