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Full Spectrum Warrior review

Endure the heat of battle in the game originally designed to train US troops

This is a game which ought to answer two of the most pressing questions facing gaming today: how valuable is the integration of 'realism' into a necessarily artificial world, and what happens when that realism causes videogames to trespass onto a political minefield?

Full Spectrum Warrior, adapted for the public from an exacting US army training tool, carries as many 'really real' badges as the most disciplined flight simulator, and gives gamers the chance to corner infidels in the back alleys of several cities across the world.

FSW gives you command of two four-man dismounted infantry squads. These aren't dumb pawns, but trained soldiers, so your responsibilities only extend to moving them into position and setting their fire sectors. This isn't as dry and disembodied as it sounds. Although you are in effect the camera, jogging along with your squad is intensely involving. You'll be splattered with their blood when they're shot, and rocked and deafened when you call in a mortar strike closer to your position than you should. The realistic nature of the scenarios means you'll spend a lot of your time running away, but the combat is simple, stressful and compelling.

Important though the issues of reality and morality are, FSW has some videogame questions to answer first. The decision to lock the camera around the leader of each squad is logical, but can prove enormously frustrating. The cursor can get stuck on objects or deny you a command that is visibly feasible, too.

So how real is real? As ever, what most undermines the reality is not what's there, but what isn't. The city is almost totally deserted, save for crows and carcasses, side-stepping the thorny question of collateral damage.

Whatever you conclude about the bigger picture, this is special stuff. The claustrophobic buzz of flies, the distant muezzin drone, the desperation as you crouch uncertain in the dust while your men call frantically for orders will lodge in your mind long after you've walked away from the game. T-junctions may never feel safe ever again.

More Info

GenreStrategy
DescriptionHopefully the flaws and questions aren't so glaring that you can't take the game as merely an evolution of action and strategy. This is an intriguing new template, and future games in the same style could be incredible.
PlatformXbox, PS2, PC
US censor ratingMature
Release date1 June 2004 (US), 10 June 2005 (UK)