The importance of originality in games is an intensely debated subject over the Internet, the endless battlefield of the anonymous posters trying to prove their point on the subject. The arguments are well known, and not worth mentioning here; one thing is certain though: publisher don’t support the dreamers of new ideas unless they’re backed into a corner, and will most likely prefer the beaten road of repetition, until the respective genre starts to stall, with a rather powerful smell of “boring”. What happens after the game’s release depends entirely on the amount of rage the customers show on the forums, of what new and “revolutionary” console is about to be released, or how much graphics the poor engine can take, or, and I’m starting to speculate here, the thing is just released, with everyone hoping for the best.
Frontlines fits the latter category, created on the spot for Introduction purposes only. It is the sum of a number of successful games of the 1st person shooter genre, all packed in a rather mediocre package, attractive at times, until you realize you actually have to pay for the damn thing. Basically, it’s a bit difficult to determine if the game deserves the price of admission or not. The entire game was built from the ground up with the multiplayer mode in mind. The single-player part is just an adaptation of the online module in an offline environment, with a stitched together story and a series of repetitive objectives placed over a relatively low number of missions, taking no more than 10 hours to complete.
The storyline revolves around a popular subject nowadays, involving the depletion of the world’s energy reserves and the power struggle of 2 major alliances over the last remaining oil deposits, situated somewhere near the Caspian Sea. The conflict escalates into World War 3, and the slaughter begins, against the already boring Russians and the numerous Chinese.
Some effort has been thrown in the single-player campaign though; we have a large number of relatively nice cut-scenes, we have a heroic sergeant, a reporter who serves as the narrator of the storyline, as voice-over for some very nice concept art screens… but, when the last mission ended, there wasn’t much left to talk about. I do remember that the reporter’s nickname was “Princeton”, that the final assault on Moscow consisted in a raggedy bunch of 20 troopers and a handful of tanks, and a single platoon of soldiers had been present in every single important battlefield of the conflict, saving the day in a very kamikaze and “Bring it!” kind of way, against superior numbers, which in this particular conflict had disappeared in the omnipresent fog of war.
And that brings us to the action. As mentioned earlier, the game’s single-player campaign has been adapted from the multiplayer module. This implies a gameplay similar to the one in EA’s Battlefield series, where the main purpose was controlling a number of key points over the map. If you don’t take over the “vodka factory” objective, you can’t move on. This goes on until all the points are conquered, and the next section of the map is “unlocked”. The system is built to mimic the way frontlines advance in a real battlefield, so you can’t just run to the other side of the map, and directly take over the enemy base. Some of these points are diabolically well defended, with a large number of troopers, tanks, turrets and other semi-science fiction devices, and it’s quite fun to make your way through them, provided the level the difficulty is turned up a notch. Unfortunately, as you play the game, its problems start to show up.