Full Spectrum Warrior Review

The level of brilliance that went into developing the new combat system is unbelievable. These guys took the genre (squad-based combat) and said to themselves, “What can we do that would make the genre more fun?” The answer was to re-invent the genre by more or less creating an entirely new one. Years later they gave birth to a game that could be summed up as the lovechild of squad-based combat and real-time strategy. Further inspection of this spectrum reveals that it is so much more.

The best part of playing a new kind of game is learning how to play them. Full Spectrum Warrior doesn’t apply the typical third-person shooter controls, nor does it use the standard run-shoot-strafe-style gameplay we’re all used to. This made the learning process difficult, but it also made it a joy. I hadn’t had that much fun with a military-based game in a long time. I was surprised to find that, after spending many months away from the Xbox version, I had to re-learn many of the game’s mechanics. I couldn’t take action without stopping for a minute to think about what needed to be done and how it had to be accomplished.

That’s because there are so many little details and such a great difference between the way that Full Spectrum Warrior and all other squad-based combat games play.

Using a corner for cover.

As the player, you control the team, the cursor, the camera – everything but individual units. This isn’t a third-person shooter. You don’t maneuver in and out of corridors, shooting everything in sight. Attacks must be executed with lots of pre-planning. Most of the time you can’t pre-plan without trial and error. You’ll re-do missions a lot. You’ll cancel actions and give up frequently just because you believe you can perform better the second, third or forth time around. While this could become tedious in almost any other game, Full Spectrum Warrior is fun, engaging, and extremely challenging at all times.

As commander of the cursor, players will guide their troops in a very unique way. Everything is done via menus (and menus within menus). The brilliant part is how the cursor acts as a 3D guide that will send your troops to any location and tell them to form any position. Have them run to the nearest building and duck as they arrive. Tell them to peak over the corner of the wall and fire suppression bullets, making it safer (though still dangerous) for one or more of your troops to cross an area.

This is the joy of Full Spectrum Warrior: strategic options. There are several different ways to tackle every mission. Most of the ways will lead you to your demise, though there are times when a less perfect strategy can get you through to the end. Figuring out when and how to strike; learning the layout of each environment; mastering the enemy’s techniques; discovering the best way to take down the most difficult weapons – all of these moments will take you to a far off place that is rewarding in a way you could have never imagined.

Get your men out of there!

If you have the option to get the Xbox version (or even if you don’t), you should know that there are a few significant differences between it and the PlayStation 2 version. The most obvious is the graphics, which took a small beating when being transferred to PS2. The animations are there, showcasing some of the most fluid movements I’ve seen in a strategy game. What’s lacking are the backgrounds and character models, which don’t look as realistic or as polished as they do on the Xbox. This is to be expected, though you might think otherwise after seeing what the developers did with Splinter Cell. This can also be forgiven, since it is only an aesthetical downgrade.

What else is missing? Downloadable content and other Xbox Live-exclusive features. That’s not too disappointing when you consider the PS2’s two additional levels (available via Xbox Live for the Xbox version) and its exclusive level, which cannot be found in any other version of the game.

There are also control differences – I’m used to playing the game with the Xbox controller so I like that version better. Xbox is also a faster system (loads faster, has fewer frame rate problems, etc.), so overall the Xbox version is the better game to get.

Review Scoring Details for Full Spectrum Warrior

Gameplay: 8.5

First-person squad-based real-time strategy!? That doesn’t sound like something a marketing guy would use to promote a game, but that’s just what this is. Full Spectrum Warrior is full of intense missions and has a wide spectrum of strategic elements. Completing them will make you feel like a warrior.

Graphics: 7.5

Sound: 8.5

Still impressive, still awe-inspiring. Still jam-packed with quality voice-acting and realistic dialogue. Worth cranking your speakers for.

Difficulty: Hard

Whoever said war was easy? Plenty of video games have created the illusion that it’s nothing more than running and shooting. Full Spectrum Warrior was originally designed as a training aid for the U.S. Army. That alone should give you an idea of how difficult – and how realistic – this game is.

Concept: 7.5

Aside from the bonus levels (one of which is exclusive to PS2), Full Spectrum Warrior is a PS2 port of an Xbox game. That means less beauty, less power, more loading, and a save file that will take up nearly 1/4 of your memory card’s space.

Multiplayer: 7.5

Two-player co-op with the Network Adaptor and broadband Internet access.

Overall: 8.1

A must-buy for anyone who loves unique games. A must-buy for anyone who loves strategy or squad-based combat games. A must-buy for anyone who’s tired of the same old thing. Basically, this is a must-buy for everyone. I couldn’t praise it enough on Xbox, and even though it’s not a Game of the Year contender like it was on Microsoft’s console, Full Spectrum Warrior is still an unforgettable classic.

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