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Frontlines: Fuel of War

Fuelled by huge quantities of caffeine and obscene American meat portions, Anthony Holden checks out the latest pretender to the Battlefield crown...

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Of course, it doesn't end there. As mentioned, Frontlines is set two decades in the future, amid a global scuffle over dwindling energy supplies (the key protagonists being the Red Star Alliance and the Western Coalition). As a result, many of the weapons are mildly futuristic, from mini-nukes to smart air-bursting grenades.

"Everything is based off where the military is going all over the world," says DeLise, a self-confessed military nut. "It's all based on real-world technology - we've just added what we call a 'Kaos factor' to make it more interesting."

Without doubt, the most enjoyable cutting-edge gadgets on offer are the 'drones' - remote-control vehicles that can be used to scout out enemies (and of course blow them up). "The recon drone is like a mini-helicopter," explains DeLise. "To deploy it you just throw it, and then you can fly it around in first-person. It has a function that will flash up red tags and pinpoint where people are hiding - which makes it great for hunting out snipers."

There's also a remote-control buggy that works in similar fashion. But while this is all real military technology, the 'Kaos factor' means that the buggies are super-quick and loaded with C4, making for plenty of laughs when you deploy them under vehicles and unsuspecting personnel. In testing, it was also discovered that recon drones could be loaded with a satchel charge, making them even more satisfying as anti-sniper contraptions.

After thrashing the multiplayer with the Kaos team for a solid afternoon, there are two things that stand out clearly: the superb frontline mechanic, which serves to focus the action on a small, yet shifting area of the map, and the highly entertaining RC drones. In other respects, the game is a fairly conventional team-based shooter, albeit with great attention to detail and some excellent level design.

Incidentally, the levels tend to come in three varieties: some are geared towards infantry assault, with lots of interiors and tight spaces; others are a bit more open, with space for a handful of large vehicles; while a third type is all wide open spaces, ripe for helicopters, tanks and tactical nukes. It's all good, solid stuff and should provide a good deal of gameplay variety.

That's the multiplayer anyway. But if there's one thing Kaos are absolutely adamant about, it's that their single-player game is not going to be a mere sideshow - a hastily bolted-on afterthought, as it has perennially been with every generation of Battlefield.

"From the beginning, we wanted to make sure that the single-player campaign was a huge focus," confirms DeLise. "A lot of FPSs out there, you get either a single-player infantry game or a multiplayer all-weapons war game, but you don't get both - and that's our goal. Our single-player is a proper, cinematic, story-driven campaign."

Not only this, but it has an ambitious design brief: completely unscripted, non-linear gameplay. DeLise explains: "We didn't want our game to be like a bot-match. We didn't want it to feel like just a bunch of AI fighting you. We wanted the enemies to seek cover, flank you, talk to each other and act as a squad, so it feels like real people in a real area instead of scripted events. There's nothing scripted, it's all contextual."

As far as DeLise is concerned, heavily scripted shooters like Call Of Duty are old hat, played out, yesterday's news. What he wants to do is bring the level of choice you get in multiplayer games like Battlefield into the arena of solo gaming.

"We really wanted to break out of the box and do a more non-linear experience," he says. "So we don't tell you, 'Right, this is a sniper mission, now you're a sniper.' You get to choose at every turn - do I want to be a sniper, a heavy gunner? Do I want to drive a tank? And how do I want to take this town?"

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