Designed in collaboration with the US military, the result is a sim halfway between a Gulf War RTS and a triggerless version of Counter-Strike. As such, there is no other game out there like it, but does that mean it's good? On most fronts, the answer is yes, but there are pockets of strong resistance, especially with the longevity and dialogue.
The setting is the mythical Zekistan and more specifically, its capital Zafarra. A ruthless dictator has cheesed Uncle Sam off and as you progress through the 11 missions, he represents your ultimate goal. For each mission, your task is simple: lead a squad of infantrymen through mazelike streets towards an objective. On the way, avoid gunfire from the friendly neighborhood militia, ignore the pleas of the locals to pack up and leave, keep your men alive, and complete said objectives. Sounds easy? Wrong. You would be well advised to play through all five (count them) training missions in order to master the gameplay.
This in itself, is very impressive, especially considering that you don't do any trigger pulling yourself. Instead, FSW puts you in command of a squad of two four-man teams.
Thankfully, the controls and interface are extremely intuitive. In squad formation you can move your men across terrain in accordance with your line-of-sight via two-by-two 'bounding' or as a squad. The camera inhibits these movements as, although it is free-roaming, it pivots upon your squad. Once in position, they will automatically fall into a formation based on the terrain. You can then change the arrangement and field-of-view for each individual squad member, lob grenades at entrenched enemies, hold fire to avoid civilians and even help the wounded.
Longevity is clearly FSW's biggest blemish. Some of the missions are a cake-walk and while others will give what remains of your brain a hefty workout. Pandemic are promising extra missions via Xbox Live and you can, of course, even hook up a friend for some co-op.
Visually, however, things are quite spectacular. Your squad members are wonderfully detailed and their animations flow with precision. The SFX are equally impressive, you distinctly notice changes in pitch and panic in your troops, depending on their personalities and skill. A very nice touch, so it's a shame that the dialogue is so repetitive.
Still, you cannot fault FSW's originality. As the camera jogs along with your men as they approach a wall, then peers around the corner only to snap back under a hail of bullets, it's truly exhilarating.
Score CardVisuals: Excellent terrain and character detail
Audio: Some dialogue may be a little repetitive
Gameplay: Immersive and satisfying
Developer: Pandemic Studios