Pregga’s Perusal: Enemy Front

 

I don't know who this guy is, but I wanna' play the game he's in!
I don’t know who this guy is, but I wanna’ play the game he’s in!

When I saw Enemy Front in the Steam store, I was confused. I thought World War 2-themed first person shooters had died in 2007 when Call of Duty 4 showed the gaming industry that all the money is in “modern warfare”, meaning a bastardization of the concurrent USA versus Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the only modern wars anyone with money bothered to notice.

You see, back in 2006, World War 2-themed games were what you might call “played out”, if you were an idiot. “Played out” meant that World War 2 had been thoroughly covered twice over and it was time for another popular war to base our shitty video games on, as opposed to creating a setting using our imaginations or something ridiculous. This implied that 1) World War 2 consisted entirely of D-Day; and 2) First person shooters could never evolve past walking down hallways, performing canned, heavily scripted actions to advance and watching corny cutscenes, so the only way to improve them was a change of theme. Following this logic, the creative geniuses at Infinity Ward turned all the Germans into brown people, made them speak Arabic, and gave them AK-47s instead of MP40s, then proceeded to make the same game they had already made in 2003 and again in 2005.

Treyarch was already making this one so they decided, "Eh, fuck it, one for the road."
Treyarch was already making this one so they decided, “Eh, fuck it, one for the road.”

This left CI Games, the developer behind Enemy Front, with a conundrum: How do we revive the long-dead World War 2 shooter? Of course: By porting a game designed in 2002 into Cryengine 3! At least, that is what Enemy Front feels like. It’s hard to even know where to start with Enemy Front, so I’ll just have to give you the play by play from the beginning of the game to the part where I realized I needed to quit forever.

I start the game on the highest difficulty, because I’m an adult, and I am immediately greeted with a guy telling me to get to a barricade stocked with friendly AI in cover to help them push back the Nazis. Starting off with a bang is never a bad thing, so I proceed to hide behind the barricade and not shoot at a single badguy. In Call of Duty, not helping out in the scripted “Defend this area!” segment would result in either 10,000 grenades spawning directly under the player so that he is forced to move, or a mortar shell just instantly killing the player, whichever dickish thing Call of Duty decides to do at the time. In Enemy Front, this results in no penalty at all. I can respect game developers who allow me to give as little of a shit about their game as they themselves did.

After 30 seconds, my bossy AI Captain Price-type friendly AI guy tells me that we need to move before the position is overrun. Having yet to see or shoot at a single German, I follow him over a wall and walk a bit before I am teleported 2 feet forward and 1 foot to the right so that I can have an explosion land behind me, sending me flying but having me land in just the right spot for Captain Price to pick me up.

Thanks for the save, Captain!
Thanks for the save, Captain!

The explosion kills all the friendly AI and blocks off the previous area, but Captain Price seems to immediately forget about all his friends that just died and the Nazis who are just on the other side of the debris in hot pursuit, choosing to pace himself casually as he leads me to the next area.

After some uneventful walking and talking explaining why my guy is a Whiteguy McBrownhair American fighting alongside the Polish resistance (he’s a reporter so HE’LL BE ASKING THE QUESTIONS HERE, PAL), I am lead into the Polish underground base in the sewers and presented with some choices. For my first choice, a guy holds out a Kar98k rifle and an MP40 submachine gun. He asks me which I would prefer. No matter what I pick (I checked), he says something along the lines of, “Just what I was thinking. You won’t regret this.” He must have been thinking what I was thinking, which was, “Both, please!” Either way, I can pick up whatever gun I didn’t choose as soon as he’s finished talking, making the entire conversation 100% pointless. I forgot to mention that I had started the game with the BAR, an American automatic rifle. That means that my “reporter” brought an American weapon with him to Poland, fully expecting to just find more ammo for it. And he’s right, because German ammo boxes strewn about the game will provide ammo for the BAR, allowing this historical shooter to shit on historical accuracy even harder.

The second choice I am presented with is going forward or going up some stairs and to the left. The path I choose determines the mission that I take. One mission is rescuing a priest for some reason, the other is blowing up a German ammo dump for probably better reasons. Both missions must be taken alone, so I leave the resistance base, which has like 20 fucking dudes in it, so that I can fight a big shitload of Germans by myself.

To make up for these outrageous odds, this is where the game introduces its stealth mechanics. This is how it works: You crouch-walk through an area, keeping bushes between you and the Germans’ barely functional eyes. You get behind Germans to perform animated stealth kills, or just melee them once without doing a stupid animation that puts you in danger of being spotted. You can also take badguys hostage when you sneak up on them, which is completely pointless because the only thing it does is stop enemies from shooting you, which they wouldn’t be doing in the first place if you didn’t give yourself away by taking one of them hostage. Once you have taken a hostage, the only thing you can do with him is stab him in the throat to dispose of him, like a true hero.

