When Full Spectrum Warrior was first announced there would no doubt have been a few skeptics. The idea to take a US Army training tool and turn it into an accessible tactical action game may have seemed nigh on impossible to some gamers. Pandemics success on the Xbox and PC lead to THQ consider a PS2 version and it finally has arrived. The console holds its own against the aforementioned versions as well and manages to retain the feel of the training tool while producing some superb gameplay.
Full Spectrum Warrior is set in a fictional country; Zekistan. Ethnic cleansing has been happening and the people of the country are under the rule of a leader known as Al Afad. Your squad from the US Army is sent in to clean up the mess and try to assassinate the dictator and capture his deputy. The one thing that can be said about the storyline of the game is that you can be never sure what is going to happen next. Your squad will be dropped into a combat zone with a task, only to have events occur which render that impossible or make their job ten times harder.
The tutorial returns from the previous versions, but those familiar to the game can ignore it as it's pretty much the same as the Xbox version. In the game you take command of two teams who form Charlie 90. Each team can be independently controlled and in some ways the game represents an RTS style of gameplay. So the missions really boil down to moving your guys into tactical, safe positions and taking down the enemy while completing tasks. This gives the impression the game can seem repetitive, but due to the changing conditions of the war and the way tasks change mid-mission this doesn't ever seem to become a factor. The teams are divided and you move each team individually. One problem we found with this is that you tend to forget the other team until you need them to provide suppressing fire. You also can't save without the two teams which encourages you to keep them moving.
Most tasks are quite complex and include securing the area, destroying a tank or helping a doctor reach civilians. As the missions progress, the army's base will move. This base is used to heal characters or gain more ammo, of which you have a limited supply. When a character is shot, they fall to the ground motionless. There is a set period of time before the character will die if not attended to, and if that happens it's mission over because losing any man on the field renders a failed mission. The PS2 version has two extra missions which are available to buy for those on Live with Xbox.
In an interesting twist, the game seems to become easier as you progress further - not because pandemic tone down the AI towards the end, in fact the complete opposite, but as you become accustomed to controlling your men and the tactics they use the tasks seem easier to complete.
Something else which helps with the unforgiving style of play is the replay system. At each save point the game begins a new replay which is saved to the hard disk. If you fail a mission you can watch this replay but not only that, at any point jump into the action and continue on. This means that the guess and check system isn't as frustrating because you don't have to complete tasks you have already done again and can jump into the action just before you made the last mistake.
The visuals of the game are quite impressive and each of the soldiers has a unique personality. Due to the fact you're always controlling the same eight guys in most situations, they have really been able to build a personality around each one much like Ubisoft did with Rainbow Six. They all have background stories which are explained at the beginning of the campaign and each has a nickname. The environments are highly detailed and thanks to the Havok physics engine are somewhat destructible. Objects such as cars can be destroyed and the ragdoll physics allow for an almost infinite amount of animations. You will see your soldiers give commands with their hands as well as talking. They also react emotionally to the situation around them with coarse language and yelling at each other during combat. The sound effects add to the atmosphere given off by the game and the voice acting is decent and in a very authoritarian tone, like a drill Sergeant.
Full Spectrum Warrior in the twelve months since release still retains its tactical genius. Pandemic themselves didn't think a PS2 version was possible but the team they allocated it to have proved them wrong. Full Spectrum Warrior is just as playable on PS2 as it was the Xbox.
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