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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers  (Xbox)

By Michael Palisano

Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers improves on the last installment with flexible combat maneuvers, vehicles and more varied missions. An improved squad-based combat system allows you to split into smaller groups, change orders faster and outflank enemies. Ten Hammers’ 12 missions showcase numerous enhancements like realistic environments, sophisticated AI and unpredictable enemies to keep things intense. The intuitive interface and controls and, overall pacing has also been improved. Ten Hammers’ presentation is impressive, with deeper characters, better acting and a more cohesive storyline. Unfortunately, the difficulty ratchets up quickly, making for some frustrating later missions. Despite this, Ten Hammers is a challenging tactical based shooter that should appeal to players looking for a realistic war game.

Pandemic Studios and THQ have returned to the frontlines of the middle-east with Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers. Set in dangerous war-torn desert environments, the game brings the tension and fear of war to life vividly. The pacing is excellent with stretches of eerie silence punctuated with sudden bursts of gunfire and battle. This approach makes the game feel much more realistic. Ten Hammers offers a mixture of real-life infantry style action, combing squad-based combat and real-time tactical maneuvers to give it a unique feel. As in the previous game, Ten Hammer’s key appeal lies in its authenticity, which goes further than most other combat simulations on the market. The most significant difference between Ten Hammers and other combat shooters is its pacing and strategic elements. Instead of hiding and striking when the time is right, the enemy forces won’t hesitate to attack you, making for less predictable and more dangerous missions where you’ll need split-second reaction times to keep your squad members safe. This makes the strategic and planning element of Ten Hammers incredibly important, giving the game an authentic feel.  The game implements real-world military tactics used by the US Army, along with authentic weapons, vehicles and, combat maneuvers allowing gamers to get a true sense of what its like on the ground. During the course of the game, you’ll command a variety of forces including Rangers, Light Infantry and UN Special Forces. Each operations team has a different approach to combat, and these divergent styles should give Ten Hammers’ gameplay more diversity.

As you play the game, the other soldiers chat with you and comment on the action, which adds tension to the proceedings. The basic gameplay is fairly similar this time around, as players command a squad of soldier through some fairly dangerous streets. One of the key strategies of the game is to move your squad through the battlefields without exposing yourself to enemy attacks. Doing this requires you to find cover, the safest of which which is usually around corners or against walls. There are various types of cover you can use, and how much protection you have depends on the object. Hiding behind a burned out car or a wood crate offers little leeway, which means you can’t stay there very long. One of the key elements in Ten Hammers that differentiates it from other military shooters are the tactics you use. A key strategy you need to learn is to flank enemies, which you can usually achieve by splitting up your teams and encircling their positions. While this might seem rather complicated and ardous, Ten Hammers’ intuitive interface allows you to switch between teams effortless. Initially, your teams consist of four soldiers each, but you can split them down into two-man buddy groups. This is quite effective when you want to keep the enemy off guard. In most other military shooters on the market, the basic strategy is to shoot first and go in without warning. In addition, you can assign these teams different tasks such as sniping or scouting an enemy’s position to increase your chances of survival Since Ten Hammers is based on real world combat situations, this approach invariably leads to disaster. One of the most important things you need to do during the game is keep the team safe. This can be done in a number of ways, the best strategy is to send a forward team to engage the enemy, and send in the rest of the squad later. This serves two purposes – it reduces your risk and makes it much easier to focus your commands and fire.

Players have a number of weapons at their disposal. When an enemy is engaged, you can set up a firing range around them, which will command the other soldiers to target that area. If your team faces multiple foes or can’t locate a foe’s position precisely, you can order your grenadier to throw a smoke grenade in the area, which allows your team to move to a better position without leaving themselves open to attack while they move to position. Players can command soldiers to perform a variety of other tasks including rescuing fallen soldiers and perfoming recon on enemy positions. In addition to your ground-based troops, Full Spectrum Warrior expands your options with the ability to call in heavy armored tanks and air-strikes to wipe out the insurgent forces. While you can use these in every mission, they are highly effective and clear out a path for your team efficiently and quickly. The game’s earlier missions are fairly simple with straightforward objectives and paths that are quite clear. Later levels present more challenging missions and unpredictable foes. There are many points where you’ll find yourself surrounded by enemies without warning, leading to a quick exit. This can be frustrating at points, but frequent save points reduce the aggravation to a large degree.