Pictured: Needlessly player-endangering animation in place of simple and equally effective rifle butt.
Pictured: Needlessly player-endangering animation in place of simple and equally effective rifle butt.

This would be a good time to point out that, just like every WW2 FPS ever, all of the Nazis look like incredibly evil 30-50 year old men and have cartoonishly sinister voices. They can also be seen committing various heinous war crimes on a regular basis, circle jerking on the corpses of innocent Polish children and whatnot.

Hey, mom, how many "easy shock value" points do you think I'd score if I got blown up right now?
Hey, mom, how many “easy shock value” points do you think I’d score if I got blown up right now?

Another stealth mechanic is shooting enemies when a plane flies overhead, displaying a “noise” indicator which the game explicitly states covers the sound of your gunshots. Well guess what, it totally fucking doesn’t because every time I shot an enemy during such a cacophony, all the Nazis immediately zero in on my position and start shooting at me. Oh, you can also throw an infinite supply of rocks. The Nazis will look at where the rock lands like complete dumbshits, allowing you to walk past them.

But fuck all that. This is how the game is really played: You crouch-walk as far as you can towards the end of the area, then as soon as a guard sees you, you just start shooting people and sprinting for the exit. Hitting the exit should be easy because now most of the enemies are behind you and you likely have obstacles or an indoor area between them and you, forcing them to fight you one at a time and preventing them from shooting you as you run away. One you reach the exit, all of the enemies despawn and pursuit of you ends completely. Metal Gear on the MSX had a better stealth system. The AI is so bad that all they know how to do is walk towards you when they can’t see you, or hide when they can see you. As long as they don’t surround you, fighting a dozen Nazis is an incredibly trivial task for our reporter even on the hardest setting. I’m not saying I wish the stealth was harder; God, no. I’m saying that there shouldn’t be any stealth at all. The notion that this reporter has the same man-killing skillset as John Rambo is totally ridiculous, unless he is the grandfather or Rambo, in which case, awesome. Regardless, every area is designed under the notion that you will sneak through them completely. This means that enemies are scattered everywhere and can easily surround you if you just skip straight to the action, which if you will remember is the only way they are challenging. It also means that the areas are stupidly easy to sneak through up to a certain point, and then they suddenly expect you to start throwing rocks and shit. But it’s at that point that it would be easier to start shooting and sprint for the exit ASAP. I would rather play a game designed around having no stealth at all, which means enemy placement and difficulty level will be more appropriately scaled, and I won’t have to spend most of the game crouch-walking through bushes as I desperately fend off narcolepsy.

Can I just stop to point out that¬†of course¬†the protagonist is American? Like, they thought the only thing that would make their shitty game sell would be if the protagonist was a caucasian American. I can almost understand this decision for narrative framing purposes. This reporter, who can wipe out entire platoons of Nazis single-handedly, can get around Poland and France and “tell everyone’s story” from his singular perspective. I mean, it’s not like Call of Duty, the game we’re already ripping off a decade too late anyway, showed that a World War 2 game could be done through several characters’ perspectives. And it’s like they thought him being American would be the only excuse they needed for him to just have a BAR. BARs are huge and heavy, and how did he, as a reporter, get the legal authority to take an American military weapon overseas?

Oh, shit, I forgot all about my play by play because recounting the game is a nightmare I would wish upon no one. So, I blow the ammo dump and haul ass to the exit leading to home base, which is conveniently located in an area that doesn’t even require me to backtrack very far, which kind of makes me wonder why I didn’t just come up through there in the first place. Regardless, back at the base I realize that I have to go do the other mission now, which was to save the priest. So, no matter which one I did first, I would have had to do both regardless. It’s almost like they wanted to give the player these black and white decisions to increase replay value, but then backed out and decided that no decision should ever cause you to miss any content, which is good because who would ever want to play this game twice? Saving the priest is exactly like blowing the ammo dump: You sneak through an area, just say “fuck it” and blast your way towards the mission objective to despawn all the enemies, complete the objective, and return back to the resistance base through a sewer entrance so conveniently located that the player character should have just used it to get there in the fucking first place. Saving the priest does involve a Call of Duty-esque slow motion door breach sequence, which the game actually has a few of even between stealth segments where your guy just decides to bust down a random door as loudly as he can to start gunning down whoever is on the other side, even if he shouldn’t have known anyone was on the other side at all.

