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Full Spectrum Warrior

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ


PS2 Review – 'Full Spectrum Warrior'

by Hank on April 29, 2005 @ 1:18 a.m. PDT

Genre : Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Release Date: March 22, 2005

Buy 'FULL SPECTRUM WARRIOR': Xbox | PC | PlayStation 2

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect from Full Spectrum Warrior. A gaming title that was developed specifically as a training aid for the U.S. Army? That classification can certainly cut both ways.

To my surprise, I instantly fell in love with it. I've always enjoyed tactical war games, especially ones with co-op ability, and FSW certainly fits the bill.

As the story goes, the U.S. Army is trying to help out a Middle Eastern country with its three-block war. There have been occurrences of genocide, along with several other threats that have warranted a need for a military unit to help the current civilians to acquire humanitarian rights. As you head into town, everything goes wrong (of course): you lose a supply truck and are required to help the injured. The Army does not tolerate any loss of life, so from there, you are required to complete several tasks, equipped with your trusty GPS unit, radio, m203s, m67s, smoke grenades, and an ability to call in air strikes or barrages in certain missions. With these items, you slowly progress from objective point to objective point, triggering events as you go along.

Fighting terrorists has never been so tactical and fun at the same time. In SOCOM II, you only control one group of Navy Seals, but the tactics aren't as nicely done as they are with FSW. In SOCOM II, you could take out the entire terrorist threat yourself, which was a frequent occurrence when your team members did not follow orders. In FSW, you don't control anyone in the group; instead, you are the commander of the entire team. Like SOCOM II, you are in charge of four players. You order the team to go to certain locations, tell them where to fire, where to throw smoke, and much more, but you never take control of the aim.

The game mechanics are simple: move slowly, observe your surrounds, and ALWAYS use cover. ALWAYS! If you don't, starting at your previous save point would be a frequent occurrence. When you are playing on the easier modes, save points (or sitereps) are plentiful, allowing you to save after almost every major section. If you unlock the hardest mode, however, that is a very different story. You have next to no save points, and several things have been changed around to make the game more difficult. On such a difficulty level, it's way too easy to die, you get fewer secondary supplies, the enemy seems to be a lot more accurate than before, and lastly, your team members die a lot faster if they aren't tended to. When a man goes down in the easier mode, he can take the pain and suffering for the duration of a good firefight, while on the hardest mode, if you don't get to them and tend to their wounds in 30 seconds flat, it's an instant game over. With the smaller supply of save points, you must restart from the first portion of the mission, which is always a pain.

The pain might have been lessened if two features had been implemented: the ability to skip intro movie scenes (especially ones we've already seen) and being resupplied with smoke grenades in addition to ammunition. Although I've never relied on them before, smoke grenades can mean life or death in FSW. The smoke actually prevents the terrorists from attacking, which allows you and your team to move on. While this may not be completely realistic, it surely makes smoke grenades a valuable asset.

What is more valuable are actually the casevacs, which are points where you can heal your injured player and reload your ammo. These places are also usually safe havens so you will not be randomly shot at when reloading (although, as I've said, I do not quite understand why it does not reload grenades, m203s, or smoke grenades at the same point). Other areas which I can see needing work are the camera view and movement, which are essentially interweaved with each other. Not being able to see too much further ahead or exactly where you want to set up is kind of bothersome, and the reaction time that is required for the group to move is way too long. You've heard the saying that every second counts, and while in war, it means the difference between life and death, the urgency just doesn't seem to be there.

The only time we really see urgency from the team is when we are fired upon or have grenades heading our way. This usually happens during missions, and with a total of 11 missions and three extra missions, you will experience the cursing, screaming and yapping your alpha and bravo teams do. Sometimes it's actually quite funny to listen to, but most the time, it's just important to listen to Charlie-32, who gives information on your objective and how we may try to achieve it.

The missions almost always have some secrets behind them. For example, in mission one, there are enemies hiding behind boxes, but there are two routes you can take. If you have one team be the decoy and the other team flank, killing the enemies can be as easy as counting from one to three. As you pass more missions, they get progressively harder and require more tactics and teamwork. When my friend and I were playing the 11th mission with an injured character, we had to play so cautiously and watch every angle because we did not have the upper hand, and when you don't have the upper hand, you can get spanked like there's no tomorrow, especially when the AI has snipers. It's great fun when your team has snipers because you can hit almost anyone, anywhere, and anytime, but it's a real comedown when you've got a big, red bull's eye painted on your back.

Without snipers of your own, you would need to move extremely cautiously, observing the AI's snipers and assessing the situation from there. With the sometimes-poor camera angles, this can get quite tedious because you can't see around a corner, or a nice little wall is in the way.

The aspect that needs the most improvement, however, is the microphone support. It was quite nice of the developers to implement the mic because without it, FSW would not be a good tactical game, but they should have really tried out the mic for themselves. I can't even hear myself, let alone my teammate, on the headset. If I yelled at the top of my lungs, it would just sound like a little whisper to my teammate, making it difficult to really understand each other. This area definitely needs work; I would assume that team communication in the Army doesn't sound like two deaf men who are shopping for batteries for their hearing aides. If a sequel is planned, then the addition of microphone volume control would be much appreciated.

The controls of the game are fairly simple, but the four face buttons respond to two levels of pressure sensitivity. A light tap of the X button allows you to move from one location to next, while a hard push of the button does the same thing and moves you in pairs of two while focusing in a certain direction. Lightly tap the square button for cover fire in a certain direction, and press it hard to bring up the m67, smoke, airstrike, and m203 menu. Use the triangle to change teams, R2 for GPS unit, L2 for radio, R1 for fog of war (which allows you to specify which direction to cover by hitting R1 and the team member), and L1 to zoom in and assess the situation.

In the right-hand corner, you will see a HUD showing your team's formation. Based on the type of protection available, this formation will change, the best is usually the L because it allows you to look ahead while also maintaining cover.

The graphics in the game are not really spectacular, but they are definitely good enough for a war game. You may see some jagged edges here and there, but they are, for the most part, hardly noticeable. The backgrounds don't exactly break new ground, but they get the job done portraying a Middle Eastern town, providing many items that can possibly be used to provide your team with cover.

Not only are you supposed to examine your surroundings, but you must also use your ears to listen to the communication between your team leader and commander in order to learn how close the terrorists are, where gunfire maybe coming from, and lastly, just to enjoy the nice chats the teammates have with one another. I personally don't remember the music all that well, but that may be because I get too focused on what we needed to destroy next. Guns, grenades and tanks just have complete dominance over the other parts of the game.

While certain missions may require different tactics, being careful can generally bring victory to the team. These missions are actually the same online and in single player mode, so if you have a network adapter and a friend who is willing to throw in some cash for this game to play it online, I would personally prefer it over single player mode. Controlling two teams at once is very slow, but with two people online, teamwork does wonders for the missions. With its value price tag, FSW isn't a bad pickup. There are a few flaws here and there, such as poor mic support, sluggish controls, and poor camera angles, but once you get past them, the game is quite fun and definitely worth more than its value.

Score: 8.0/10

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