One of the biggest changes in Ten Hammers is the ability of your team to go inside interior buildings and place sniper positions there. Taking position in these areas, such as high windows, allows you to see the entire battlefield, while giving your opponents little cover and no place to hide. Your team can also implement more sophisticated tactics like rescuing and holding hostages on the ground to use as bait. While Ten Hammers’ overall approach, HUD and controls should be familiar to those who played the first Full Spectrum Warrior title, Ten Hammers’ structure is much more open, especially in later missions. There are multiple paths and approaches to complete your team’s objectives, which makes the gameplay more fluid and interesting. While it might seem like a gimmick, Ten Hammers’ replay video system allows you to relive your previous mission. This is useful because it lets you evaluate your squad’s effectiveness and discover any mistakes you made.

In the first game, you frequently found yourself locked in by a sudden burst of gunfire from hidden enemies. The playing field is leveled somewhat in Ten Hammers because the new scout command to send a single soldier ahead of your team to look for snipers and ambushes. Once a scout reaches his position, your other team mates will follow him, unless he finds enemy forces, in which case he’ll return to the team’s current position. Scouting the terrain ahead of you will likely add a new dimension to the gameplay, allowing you to better plan for what lies in front of your team. Ten Hammers’ also increases the level of your command of individual soldiers using the new Precision Fire system. This allows you to target specific enemies with standard fire, and you can also use grenades to eliminate these foes. These additions make for an engrossing single player experience with more depth and challenge than the first game, but Ten Hammers’ gameplay becomes even more intense during its online modes.

Ten Hammers online is quite robust with missions and structure that are just as intense as the main game. Threre’s an array of co-operative missions for two players along with intense multiplayer versus modes with support for up to eight players. Ten Hammers includes both traditional death matches along with objective based missions. In addition, the insurgent enemy forces can be controlled by human players, giving some variety to the multiplayer experience. There are also a number of different scenarios such as Ammo Blast, where your team has to find and locate ammunitions dumps from rival factions and destroy them before they can be used against your forces. Meanwhile, another team needs to evacuate a casualty and rescue hostages being held by insurgents. One of the more interesting missions is called Bring Me Tariq, where a former minister is holding a valuable national treasure, with different factions trying to capture him for different reasons. Your goal here is to get to him before one of the other teams can. In Radio Clash, your objective is to destroy a well-guarded radio tower that’s been broadcasting propaganda and increasing support for the insurgent operations. The Citadel has a similar goal, with several teams trying to capture this symbolic target. Players will also face an Explosive Situation, where terrorists are threatening to explode bombs at specific targets as a deadline passes. Your intelligence officers know where the bombs are, and your mission here is to defuse the situation and stop the terrorists from carrying out their threat. There’s also a mission where you have to rescue two fallen pilots being used as political pawns by the enemy forces. These missions are more creative and interesting than you’d expect, and work well within the existing framework. This makes for some engaging online play that mirrors the intensity and realism of the main game. By staying consistent with the main game, these missions increase the immersion and coherence of the game, giving it plenty of depth.

Ten Hammers’ gameplay remains quite solid online and off, but THQ and Pandemic have also intensified the graphics and presentation, making the game much more immersive and exciting. Each level features and incredibly realistic environment, with buildings, objects and weapons displaying an impressive level of detail. An excellent camera system tracks the squad’s movements throughout effectively. Most players should find the controls and HUD intuitive and easy to use, with onscreen indicators making most actions easy to perform. The game’s storyline unfolds in a series of cinema sequences that allow players to get to know the soldiers and their personalities. While the graphics engine hasn’t changed significantly, there have been minor improvements in lighting and detail that make the game feel more realistic than before. Ten Hammers’ voice acting is also well-done, with the soldiers chatting and dialogue adding to the realism. Overall, the game’s presentation is excellent, with a smooth, polished look that brings you right into the action.

Sadly, the game’s strongest selling point – it’s uncompromising realism – can also be seen as is biggest detraction. The authentic combat maneuvers make the game more challenging and there is a strong sense of satisfaction upon completing a mission. The smarter AI makes the enemies more difficult to kill, they’ll actually change position when spotted and attack from numerous points. This situational awareness makes Ten Hammers a more challenging game, but also frustrating, since in the real world, your enemies don’t always play fair. Coming under attack from these well-placed insurgents means you’ll spend a lot of time trying to find cover and protect yourself. This gives the gameplay more depth and sophistication, but also means the later levels in Ten Hammers become much harder, with progress measured in inches or feet. This isn’t something you’ll be playing causally, but the tradeoff is a much more intense and authentic military shooter that brings a sense of realism to the battlefield. The ability to control tanks and call in air strikes along with the added flexibility in team composition definitely makes the game more comprehensive, and this increased complexity adds more meat to the experience. In the end, how much you enjoy the game depends largely on what you want to put into it. While the game’s level of difficulty may be off-putting to some players, Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers’ comprehensive approach to battlefield tactics and maneuvers isn’t for the weak but its depth and realism ranks it as one of the more challenging and impressive military shooters on the market. 

Grade: B

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