Full Spectrum Warrior PS2 Review

espite our obvious leaning towards world peace and complete harmony, games based on military conflict are seemingly inherent in us all from about two-years-old onwards. Who didn’t play ‘Army’ at school? A world where sticks were machine guns, walls were burnt out buildings and our mouths – or indeed the sounds that came out of them – were the glue that held it all together, what made it real in a world of make-believe. Then, obviously, the dispute as to whether who was dead, who wasn’t and how many times Barry was shot even though he was standing, deliberating the point himself. Games like this, although how violent depended on how vivid one’s imagination might be, were a complete mess. There was no strategy, no sweep and clear manoeuvres and no Bravo Two Zeros Foxtrot Charlies, just a group of little boys with twigs.

If you think about it, that is essentially how we like our gaming – mindless, but fun, especially when it comes to third-person military games. Full Spectrum Warrior is nothing like this, it is slow, thoughtful and realistic, Barry wouldn’t last a second. It is exactly not what most of us are used to. FSW is for the kids who were playing with plastic soldiers in their bedrooms, rather than being a soldier in the playground.

Given that it has been a full year since its release on the Xbox, you could forgive PS2 gamers for forgetting about Full Spectrum Warrior, or if you’re a Sony fanboy, purposely ignoring its very existence.

FSW though shouldn’t be ignored. Few titles rarely offer anything that resembles originality, ‘Warrior has it in abundance. Instead of an action shooter, think of it as a slow-paced strategy simulation. In fact the pace of FSW is so leisurely that it could in actual fact be considered a turn-based game. Of course it plays in real time, but each move, right down to what direction your men will fire in, has to be thought through with precision.

Initially you take control of two fire teams (Alpha and Bravo), both consisting of four squad members. Each soldier has a different role to play, although mostly they work as a group. In certain circumstances you’ll be required to use one of your soldiers individually, within the group, but not to the same extent as was required in Conflict: Vietnam. With heavy influence on realism, progress through levels is protracted, but for good reason: you need the time to consider each movement and to scout out enemy positions. If you leave your soldiers in the open they’ll be picked off quickly should the enemy spot them, similar fate awaits if you order your troops to dash across an open road without covering fire. Thankfully the process of making sure your men are covered is satisfying as opposed to laborious – the tutorial takes you through the processes and is very helpful, if a little long.

The way you move your squads about is also different from anything we’ve seen on a console before. It is actually a cursor you control and not the squad itself. So if you have a squad hidden behind a wall and need them to get behind a burnt out car in the middle of an adjacent road, take the cursor to the car and click X. Before you do though, you get a preview of how the squad will position themselves. It all works rather well and becomes second nature before long.

The whole feel of Full Spectrum Warrior is slightly distasteful. While there is no clear indication that the game is set in Iraq, the buildings, the soldier’s get-up and narrative all point to modern day warfare in the Middle-East. This just doesn’t sit well with this reviewer.

Graphically it is clear why FSW wasn’t a Sony exclusive instead of an Xbox one. On Microsoft’s machine the game looks amazing, runs smoothly and lighting is excellent. On the Playstation 2 I can only describe it as ‘bitty’ – not in the Little Britain sense – just that it doesn’t feel complete, like the game has been stripped down. The PS2 struggles with the lighting, so much so that the whole game seems to be under a sort of haze. It is often very difficult to make out what is in front of you and where the enemy might be hiding, this is a huge flaw, being able to plan ahead is how you succeed in progressing through FSW.

What we like about Full Spectrum Warrior far surpasses anything we dislike. True enough the Xbox and PC versions are better visually and as a result slightly easier, but this can’t take away what is essentially a very good piece of software for PS2 gamers. Still, I’d sooner be in a playground with a bunch of kids on their imaginary battlefield than in front of a television with a controller…then again I’d probably be arrested.