Rare are the games made in the West that make an opening gambit of attacking the United States - though in the wake of the NSA revelations it's sure to go down well in certain quarters.
It's a striking opening to what is ostensibly a run-of-the-mill game. Friendly Fire! falls firmly into the Clash of Clans / Backyard Monsters camp, and playing beyond the game's opening few hours demonstrates that the sacred formula is in safe hands here.A war of two halves
The gameplay naturally revolves around two set areas - resource creation and management on the one hand, and attacking your foes on the other. It's in the former category that Friendly Fire! enjoys its one stand-out feature.
The game makes use of real-world locations, allowing players to build their bases on genuine streets.
It would appear the entire globe has been mapped out, meaning you can choose to set up shop on the very street where you live, or - if you're a little more canny - find a road layout that makes taking your forces down especially difficult.
It's this sense of personal attachment that really pulls you through what can be a slow opening few hours. You see, before you can attack anyone else you have to build up your own arsenal, which means tapping the ground beneath your feet for supplies.Matter of management
And managing what comes out of this ground is what will dominate much of your playing time.
Everything you either build or upgrade around your base - from turrets and barracks to research labs - requires either oil or metal, so ensuring that you're mining and drilling as much as you can is your priority.
Friendly Fire!'s free-to-play nature means growth is tempered, however. The number of turrets you can have defending your base, for instance, is directly tied to the level you've upgraded your main HQ to.
There's no necessity here to pay out to upgrade - your ability to spruce up every building you build depends on how much oil and metal you've drawn out of the ground.
As such, paying for the gems you need to fill up your stores for upgrades isn't as immediately attractive a prospect as it may seem. Why? Because fun in Friendly Fire! is directly tied to your ability to exact revenge on those who attack your base, and being too powerful spoils the fun.
No faux foes
Every time the enemy sets foot upon your soil, the game sends you an alert to let you know whether it failed or succeeded. It even gives you a quick recap video to show you how far your enemy got.
If your opponent fails, there's very little incentive to retaliate - particularly if it's already happened a few times. As a result, Friendly Fire! almost relies on foes staying at roughly the same level, so that you can trade blows and earn medals in the process.
The battles themselves are - as you might expect - Friendly Fire!'s high point.
With a set number of spawn points available around your enemy's base and only a minute to evaluate your strategy before the fight begins, there's a genuine intensity to these clashes, and no guarantee that you won't falter, even against the most paltry of defences, if you don't manage your arsenal wisely.
Success or failure isn't Friendly Fire!'s bottom line, however - engagement is. Losing a battle has no real impact beyond losing some of the token medals the game awards you in victory.
No, far more important to Friendly Fire! is that you keep on playing, keep on upgrading, and keep on managing that base of yours. This process isn't especially deep, but - like tending to your garden - once you've started, it's incredibly hard not to pop back every few minutes just to do a bit of pruning here and there.
Indeed, once you've laid those mines, built those barracks, and fired up those tanks, the real battle is putting Friendly Fire! down.