Frontlines: Fuel of War is a classic kind of rags-to-riches game. The developer, Kaos Studios, originally started as a group of modders who all had an unhealthy obsession with Battlefield 19422, creating one of the most popular and well known mods for the game, Desert Combat, under the name of Trauma Studios.
After the phenomenal success of the mod though, these amateur modders saw their own potential and started their own studio where they built their own game from the ground up. That game is Frontlines: Fuel of War, a futuristic and class-based multiplayer PC game.
And yes, that history does result in a number of comparisons to Splash Damage – the British modders behind the Return to Castle Wolfenstein mod Enemy Territory and, later, the commercially released Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.
Actually, if we’re going to be frank about it, the similarities between the two developers is uncanny and the main difference is that Kaos didn’t get the full backing and support of id Software – Kaos had to go under its own steam. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen though.
Running on empty
The setting and story for Frontlines is one of the immediate strong points for the game because of the terribly likelihood of it actually happening in RL, though Kaos has obviously taken huge creative license with it at the same time.
Basically, Frontlines is set on the backdrop of a huge resource war being fought in the year 2024. The oil is finally running out and humanity, which has never really pushed itself to look at the long-term, has no alternative. The introduction to the game sets the mood perfectly as a narrator explains what life is like in such a world. Farms cannot transport their food, vaccines cannot be shipped around the globe and overnight the world becomes divided into the Western Coalition and the Red Star Army of China and Russia.
Naturally, war breaks out and the last of the oil is pledged to the military – while the hospitals back home are going dark, the tanks are meeting on battlefields around the Caspian Sea where the last oil reserves are believed to be kept. It’s a powerful and important message and one I approve of wholeheartedly.
Despite being a multiplayer game first and foremost, Frontlines actually has a pretty decent singleplayer side to it as well. The campaign is made up of about ten missions set over the course of the war, with players taking the role as part of the Stray Dogs infantry unit who are positioned on the frontlines of the war and lead the assault. There’s no choice to change sides in this conflict unfortunately though, so you have to cope with only seeing the American and English side of the war.
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Still, the singleplayer missions are an undeniably exciting experience and make an excellent introduction to the multiplayer side of things. The levels are, just like in multiplayer, both detailed and vast. Objectives are often handed out in batches too, so players are encouraged to explore the battlefield themselves and accomplish objectives how they wish, mixing stealth and assault styles on the fly.
It’s great to see that a multiplayer game has put a singleplayer campaign together in that is so balanced – dispensing with the roles and loadouts of multiplayer, yet leaving the redeploy function in as a kind of extra lives function.
There are some fairly heavy flaws in the singleplayer campaign though, it has to be said. The enemy AI is very flaky at times and opponents will flick between ignoring your shotgun blasts completely and spotting you from the other side of the level.
The physics of the game are fairly suspect too – many environments are very destructible and being able to demolish walls really lends the game an extra appeal. However, shooting an enemy in the head will often result in his helmet launching itself to the moon faster than Sonic the Hedgehog on an amphetamine binge. He does that.