The drones are one of the coolest additions to the game. We get explosive drones which can be driven under tanks or enemy encampments and blown up. We get flying drones – imagine one of those mini remote-control helicopters, except this one’s armed with little rocket-launchers. We even get a little thing that reminds me of the classic eighties toy Big Trak, only this Big Trak has mounted machine guns. Using these intelligently to sweep enemy defence points or soften up the heavy armour is always good for a laugh – and in some missions an important survival skill.
And while the single-player campaigns in GRAW2 and CoD4 allowed you to shoot things from the comfort of a plane or helicopter, did they let you pilot them as well? One of the great things about Frontlines is how well it integrates its vehicle roster into the single-player game. We’re not talking on-rails sections or missions dedicated to tank actions – just missions where tanks and helicopters can play a crucial part in the action.
Now, a game like this stands or falls on the quality of the AI. For the most part it’s pretty good; the other guys in your squad aren’t often found standing around doing nothing, and they do a good job of supporting your activities and mopping up any enemy troops in range. Your foes, meanwhile, act capably in concert and manage the odd sneaky outflanking manoeuvre, coming behind you to surprise you when you least expect it. There are times, however, when the illusion slips. Sometimes allies and foes seem unable to see each other, passing one another in a relatively narrow space without so much as a shot exchange – annoying when the Ruskie goon then starts taking pot-shots at you behind your dozy mate’s back. Equally, there are times when a whole gang of hostiles will pop out of cover and practically queue up to be shot. I’m also more than a little suspicious that the game sometimes respawns more enemies behind you in areas you’ve already cleared of trouble. I haven’t been able to confirm this, but on some levels the evidence definitely points that way.
All of this – not to mention a fine selection of near-futuristic assault rifles, sniper rifles, handguns and rocket launchers – points to a decent single player experience. Well, that’s exactly what Frontlines provides. It isn’t, however, an incredible one. It’s consistently good, but rarely great. In fact, it never reaches the dramatic highpoints found in GRAW2 or CoD4, or matches the tension of the latter’s dazzling flashback sniper mission.