The key is the frontline of the title. As you capture control points, the areas marked red and blue on the map ebb and flow and the frontline between them shifts position. As it does so, the players on either side are gently pushed to attack/defend the control points nearest to it. As a result, the battles tend to concentrate around the frontlines rather than scattered all around the map as they can be in Battlefield 2 or 2142, and the players are kept focused without any need for the sort of AI command structure used in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. It’s a good system, and even on the larger maps there seems to be less time wandering looking for a scrap than there was in the recent Battlefields. Meanwhile, the game’s flexible class system, with varying load-outs that encompass drones, EMP capabilities and the authority to call in air strikes, ensures that you’ll find a role that suits you.
It’s a lot of fun, and generally speaking the maps seem stronger, more convoluted and more dynamic than the ones in Battlefield 2 or 2142. On the downside, despite the frontlines and the drones it’s not that different a game, and novices should beware that, on the PC at least, Frontlines has already been co-opted by ex-members of the Battlefield fan club. As a direct result, it can be hard to get a foothold in a game without being blown away repeatedly – sometimes when you’ve only just respawned.
All the same, that’s more a warning than a valid criticism. What matters is that Frontlines does a sterling job of bringing the Battlefield experience to console gamers and provides enough new stuff to PC Battlefield players to give them reason to at least give it a try, even if they don’t end up deserting DICE altogether. That it does so while packing in a solid single-player game is all the more reason to recommend it, though I still think this is more one for the hardcore FPS gamer than the more casual Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4 crowd.
One final point: the PC version is not the most stable of beasts at the moment, despite a worryingly hasty patch on day one of release. Vista users, those with onboard sound and those with Geforce graphics cards seem to be suffering particularly badly – and as I tick all of the above boxes I had a hellish time getting the game up and running. You might want to bear this in mind and wait for more patches to roll out before making your purchase.
A worthy opponent to the established Battlefield series augmented by a decent single-player campaign. Frontlines is neither different enough nor exciting enough to make it essential, but if you’re a fan of this genre you’ll definitely enjoy it.