Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers

It's been 18 months since Full Spectrum Warrior debuted, out-innovating an entire glut of military shooters by ... not giving you a gun? Yes, the cerebral strategy game carved out its own new subgenre, challenging players to learn to move and cover with a pair of four-man Alpha and Bravo squads. Thus, rather than relyling upon your reflexes and big piles of ammo, you had tooutthink and outflank opponents using real Army tactics - without actually pulling the trigger yourself- in order tosecure a fictional Middle Eastern urban war zone. The emphasis was placed squarely on your planning and maneuvering, and when it was time to lock and load, the impressive Army-emulating soldier AI would kick in and your on-screen squads would do the shooting and killing.

Now, the sequel to the Army's digital training simulation is nearly ready for release, and it's still in a category all its own.

We've recently had the pleasure of playing a few missions from a near-final version, and can report that the unique gameplay pioneered by the original has not fundamentally changed. You still command each squad individually and can switch between squads at will, only now you can split your four-man squad into two-man buddy teams, allowing you to cover more places at once. Also, FSW veterans will be happy to learn that the long-winded, mandatory training level of the original is gone - well, sorta. Basic training elements have been incorporated into the first mission, so you learn as you play.

Our only real complaint during our playtime was the difficulty level. Even as FSW vets, Ten Hammers had us dying early and often - even on the easiest setting of the first so-called "training" mission. Hopefully playtesting prior to release will address this. Nevertheless, we're excited to jump back into a military shooter that tests our brains more than our trigger reflexes.