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Full Spectrum Warrior; The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay; SpoofStick 1.0

Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page F07


This game began life as a combat simulation developed for the U.S. Army, but some changes to the mechanics resulted in an unusual sort of war game. Part real-time strategy game, part simulation, part third-person shooter and part first-person shooter, Full Spectrum Warrior is all intensity.

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The game is set in the fictitious Middle Eastern country of Zekistan, where players control two primary teams, Alpha and Bravo (some missions feature a third, Charlie) in a series of missions to combat a terrorist threat. The simpler orders require you to extract a single injured soldier or stranded unit; the harder ones demand that you take down multiple, well-armed enemies.

Each team includes four members: a leader, a rifleman, a grenadier and an automatic rifleman. They all know their basic jobs -- how to keep formation and watch out for each other -- but it's up to you to find the best cover, direct their way to a target and use each man effectively.

This means you don't get to pop off a few rounds yourself; you basically play the game as a commanding officer, issuing orders and then watching the results. This might seem like a dry depiction of warfare, except that your men exhibit their own personalities. They chat with each other, they curse at enemies firing at them and sometimes they'll yell at you for placing them in a bad situation: "Sir, get us out of here! We're pinned down!" When one of your guys gets killed in action, you feel horrible.

The enemy soldiers, when controlled by the computer, are as smart as your own, with the advantage of knowing the terrain (rendered in photo-realistic detail) better than you can. After exhausting the 11 single-player modes, an online multiplayer option awaits on Microsoft's Xbox Live service. Contrary to what you might expect, it doesn't let you play on the terrorists' side; instead, you and another gamer play through a mission cooperatively, splitting control of the Alpha and Bravo teams and relying on voice chat to get through tight situations. This is a must-buy for any Xbox owner with a broadband Internet connection.

-- Tom Ham

Xbox, $50



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