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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Pandemic Studios
GENRE: Strategy
PLAYERS:   1-2
March 27, 2006
Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers

Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers

Full Spectrum Warrior

 Written by Troy Matsumiya  on December 01, 2005

First Impressions: Hammer out danger, hammer out a warning, hammer out love between all of my brothers and my sisters ? damn, now that song is stuck in my head...

The original Full Spectrum Warrior was a great strategy game but many gamers were perplexed to find that they had bought something that appeared to be a shooter but didn't let you shoot. Based on the training simulator Pandemic developed for the US Army, FSW let you command teams by telling them where to go, when to shoot and when to advance or retreat. From a realism point of view, it worked great but from a gaming perspective, it would have been cool if we could actually participate in the action ourselves.

Pandemic listened to their customers and will be adding more gaming elements to the upcoming sequel, FSW: Ten Hammers (the ?Ten Hammers? refers to a strategic bridge named ?Tien Hamir? in the fictional region of Khardiman, Zekistan that you have to control in the single player campaign). The goal was to give players more choices and enhance replayability ? and from what we've seen so far, they've hit the nail squarely on the head.

Fans of the original shouldn't worry that the game will degenerate into a standard fragfest; thankfully, it will still be a real-time strategy game but with an improved control setup, more realistic tactical options, increased hands-on interactivity and best of all, smarter enemies that will react dynamically and realistically. Unlike the original, all enemy scripting has been toasted; instead, enemies will appear in different locations each time you play and will react differently as well. For example, when attacked, enemies might run, dive for cover, throw grenades, seek elevated firing positions or even try to flank or suppress you ? so just like in real life, you will have to expect the unexpected.

Speaking of which, Pandemic tossed an interesting new twist into the mix by adding more civilians. Whereas the original essentially only had combatants in the battle zones, this time around there will be plenty of frightened civvies running around the streets just like in real life, so you will need to be extremely careful and check your targets before firing.

In Ten Hammers, you will control Alpha and Bravo teams as before but will now have the help of Charlie and Delta teams as well. A much improved control scheme will now allow you to issue commands to each squad without having to switch control back and forth between them, which really speeds up gameplay and makes things much simpler to manage. It also gives you the ability to view the battlefield from your choice of perspective, so you can keep your eye on an enemy unit while commanding another squad who cannot see the enemy yet.

You will also be able to split each of your squads into two smaller sub-squads, enabling you to send out snipers to provide cover, order a brave soldier to pull a wounded comrade to safety, or have a pair of soldiers suppress the enemy while another pair flanks them. With the additional squads and sub-squads, you can command quadruple the units of the original. It may sound daunting to have to manage that many troops with an aggressive enemy trying to hunt you down, but one thing's for sure: it also sounds pretty darn fun. Besides, if you ever feel overwhelmed, you can always kick back and call in your old friend, the airstrike.

To enhance the realism of the game, each soldier can die in combat. They will be replaced with another soldier after you complete a mission but the surviving members of your team will react at the loss of one of their comrades, which can adversely affect their combat effectiveness. Not only that, but the replacement will possess different attributes from the original, meaning he will not perform the same; he could be better, but he could also be worse. It's this kind of realistic unpredictability that should add a nice amount of palm-sweating tension to this game.

Ten Hammers will also feature new movement modes such as moving Tight, which means moving slow and quietly to avoid detection, and moving Hot, or attacking while moving as fast as you can. The Scout mode allows you to send out a lone soldier to scout ahead; if there are no enemies, the other members of his squad will automatically move up to his location but if he spots bad guys, he will run back to his squad. Precision Fire mode will let you zoom into a quasi-sniper mode to focus a soldier's aim, allowing you to take control and pick off enemies who are crouching behind cover and are out of grenade range (which, incidentally, has be drastically improved) and cannot be flanked.

You will also be able to enter buildings, where your squads will automatically clear rooms and cover entrances and staircases. Not only does this give you an opportunity to fight indoors, but most importantly it gives you the strategic advantage of firing from a protected and elevated position.

In addition to calling in the aforementioned airstrike, you will also be able to call in and control Bradleys, tanks and other armored vehicles as if they were another team. You will still need to be as careful with your vehicles as with your squads since they are not invincible; a few RPG rounds and they're toast, so you will need to pull them behind cover or order your squads to take out any RPG toting enemies.

The single player campaign will consist of 12 missions, each broken into four chapters. Each chapter follows a different squad so you will be able to experience the same story but from different perspectives and tactical opportunities.

However, the big news is the addition of an adversarial multiplayer mode over Xbox Live and System Link, which will have up to eight players each controlling a squad on either the US team or the OpFors team to complete objective-based missions. The two-player co-operative mode also returns.

Naturally, the graphics have taken a big step up but one thing that stands out is the addition of color. The original was a little bland with various shades of desert browns and yellows, but Ten Hammers offers a bit more color variation and is much prettier to look at as a result.

Final Thoughts
The various changes and improvements not only seem to enhance the playability of the game, but also increase the realism and tactical options ? which can only be good news. Shooter fans who are tired of the mindless run and gun and would rather fight with their brains might be very interested in checking out FSW: Ten Hammers when it is released early in the new year.

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