Full Spectrum Warrior Review


I have to start this review off by letting you know that Full Spectrum Warrior (FSW) is not an action game. If you are looking for a third person shooter, FSW is not that game. You never even get to pull a trigger. In reality it is much more akin to a strategy game that requires sound squad-based tactics if you are to succeed at it. As a strategy game it provides a unique gameplay experience and is an interesting change of pace as long as you have the patience to fight your battles slowly and methodically.

Screenshots
Fireteam Bravo comes under fire.

The main reason for FSW’s unique gameplay is that it began life as a trainer for the U.S. Army. It was designed to teach military personnel the fundamentals of MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) warfare and therefore is probably the most realistic simulation of urban combat that you can play at home in your underwear. In fact, you know you’re not playing your typical game right from the start as the mandatory tutorial will take you an hour to complete. Even the training has training. The Army believes in thorough preparation though, so once you’ve completed the tutorial you’ll know how to use all of the controls and have all of the tactical tools you need to succeed in the game.

The basics of the game are pretty straightforward. You are the omniscient, disembodied commander of two squads, or fireteams, of four soldiers each. The squads are identically configured and outfitted and each consists of a team leader, a rifleman, a grenadier, and an automatic gunner. All of the orders that you will give are team-based and you’ll never be able to split a team or command an individual soldier to do something. You can order your team to move to a new location, fire at targets in a particular direction, or to fire a grenade or smoke, but they will actually carry out the orders without any control on your part. There are some minor variations to these orders such as specifying that the team watch for attacks from a given direction while moving or that they lay down covering fire in a designated area, but overall you are working with a pretty small command set.

Gameplay is an exercise in moving from one protected location to the next, alternating between your teams as one moves and the other provides covering fire. You have to remember that the game was originally developed as a training aid and so it is designed to reinforce the use of proper tactics through repetition. Each mission boils down to a series of enemy encounters designed to make you use cover as you advance and to force you to use your squads to protect each other until one of them can maneuver into a position to take out the enemy. As such, the game almost plays out as a series of puzzles in which you need to find the proper tactical answer to each. Play too aggressively or try to get fancy and your squad will end up dead. This is an important fact to drum into the heads of soldiers, but some gamers will find this a very limiting factor on gameplay. If one of your teams or the enemy is in a covered position, they are marked so with shield icons over their heads and they are completely safe from fire. There’re no taking potshots at bobbing heads or hoping for lucky shots in the game – being under cover is a tactical situation as far as the game is concerned and your job is to take the prescribed course of action for each tactical situation.