Full Spectrum Warrior ReviewCain Dornan
While many games allows us to escape from reality, others simply reinforce the realisms that surround us. One such game is Pandemic Studios Full Spectrum Warrior; a game that, as many of us are aware, was initially under development to be used by the US Military to train their soldiers. Simply the knowledge of this should spark interest amongst tactical war game fans, and thankfully, its for a good reason.
Full Spectrum Warrior is essentially based on the strategic elements of urban warfare that is completed with a generous serving of varied action. Requiring you to direct two groups of US soldiers, your aim is to carry out a series of missions that will have you performing everything from defensive rescue missions through to shattering assault charges against hordes of crazed enemies.
Originally released on the Xbox last year, an equally impressive version made its way onto the PC soon after. Although there were no considerable differences between these two versions, a number of visual sacrifices have been performed to allow Full Spectrum Warrior to run smoothly on the aging Playstation 2 hardware. As such, the framerate occasionally drops during intense battles, with the general detail and clarity of objects, humans and environments being considerably less than what the Xbox and PC counterparts offered. It is worth noting, however, that the downgrade in graphics in no way affects the brilliant, unique and satisfying gaming experience. The Playstation 2 version of Full Spectrum Warrior continues to provide the same single player campaign experience found in the previous versions, including a few additional chapters that help extend the rather short-lived experience that was found in both the PC and Xbox versions.
With such a daunting array of tactical situations, developer Pandemic Studios has opted to include an extensive training mode that teaches everything from the bare basics in movement through to advanced squad controlling. Although this mode takes quite a while to complete, it is certainly worthwhile to gain knowledge of how to correctly issue commands and perform the huge range of actions that are on offer. As you never directly pull the trigger of a weapon, it is paramount that you are aware of how to quickly and effectively issue firing orders to your squadron.
Each individual soldier performs different roles within the group, and as such, is equipped with the appropriate equipment. The rifleman, for example, offers a fast firing, effective machine gun, whilst your M203 gunner soldier is especially equipped for dispatching a group of enemies with a single explosive round. The whole training experience has been presented in an authentic military fashion, complete with the harsh generals screaming down at you whenever any incorrect results occur.
Since Full Spectrum Warrior is somewhat of a realistic representation of military tactics, the game is filled with various occurrences that differ depending upon the terrain and surrounding objects, however, the same basic operations occur in almost every level. This involves your squads encountering enemies, which are often taking cover behind a vehicle, box, wall or within a building, and as such requires you to tactically perform a series of operations in order to eradicate the threat. This often warrants the need for you to carefully move your squad to a new position to dispatch the enemy, whilst keeping under cover from the possibility of additional enemies attacking. As a result, Full Spectrum Warrior is a game perfectly suited for those who enjoy taking their time, slowly moving through urban environments to tactically neutralize opposing threats. Those who have little patience and prefer to simply run through environments with their weapons blazing will be hard pressed to enjoy the slow, yet steady gameplay that is on offer, as you are guaranteed to have your squadron gunned down within seconds.
Full Spectrum Warrior controls reasonably well, although occasionally a little frustratingly slow. As you are required to specifically move a cursor to the exact location of where you want your squad to move to, it can often become a frustratingly slow and tedious task. For an example, an enemy can be given the joy of easily mowing down your squad whilst you are busy trying to aim a firing cursor onto the opponent or attempting to issue an order to move to a safer location. As a result, there will be occasions when a controller will be thrown to the ground in pure frustration due to the slow control mechanics.
The AI intelligence of your squad is quite impressive. Although you are required to issue all key orders, your soldiers are capable of performing simple tasks themselves. When under fire in an open position, for example, your soldiers will go prone and begin to return fire. However, they will not strategically move to a safer location, requiring you to issue such an order.
Unfortunately, the enemy AI is not quite as intelligent. While they will occasionally retreat to a safer location when under attack, they rarely perform any intelligent actions. Lobbing a grenade directly in front of an enemy, for an example, will result in him simply yelling and standing there, rarely making an attempt to avoid the inevitable explosion.
An interesting addition to Full Spectrum Warrior is the fully-fledged co-operative multiplayer mode. This mode allows two players, each controlling a single squadron, to battle through the missions that are available in the single player experience. Since the game is centrally based on strategic elements, it is crucial that both players effectively communicate and work together.
While the environments are occasionally rather bland, the objects that litter the locales and character models look superb. Characters, in particular your own soldiers, move in an incredibly realistic fashion, running, crouching and leaning in a believable way. The kickback whilst firing a weapon has also been realistically replicated, further adding to the believable authenticity. The overall detail to the soldiers gear and weaponry is also impressive.
Unfortunately, the environment detail isnt quite as impressive as the character detail. Although some locations offer solid detail, a large majority of them are blurry and bland.
The audio presentation is definitely satisfying, offering a large range of believable sound effects and unique, effective voice acting. Each individual soldier within both of your squads has completely unique voices that are filled with personality that shines during heavy firefights when humorous one-linears and plenty of appropriate swearing is heard. A large range of enemy voiceovers is also in place, further strengthening the realistic atmosphere. The sound effects of gunfire, explosions and footsteps have also been spectacularly recreated, adding to the believable visual aspects of the game.
This generation has yielded a considerable number of war-based shooters, with a large majority of these offering little innovation or differences to most other shooters. Full Spectrum Warrior is unlike this, as it takes the genre in a completely new direction. Quite simply, there is no game like it, and its certainly a welcomed variation to the Playstation 2. Although some slight niggling problems with the controls and downgraded graphics are evident, Full Spectrum Warrior shines in virtually every other component. Pandemic Studios has developed a stunning game that is worthy of a purchase for any patient war fan.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.