When the developers at Kaos Studios began creating the Battlefield 1942 mod Desert Combat, they probably weren't thinking about how they'd be working on their own large-scale combat on ultra-advanced, next-generation platforms just a few years later. Nevertheless, Kaos is now hard at work on Frontlines: Fuel of War, a near-future tactical shooter that will emphasize character-building and complex teamwork over lone-wolf heroism. THQ unveiled Frontlines at a recent press event, and we were in attendance to get the first details on this promising new game.
All aspects of Frontlines' design, from the politically tumultuous setting to the load-out of weapons and vehicles, are based on current real-world circumstances. The game supposes that around the year 2024, energy reserves will have been depleted and a new global depression will have begun, resulting in the formation of two rival superpowers: the Western Coalition and the Red Star Alliance. Skirmishes in the game will play out across a diverse series of battlefields that employ a dynamic "frontline" system that will keep the combat centered on a specific point on each map. Your team's objectives will be contextual to the status of the battle, and each goal you achieve will open up a series of new objectives that build on the work you've already done. And you'll apparently be able to approach the frontline from a number of different directions, since you'll have multiple objectives available at any given time, all of which will contribute to the overall advancement of your position.
Apparently, working together as a team will not only be paramount, it'll be absolutely essential to victory. Frontlines will employ what Kaos reps referred to as "next-generation teamwork" in a number of ways. In mechanical terms, you'll have things such as multiple people operating the driving and target-acquisition of a single vehicle or advanced information-sharing over voice over IP. Speaking of those vehicles and weapons, everything in the game will be based on existing technology or plans that are currently on the drawing board, so you'll have lots of fun gear to play with that's plausibly realistic but isn't actually in use on the battlefield just yet.
Your soldier won't be stuck with static abilities throughout the game, either. You'll accrue experience as you blast through one mission after another, and you'll gain role-playing game-like experience in a variety of areas. As you focus on certain weapons or roles, your experience in those areas will increase until you become more proficient or even gain new abilities altogether. We don't know yet how in-depth this RPG-style character-upgrade system will be, but we hope it will give you a good amount of flexibility to mold your soldier in the areas you prefer.
In addition to our first peek at Frontlines, we spoke to Frank DeLise of Kaos Studios about the direction of the game's development.
GameSpot: How did your work on Desert Combat and Battlefield 2 inform Frontlines' design? What popular features from those games can we expect to be expanded on in Frontlines?
Frank DeLise: We learned a lot from both Desert Combat and Battlefield 2. In DC we strived to deliver the first fast-paced modern-day military game with vehicles, learned how to communicate with the community, and to deliver content on a monthly basis. With BF2 we learned a lot about team play and what drives hardcore players. So you can expect fast-paced multiplayer gameplay combined with a new level of teamwork and next-generation vehicles. We learned what was great about those games, and we also learned what needed improvement.
GS: Frontlines is clearly a game designed around the multiplayer experience. What can you tell us about the single-player campaign?
FD: Actually, with Frontlines: Fuel of War, we started with a storyline and designed the single-player game first. We really wanted to nail this, so we got to work on it right away. We even hired solid developers from FEAR, Medal of Honor, Doom 3, and Homeworld, to name a few.
The single-player game is based on our world's dependence on oil and the realities of our future if we don't find alternate methods. It is a global war set 20 years in the future that tells the story from multiple perspectives. Fuel of War is the first theater of this global war. The game mechanic was designed around what we wanted as gamers to play: an intensely cinematic, fast-paced, go anywhere, do anything, destructible war zone. In the single-player missions, you get to join the frontlines as the Western Coalition (USEU) and fight your way through the Red Star Alliance (RussiaChina) all the way up through Moscow. Each mission is an open-world environment with a set of nonlinear objectives that make up a frontline. As you complete these objectives in any order you wish, the frontline moves forward, just like a real war would. This allows the player to devise their own strategies through a mission, not the typical die, redo, die, redo--instead, you chip away the front in a continuous battle.
The [artificial intelligence] in Frontlines is intense. They work as squads, use battle chatter to communicate, and use any vehicle at their disposal, including tanks, jeeps, jets, and helicopters, to name a few. In fact, you can control the AI to form vehicle squadrons for ultimate destruction.
GS: The game's weapons and vehicles will be based on existing near-future designs. Can you give us some of the more novel examples of what we'll have to play with?
FD: The weapons of FFOW are extremely exciting--they are based on real designs with a little bit of "Kaos theory." You'll be able to deploy remote-control drones, such as an RC car that can drive under vehicles and detonate; use next-gen Javelin rockets that can attack targets from above for ultimate destruction; join with a friend in a tank in multiplayer and man a new countermeasures system that can take out incoming missile threats; call in drone bombers to do precision air strikes, and much, much more. This is all real stuff that is in prototyping now. In fact, at Trauma Studios, we had the opportunity to do some military projects that involved some of these next-gen weapons. It gave us some good insight to the future of warfare.
GS: The "Frontline" system seems to encourage players to congregate around a few critical areas of the map. What are the rewards offered to encourage people to use this system and work together? Are there penalties for players who go off and do their own thing?
FD: The Frontline system encourages the players to work together to move the frontline. The reward is that you get to stay close to your buddies and help them fight it out. This is the only way to win the game and it takes a team effort to do it. Players are restricted from straying too far from the front, but it keeps the battle intense.
GS: Explain the "contextual objectives" mechanic. Is this something similar to Enemy Territory, where you have specific goals unique to each map, or is it simply a fancy way of referring to a Battlefield-esque control point or flag?
FD: The objectives are based on the map, not flags. This means an objective may be to steal a secret tank, destroy AA, blow up a bridge, etc... Each map has its own objectives. We will, however, offer multiple game modes for ultimate mayhem or ultimate teamwork.
GS: How will the skill upgrades work? Will the player gain experience points through use of abilities? Can you choose which areas to specialize in?
FD: The role system is really fun. It allows you to pick a role specialization separate from your loadout. For example, you can be the recon role and pick the sniper loadout. This will allow you to use an RC drone to find enemies, then snipe them. The more you use the role, it will upgrade and give you more items to use at your disposal. In a multiplayer game, you can gain rank on any role during a single session. You can choose to bring up one role all the way, or bring up multiple roles for more diversity. Team role diversity will greatly help your team win a battle.
GS: Will there be any specific enhancements to the PC version of the game? Obviously in games like this, a smooth interface is required to enable people to act quickly. Can we expect a PC-specific interface? Commanders and squads?
FD: You will likely see some UI differences from the PC version from the consoles, as well as mod tools for the PC. Other than that, most of the features will be the same.
GS: What are your plans for unlockable achievements on the Xbox 360?
FD: We plan to implement unlockable achievements based on your success through the levels as well as key moments, weapon skills, kill ratios, etc...
GS: Thanks, Frank.