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Full Spectrum Warrior

01 Jun 2005

Full Spectrum Warrior delivers a brilliant and enthralling masterpiece of modern conflict on to your Playstation 2.  In a style seldom seen before, you will feel at times like you are actually fully embroiled in a full scale Middle Eastern conflict. 

In fact, I have found myself of late walking around corners a little more carefully.  At work the other day I dived on a colleague to save them from a grenade that turned out to be a rolled up piece of paper.  All said Full Spectrum Warrior is not a game for the faint of heart.  It perfects the art of small squad combat in urban surrounds and really makes you feel a part of the battles.

Originally the game was to be used by the US military for training purposes, but in today’s dangerous environment, they must have thought it better to broaden their training market and get the public geared up and ready.  The game itself sees you controlling two squads comprising of four US soldiers in the semi fictitious country of Zekistan.  You engage an insurgent enemy in a variety of urban settings using both squads to try and outflank your targets.  Charging down the middle of a road screaming and shooting won’t help you here.  The game relies on tactical nous and taking cover where available.  In fact, despite looking like an all out action shooter, the game is nestled tightly in between First Person shooter and real time strategy.

You control the actions of Alpha and Bravo teams using a simple selection of buttons.  In fact despite looking like a complicated game when you first take charge, it takes very little time to master the basic control functions.  Had I been more sensible however I would have taken full advantage of the training missions which are a comprehensive 45 minutes in length. Sadly for my men however I didn’t, and they duly suffered for about half an hour before I fully figured out what was happening.  The team moves in unison with a simple cursor that can be dragged around the screen.  A display in the bottom right corner will tell you whether or not they are in cover, essential to staying alive.

One great point about the game is that you get to know each of the eight characters in relatively large detail.  They all have their own defined, stereotypical personality that allows you to feel a great deal of empathy for them.  In one case, I held my men back for hours in the safety of a large building so as not to put them in harms way.  I was damned if I was going to be responsible for a father of two meeting a bullet ridden end in a dirty Zekistany market place.  Conversely however I did find myself “sacrificing” one or two squads after a little too much back chat and wise cracking.  Just to teach them a lesson.

The AI enemies respond fairly realistically, although they can appear to be completely vulnerable to a brilliantly executed pincer movement only to be saved by a small stack of boxes that inexplicably provides full cover.  In saying that, if you are tactical enough, you will always find a way around it and prevail.  Perhaps after watching thirty replays anyway.  The cover system is paramount to the success of your teams.  Without cover they will not survive long, but you eventually realise that, the cover offered determines the path of the mission all too often,  with a lot of the scenarios you encounter, there really is only one way to go about them successfully.  And that greatly reduces the game’s enduring enjoyability.  It’s probably not the sort of game you would revisit very often.

Full Spectrum Warrior is a game well worth playing, especially if you have a decent home entertainment system that can do justice to the games incredible atmospheric qualities.  The unique game play and attention to detail make it a game that stands out from others in the crowded bustle of the war game industry.  For that reason alone it’s worth a look.  It is let down somewhat by its lack of expansive game play and reliance on a very linear approach to each level, but you get the feeling it is something that will be expanded on in any later additions.