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Full Spectrum Warrior

Developer: Pandemic Studios | Publisher: THQ
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 06/01/04 | Genre: Strategy

Earlier this year when I first saw movies and screenshots of Pandemic Studios’ Full Spectrum Warrior, I immediately wanted to play the game. Well now six months later I have played it, from the hours I’ve spent playing the game I can easily say this game is well worth your purchase; under the right circumstances.

That first one being that you can link your Xbox with a friend who also has an Xbox and a copy of the game and play co-op or do this on Xbox Live of course. The reason I say this is that although much fun can be had in the single player game, the meat of this lovely strategy title is in the cooperation aspect of the game.

Basically in Full Spectrum Warrior you get two squads, Alpha and Bravo. Each squad is outfitted with a team leader, equipped with an M4 rifle; an automatic rifleman, carrying an M249; a grenadier, with a deadly expanded M203 grenade launcher, which happens to be my favorite weapon; and a second rifleman who is also equipped with an M4. Each team also has a decent amount of fragmentation grenades, useful for taking out entrenched enemies and smoke grenades, which can provide cover where no cover can be found.

Some people are griping about the fact that in the hour or so long training mission at the beginning of the game you learn everything there is to learn about the game and thus have played all the game has to offer. I suppose in terms of moves and commands that you can learn these allegations are quite true of FSW. However this game isn’t Warcraft III or Splinter Cell, Full Spectrum Warrior is a game based off of a simulation program created for the military that is supposed to train their men and women how to use tactics like flanking enemies or flushing them out with grenades.

The co-op experience in FSW is something to behold, the first time you and a buddy or even some stranger successfully eliminate all enemy resistance with deadly force and accuracy you feel an overcoming wealth of fulfillment. There is nothing like working together with someone else to achieve a difficult goal.

The main gripe that most people have seems to be over the subject of Full Spectrum Warrior’s lack of a player vs. player mode. I can see that side’s argument; however I can also see why Pandemic did not put the mode into the game. If I were to have to choose between a co-op mode and a vs. mode I know I would pick the co-op. The reason being that there is less of a chance for player-grief with co-op and thus in my eyes more fun to be had overall, however the best option would have been to put both if at all possible and this does hurt the fun a little with FSW.

Music and sound are both well done, Pandemic amped up the sound of gunfire a bit from how the weapons really sound like in the real world to give the game a more action packed feeling. It works nicely and makes FSW more of a videogame than a simulation program. The music is very movie-like and had me remembering moments in Blackhawk Down; some of it has a middle-eastern flair that fits in well with the theme and setting of FSW. Overall the audio in the game couldn’t have been any better, so it gets high marks across the board.

Graphically the game is spectacular and does a great job at reflecting the very real world setting that the developer was aiming for. Real time shadows and fully fleshed out polygonal models are just the first things you’ll notice in FSW. Not only does dust move about realistically but the physics and the damage you’ll see being caused by the nicely rendered weapons is also equally impressive. The face of each soldier is each painstakingly detailed in the hopes that when your soldier is hurt in combat you’ll feel bad knowing it was because that injury (or death) was your fault and it works very well.

Whenever your man goes down from gunfire the game centers in on said soldier and slows time down to let you watch as the poor man flops to the dirt in agony. Then the game whooshes back to the rest of your team and you’re left to decide whether or not to pick up your man and take him back to a medical drop point. Well that’s not entirely true considering if any one man dies in FSW then its game over, since the Army has zero tolerance for casualties.

There isn’t a whole lot to look at on screen in terms of display, but it looks very nice and doesn’t detract from the play experience at all. You get a d-pad symbol letting you choose between each man, a gun symbol with a percentage number letting you know how much ammo you have left, an area where symbols can pop up that inform you of what sort of formation your group will take at a certain area or if they’ll stop at a save/healing point. Healing points also restore your ammo and are usually coupled with a save point so if somewhere between there and your next rest stop you mess up you don’t have to start all over. Lastly there is a nifty GSP system which allows you to see a map detailing your next destination as well as save and restore points along with both Alpha and Bravo squads.

It basically comes down to this in Full Spectrum Warrior:

Find cover, look around a corner for a tango; or enemy if you want to use non-military terms. Once you find the tango you look for ways to approach them safely and effectively kill them with one of your various killing tools. Usually the best way to always eliminate a tango is to chuck a fragmentation grenade at them and hope they don’t run for it, which they sometimes do if there is cover to fall back to. For this reason you usually have to have one team sneak around and flank the tango, now of course as the game progresses this gets harder and harder to do because you’ll run into more tangos and eventually tanks as well.

Then you call in the air strikes and mortar bombardments, those are loads of fun and I really shouldn’t have to explain what painting a target with your laser with result in. Of course in co-op mode you’re only controlling Alpha or Bravo team, so you must work together to utilize your full force. This is where linking two Xbox systems or using Xbox Live comes in and if you don’t have it I extremely recommend you rent Full Spectrum Warrior and just enjoy the riveting single player missions.

In the end, Full Spectrum Warrior shows just what a huge military spending budget can do. I fully expect to see a Full Spectrum Warrior 2 of some sort on the shelves in a year or so and I have a feeling that with added modes of play and new ways to eliminate enemy forces FSW2 will pull in a very large group of devotes. Now if you will excuse me I need to get back to my friend’s house, we’re going to run through the game together on hard mode and see how late into the night our brains can come up with deadly strategies of death and destruction.

By Kyle Horner - 06/10/04
ESRB Details: Blood, Strong Language, Violence
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Screenshots for Full Spectrum Warrior

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