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Sean Pettibone

Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox)

Based on actual Army simulations, Full Spectrum Warrior is an outstanding squad-based shooter that puts players into the heat of combat in a desert country ruled by a terrorist dictator. The sophisticated gameplay requires more brains than brawn. Your main goal is to position your team members into the perfect spot to take out enemies while minimizing risk. This complexity can be intimidating at first, but it lends the experience more rewarding. Full Spectrum Warrior's missions are both challenging yet believable. However, there's still plenty of action with intense firefights and dangerous enemies to keep you occupied throughout. Full Spectrum Warrior is a deep, exciting, and, polished title that will please military buffs and casual gamers alike.

THQ and Pandemic Studios' impressive Full Spectrum Warrior derives from a real combat simulator used by the United States Army. The military version trained actual soldiers engaged in real-world urban combat or MOUT missions. The commercial game has an interesting scenario that places you as a peacekeeping force in a fictional middle-east nation called Zekistan where you're battling a dictator named Al Afad and his terrorist forces. This consumer version aims for average players and the developers implement some changes to make it simpler and more accessible. However, Full Spectrum's roots as a military simulator shine through, giving it an almost unprecedented realism authenticity. Military buffs will be happy to know that everything in Full Spectrum Warrior from the tactics, to weapons and rules of engagement, reflects actual techniques used by the Army. Before you enter actual combat, you first have to undergo an extensive series of MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) Training missions. These missions allow you to learn the basic command interfaces, HUD elements while introducing some of the basic strategies you'll use later on. You need to pay close attention during your training, since the actual missions are much harder with almost no room for mistakes. The game places you in control of two elite combat units, Alpha and Bravo. Each team consists of four members with unique specialties. Your main soldier is the team leader, who commands the group. The Automatic Rifleman is an experienced sharpshooter has good instincts while your Grenadier can launch long-range attacks using the M203 grenade launcher. The team's final member is the inexperienced, yet well-trained Rifleman who can be surprisingly effective. The Rifleman is also the soldier who carries fallen team-members during combat. You command each team as a group or individually to move, take cover and fire at enemies. During each mission, you can switch between the teams quickly at the press of a button. Once you've selected which team you want to command, they will follow your orders quickly and efficiently.

Once you have located the opposing forces, you can engage them with Suppression or Point Fire. There's a big difference in how these operate. For example, you can distract an enemy with suppression fire using the Alpha team. Simultaneously, you can command the Bravo squad to move around them and ambush them from behind with point fire. Your soldiers are intelligent and automatically engage the enemy when attacked. In order to fire on disengaged enemies, you first have to select where you want to shoot using the firing range command. Once selected, you can command your soldiers to fire at their foes' location. You can choose to fire in a general area for suppression fire, or aim your weapons at a specific target. However, you can't use suppression fire recklessly because you have a limited amount of ammo, so use this strategy sparingly. During each mission, you'll need to keep aware of the 'Fog of War', which indicates where your soldiers can look. A blurry screen indicates areas outside your range of sight. This lets you see where your team is vulnerable to attack. You can change the direction where you're looking if you want to scan an area. Scanning the combat environment allows you to locate enemies hidden from your GPS and significantly reduces your risk. The open-ended maps gives players plenty of options in how the complete a mission. An important reduction strategy is to look at the GPS and find the best route beforehand. This allows you to sneak up on them without risking detection, minimizing your risk. When you're commanding your team to move around, you can use formations to take cover behind objects or peek around edges. You do this by moving the cursor around the environment, and looking for the circular indicators that show you formation positions. Once you've selected you're next waypoint, the team will automatically move to that location and go into that formation. There are times when you may want to change orders quickly, and you can do so quickly by pressing the cancel button. For the most part, you are usually battling single human foes. However, the enemy forces have placed heavy armor such as tanks on the battlefield. Since your team can't take these out by themselves, you'll need to call in air strikes. You simply need to place the cursor on the offending vehicles, then move the team back a bit and watch the explosions from a safe distance.

During each mission, your teams have to be on the lookout for hidden enemies and can do this by scanning the areas. You can move your soldiers around to change viewpoints, or can change the direction they look using the simple interface. While your team is moving, you're vulnerable to attack, but can command your team to move crouching or crawling to provide some protection. You can also command the team to take cover behind walls and peak around edges using the formation commands outlined earlier. Once you're team is out in the open, you can take cover behind a series of objects such as cars or chairs. The opposing team will fire on you, damaging the objects, and reducing the cover they provide. When you're crouched behind an object, you can command your specialist to fire grenades and rockets. Since you're dealing with a generally untrained opponent, they'll use guerilla tactics to ambush you and keep you off balance. You'll need to stay alert at all times. Each mission requires you to complete objectives such as finding a bomb, rescuing trapped soldiers or securing an area before you can advance to the next level. Full Spectrum Warrior's missions are typically straightforward, but your objectives may change with the situation as well. Your teams' main objective is to get through each mission without losing a soldier. If a soldier happens to fall during the mission, you can assist him and take him to an Evacuation area to receive medical aid. However, if your team loses two soldiers, the mission automatically ends.

Full Spectrum Warrior's single player missions are quite intense, but you can also play online cooperative missions with other players using a system link or Xbox Live. This adds to the overall intensity of the missions, making for a deep and satisfying online experience. We found that the online modes matched the intensity and depth of the solo game, with the ability to communicate with other members of the team using voice-commands. From a visual standpoint, the game's graphics and visuals are excellent as well, with great production values that helps to immerse you into the game's world. The environments look quite realistic and their large areas are dotted with great attention to detail such as burning cars and bombed out buildings adding to the desolate landscape. Full Spectrum Warrior's presentation is likewise excellent with cinemas between missions that effectively bring the soldiers to life. The voice acting is decent with salty dialogue adding to the authenticity. This is one of the better-looking Xbox titles to date, with some impressively rendered environments.

Full Spectrum Warrior is an excellent title goes beyond what most players have come to expect from the military simulation genre. Some gamers may find it a bit dry because it lacks the gimmicks in many other combat games. However, there's more than enough substance to make the game worth playing. Full Spectrum Warrior emphasizes the strategic elements of combat that's largely gone missing in many other military simulation titles. The authentic combat tactics and realism makes for an exciting, engaging title throughout. It takes a while to learn the basics, but once you've gotten past these, the exciting combat missions become much more enjoyable. Adding to the challenge is the unpredictable enemy AI, believable scenarios and frequently intense combat that accurately reflects real-world conditions. Its realistic approach makes for a more cerebral combat title than most console players expect, but it's still an enjoyable game. Full Spectrum Warrior is an excellent combat title that should please those looking for authenticity and depth.

Grade: B+

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