What’s more, it’s a little bit samey, with too many missions that play alike and – worse – look alike. Maybe it’s the concept, maybe it’s the art, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the world of Frontlines is rather barren, boring and brown. While the game uses the Unreal 3 engine, it’s a solid rather than a spectacular production. Where GRAW2 had incredible near-photorealistic detail and stunning heat haze and lighting, or where CoD4 had gorgeous environments, believable characters and convincing cinematic effects, Frontlines all looks a little bit – and only a little bit – bland. The PC version fares better than the Xbox 360 version here, as the textures are sharper and more detailed while the models seem a little more refined. One word of warning for Geforce 8 owners, however. While the game ran smoothly at maximum settings on my Core 2 Quad Extreme QX6850/Asus GeForce 8800 Ultra system, I had to turn down the ‘foliage’ setting to eliminate periodic frame rate stutters. Hopefully this issue will be fixed with a future patch.
If you’re choosing between the two versions, you also might want to consider the controls. The PC’s mouse/keyboard controls mirror the default Battlefield 2 settings, which makes sense as that’s what a lot of people picking up this game will be used to. The 360 controls, however, seem to mirror the Halo approach. Movement, aiming and firing are as you might expect, but the zoom in targeting feature isn’t on the left trigger – as it is in Call of Duty 2 to 4 – but on a click down of the right analogue stick, as in Halo 3. The sprint button, meanwhile, is on the right bumper. It depends on what you’re used to, I guess, but I found it a minor annoyance.
All this said, Frontlines is still the best single-player FPS I’ve played so far this year. Admittedly, considering competition like Turok, this isn’t that much of an achievement, but for those who’ve cracked Crysis, Orange Box and CoD4 on the PC or Halo 3 and the last two on the 360, it should be more than enough. The real pulling power of Frontlines, however, is the multiplayer option. Sure, both formats are already well provided for when it comes to online FPS action, but Frontlines something new. On the 360, it delivers a bigger experience than either Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, GRAW2 or Call of Duty 4; something closer to the full-scale PC version of Battlefield just by virtue of the size of the maps, the ubiquity of vehicles and the numbers of players involved (anywhere between 4 and 50 depending on the map). On the PC, where Battlefield 2 and 2142 rule the roost, that’s not the case. Yet even here Frontlines offers a subtly different variation on the Battlefield style.