Release Date: June 10, 2014Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, PCDeveloper: CI GamesPublisher: Bandai Namco GamesGenre: First-Person Shooter
Enemy Front has “unfinished game pushed out the door by a publisher who’s lost its patience” written all over it. Ignoring the fact that the game was announced in 2011 and missed its 2012 release date by two freakin’ years, the dearth of previews, trailers, or any fanfare whatsoever was suspicious at best. When I picked up the game and was charged only $40 dollars for it, those suspicions turned to dread. When I started the game up and was greeted by a main menu that looked like it was set up in PowerPoint, I almost shed tears.
Let me explain the tears.
Enemy Front, developed by Stuart Black of, er, Black semi-fame, was pitched the game as a World War II shooter that (thankfully) stayed away from the theatres of the great conflict video games have beat to hell, in order to tell a more intimate story in a setting WWII shooters and the mainstream media in general aren’t too familiar with – Poland and Norway. Not only that, but players would take control of an American war correspondent who gets tangled up with characters such as a gorgeous female French Resistance fighter, a Norwegian commando, and even a German SOE officer. Throw in open level designs with multiple routes that accommodate numerous styles of play, such as stealth, and you can see that this game was no ordinary shooter, and had a lot of promise.
Adam Morrison had promise when he was drafted to the Charlotte Bobcats back in 2006. If you know your mid-2000’s NBA draft picks, you know that didn’t pan out at all. However, Enemy Front fares a little better as a game than Mr. Morrison fared as an NBA player. While it lacks polish in almost every single way, all of the core concepts the game championed are mostly intact, and I had quite a bit of fun with this very flawed game.
Let’s start with the bad.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start up Enemy Front is that it looks like someone forgot to spiff up the textures. They are flatter than Florida and even the ones that are present, such as on the weapon models, aren’t going to impress anyone. Whoever paid to use CryEngine 3 in this game should get their money back or fire the guy who said he knew his way around the engine’s graphical side. Despite the lack of overall graphical detail, though, the great art direction of the game still helps the game avoid being a total eyesore.
Another problem comes in the form of animations that range from mediocre, to bad, to straight up unfinished. After rescuing a priest from a Nazi douche-face in a terribly-designed slow-mo breach and clear segment, the priest appeared to take on the form of somebody playing charades crossed with a department-store mannequin, body entirely paralyzed, with the exception of his vaguely animated mouth, which moved awkwardly and almost out of sync with the words. The frame rate that sometimes drops in the heat of action doesn’t make them look any better.
There are other problems that, while not breaking the game, undermine the effectiveness of the overall experience. While the story is intriguing and the script is decent, the voice acting at work honestly sounds like it was meant to be a placeholder while actual actors were sought out. It’s flat-out terrible – like, Two Worlds terrible. This seriously diminished the impact of anything going on on-screen.
With the voice acting affecting the story, you have one major flaw hurting the gameplay in the stealth department. Enemy Front, in its quest to offer different styles of play that includes stealth, allows players to hide bodies. This is rendered pointless when you realize that bodies disappear after about one or two minutes tops.
Besides those problems, the game is sprinkled with other small glitches that will take you out of the experience from time to time. The game would sometimes come to a brief stop when I shot an enemy in the head. The physics would occasionally freak out and send an enemy I shot with a pistol flying through the air like a javelin thrown by an Olympic athlete. On very, very, few occasions, enemies saw me through walls while I was getting my sneak on. The game lacks polish that almost any other game should get before release, and it makes the reason behind the $40 price tag very clear.
Though I just spent five paragraphs ripping Enemy Front to shreds, allow me to blow your mind: I also had a lot of fun playing it.
Enemy Front really and truly does allow you to play the game in a variety of ways – from stealthy to the classic one-man army style that harkens back to the WWII shooters of old. The gunfights aren’t the large-scale firing ranges you see in many shooters today, but pockets of smaller, more focused engagements featuring smarter enemies. The A.I. is actually quite competent, and will put you down quickly if you try to run around in the open.
If you ask me, Enemy Front is at its best when you take the stealth route. The developer really fleshed this side of the game out with an attention to detail you don’t usually see in shooters that offer stealth as an option. From a detection meter warning you when you’re about to be caught to gruesome (but poorly animated) knife takedowns, the guts of a great stealth system are all here, but its the small details that really make stealth fun.
Much like Sniper Elite, Enemy Front allows you to take cover with sound. When planes are flying overhead of an area, for example, you can fire unsilenced weapons without being heard. It really added to the experience for me. Levels are designed with plenty of alternate routes and even allow you to hide in bushes or whatever else you can find to conceal yourself in. And despite the fact that bodies disappear, if they are discovered while they’re still there, prepare for the enemies to go on high alert in that area. Don’t worry, you can throw rocks to distract enemies when they get a little too close.
The open level design did more than just offer different ways to play, however. Secondary objectives, something you rarely see in shooters anymore, were available to complete in some instances, giving you an additional challenge when you wanted one. There wasn’t any noticeable rewards for doing so, but achievement/trophy hunters will surely be going after these.
Oh. There’s a multiplayer component, as well. That’s about all there is to say about the multiplayer, besides that you shouldn’t buy this game for the multiplayer. Nothing to see here.
Overall, Enemy Front is clearly an unfinished product. If you do a little research, you will find that Stuart Black left the development team before the game was completed, so if I had to guess as to why this game was pushed out the door, that would probably be it. This means that those that enjoy Enemy Front the most will be those that are able to pay more attention to what works in the game than what doesn’t. The game has some genuinely unique things to add to shooters as a whole, and any first-person shooter enthusiast who can appreciate a game that departs from the norm (or anyone dying of thirst from the lack of WW2 shooters) will want to check this game out at least as a rental.