Full Spectrum Warrior
Blending the best elements of a third-person shooter and chess, Full Spectrum Warrior puts you in command of an army of four. Pandemic Studios has perfected the squad-based tactical shooter with this game. In it you must command two squads of four men, commanding them as you work your way through enemy territory accomplishing your goals without losing a single man. This is about as opposite as it gets from any shooter on the market.
Instead of frenetic atmosphere of constant movement, running and gunning your way through waves of idiot enemies, Full Spectrum Warrior is all about precision, tactics and cover. The game starts out by allowing you to either go straight into gameplay or take a quick training session to learn the nuances of this highly specialized game. I highly recommend the training, unless you've played Full Spectrum Warrior on a console. The commands are pretty easy to learn, the trick is knowing when to use them. In this game you don't ever aim, instead you issue commands: tell your men to cover an area, fire at hostiles in a direction, take cover, and provide cover. This is a game about commanding not about shooting.
Once you get through the training you're launched in the single player game. The game is essentially a series of missions in which you have to accomplish increasingly difficult goals without losing a man. That doesn't mean you can't be shot, it just means you can't let a man who has been shot die. If a man gets injured you can stop the blood loss, but then you have to carry your man back to a field hospital - essentially putting half of your squad out of commission. It may sound easy, taking out a handful of bad guys with two squads of four men, but your enemies aren't typical first-person shooter fodder. These bad guys think, they find cover and more cover. They move, they call for help, they run from grenades - it can be down right annoying at times.
The game's limited saves also makes getting through a mission unscathed a bit of a challenge. The game's single player mode is a blast to run through, likely even something I could run through a couple of times, but there just isn't enough there for a ton of shelf life. Worse still, the mutliplayer mode only supports coop. To play multiplayer you go online, find a partner and then work your way through the same missions you beat in single player mode. It's unfortunate that Full Spectrum Warrior doesn't include a head-to-head mode, though I don't know if that would really work with this game. I found the mutliplayer in Full Spectrum Warrior had the feel of an add-on tacked on at the last minute than a full-blown feature in the game.
The graphics of Full Spectrum Warrior are simply riveting. The game's squad animations are dead-on, creating by using mo-cap of a combat veteran who is also an active duty sergeant in the U.S. Army Rangers. You really feel like you are commanding a squad of seasoned veterans when you watch them set up cover fire or take cover. The varied environments are also rendered well, adding to the realism of the game. The same can be said for the sound effects in the game. The realistic sound of gunfire, hits and explosions really help put you in the game.
I really liked Full Spectrum Warrior. I just wish there was more of it to enjoy, and something has to be done about the multiplayer - it just wasn't enough. If ever there was a game that cried out for a sequel, Full Spectrum Warrior is it.
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In what is certain to be an instant classic, THQ has released a game which manages what few others ever do. It creates a new genre of gameplay. Full Spectrum Warrior blends real time strategy elements with a third person perspective, and a unique method of control that immerses you in the feeling of being in command of an actual unit from the US Army. This game's strength lies in its gameplay, but also saves enough energy to inject a tremendous dose of character into its participants, who comment and swear in a fashion that is incredibly convincing, realism aside.
Although the game starts out to intimidate you, the MOUT training course, which serves as a tutorial, shows you exactly how easy it is to use your teams effectively, moving between buildings, proving cover fire, and occasionally 'nading the butt of an aggressive tango. This gameplay ultimately proves to be the most singularly addicting and entertaining part of the game. Moving your squads from place to place is easy once you've learned to use the cursor, and with an icon system telling you what formation your men will use, it's usually quite easy to move to cover quickly and easily.
Flanking your opponent, suppressing him, and laying down cover fire are all handled well, and in a way more reminiscent of an actual strategy title. You order your men to open a fire sector on the opponent, rather than aiming yourself. This leads to some interesting quirks, as you won't get hit at all if you're behind cover, unless that cover is worn away, or the opponent uses a grenade or RPG. Add to this some excellent graphics, well laid out city streets (perfect for this urban warfare), and a real time fog of war that clues you in to your blind spot, and you've got a manageable, engaging bit of strategy on your plate.
My only real complaint is that the game is somewhat short. The tutorial shows you all of the gameplay available, and playing through the solo mission will take you through the same fights that you'll experience on Xbox Live. Live makes things more fun by letting each player control one of the two squads you've got in solo mode, but it's still playing through the same scenarios. Ultimately, I love this game, because is manages to take 30 seconds of fun and repeat them many, many times, but it still may be a small let down for the casual gamer. However, Full Spectrum Warrior is still a must for any hardcore gamer.
Maybe the government knows something we don't know (or maybe there's something we all know but vehemently deny), but it seems that videogames can indeed be a teaching tool to the masses. Take the history of Full Spectrum Warrior, for example. Originally funded by the U.S. Army to teach tactics to new recruits, the project soon was picked up and developed for the Xbox, and a year later, it's being brought over to the PlayStation 2, ensuring that anyone can be a modern armchair warrior.
Full Spectrum Warrior, simply defined, is like chess set on the modern battlefield. You control two special operative ground units that are right in the thick of one hellish day in a war torn (and fictional) Middle Eastern country. However, there's a pretty hefty twist to it all: while you command the units around, you don't have direct control over them. Even though there's plenty of action on the battlefield, you'll mostly just be seeing it: your duties as commander over the units doesn't place any weapons in your hands, but instead, you're relegated to issuing commands to ensure your units complete their objectives and live to see another day.
And, truth be told, it all works out just fine. Grasping the basics of Full Spectrum Warrior isn't all that hard thanks to a well done tutorial, and once you get into the mind frame for the type of gameplay FSW offers up, it all clicks to make something uniquely entertaining. Working your way around the battlefield, constantly finding cover while in the midst of an onslaught of bullets, is invigorating and the satisfaction that results from finding the tactical solution in the midst of that onslaught of bullets is immense.
The failings of FSW are somewhat debilitating, however. The camera isn't too flexible, often forcing you into situations blind (as you would in real war situation, but even so), but the big problem is the camera can make it very hard to precisely order your troops around over long distances. But the main beef with FSW is that it's too short, even in spite of an exclusive mission for the PS2. You can take it all online and work through the campaign with a friend, but even so, there's no real incentive to play through more than once.
With fantastic visuals that don't seem to have suffered all that much from the transition from the Xbox, Full Spectrum Warrior will be sure to delight tactical strategy fans looking for something different. It captures the exciting, and just as often, horrible atmosphere of war all the while being completely engrossing. If you missed out on it on the Xbox or PC, you can't go wrong with the PS2 version generously marked at just $20 bucks.