What do you think makes Call of Duty sell so well? Is it scripted slow-motion door breaches? I'm pretty sure that's it. Put some of those in our game.
What do you think makes Call of Duty sell so well? Is it scripted slow-motion door breaches? I’m pretty sure that’s it. Put some of those in our game.

Anyway, after doing both shitty, identical missions, this is when the resistance starts talking about an all-out attack on a German-occupied church. I’m getting pretty hyped, because at this point I am desperate for something visually interesting to happen. Oh, yeah, speaking of visuals, the game looks very nice on the PC. I hope you enjoyed the one nice thing I have to say about this game.

Assaulting the church involves a big shitload of talking and eventually I am presented with a choice: Sneak into the church with one team or blow a hole in the wall with another team. Either one that you pick will literally just put you on either the left or right side of the church, with friendly AI appearing on both sides no matter what you chose. The friendly AI, by the way, are just as useless as AI in Call of Duty. They are conveniently invincible, they take cover and don’t advance or move at all, and they can’t shoot for shit. After clearing the church in a shockingly uninteresting battle, Captain Price asks me, “Hey, what was the France level of the game like?”

Well, I’ll tell you: It’s shit. Much like the previous parts of the game, you are supposed to stealth through most of the areas alone, only now the game explains that, aside from stealing the tedious sneaking about from Crysis 1 (remember that this game is in Crytek’s engine), they also stole the ability for binoculars to permanently tag enemies on your HUD. Gee, thanks for telling me that on level 2 after I already did two long-ass stealth segments. But it doesn’t matter, because fuck the binoculars. Unlike in Crysis, scouting out an enemy area and tagging all the enemies is totally useless because, not only is this game a billion times easier than Crysis, but tagging enemies in an area is only useful if you have to then kill all of the enemies in the area. When all you’re doing is sneaking as far as you can, then running and gunning towards the exit as soon as you’re spotted, you have no need of a constant awareness of every enemy’s location, especially when they are all so loud and stupid that they couldn’t possibly outflank the player. All of these stealth mechanics serve only to artificially pad the gameplay. I get the impression that the game would be about 5 hours long if the player didn’t sneak through it at all, but I’ll never know because I quit after a half hour of fighting big assloads of Germans and a TANK!!! by myself in blown-out French towns and countrysides.

Notice the lack of friendly indicators on the radar. Also notice the lack of fun-having.
Notice the lack of friendly indicators on the radar. Also notice the lack of fun-having.

Once I had found a sniper rifle, it was pretty much over for the Third Reich. I could get one hit kills by shooting any part of an enemy’s body. I could see clearly with my scope and a lack of bullet drop meant I could hit anything I wanted. What really screwed over Hitler’s boys was that, even on hard, I just regenerated health too quickly for them to be able to kill me at sniping range. And since the enemies were too dumb to ever try and surround me on purpose, I was basically rendered unstoppable.

When I had to fight the tank, which involved picking up a conveniently placed rocket launcher and hitting the tank one single time, it had earned me an StG 44. The StG 44 was called the StG 44 not because its magazine held 44 rounds, but because it was invented in 1944, and it wasn’t even widely deployed until 1945. This France part of Enemy Front, however, takes place in 1940. So… Yeah… What’s worse is that the StG 44 was essentially the first ever assault rifle, and in Enemy Front’s first and only attempt at realism, it deals massive damage and is fully automatic. It does just as much damage as the sniper rifle, which means one hit kills, but has plentiful ammo and no scope, meaning it’s the answer to close quarters when the sniper rifle would be inconvenient. Once I had both weapons, which could refill to maximum ammo at the game’s numerous ammo boxes, I knew I was doubly-invincible. Oh, yeah, the Kar98k also totally sucked. I own a real Kar98k and little else is more satisfying to me than using the iron sights of a bolt action rifle to gun down enemies in an FPS, but when you have shit like the StG 44 floating around or even the Gewehr 43 (a semi-automatic rifle designed in, yes, 1943), you definitely never need to be using a Kar98k that doesn’t have a scope on it.

It was after I blew up the tank, got the StG 44, gunned down some dudes, and reached another shitty stealth segment, that I realized the whole game would be this. It would just be me by myself sneaking around and not having fun, with shitty friendly AI-filled fights scattered around here and there to try and make the game look exciting.

Holy shit, how long would I have needed to play to have as much fun as these guys? Wait... Is that guy on the bottom planking?
Holy shit, how long would I have needed to play to have as much fun as these guys? Wait… Is that guy on the bottom planking?

Let’s see, other crap of note:

In France, the mission is to rescue the hottest female resistance fighter France has ever known, who conveniently had time to put on make-up before the start of the mission. I wonder how motivated the white male power fantasy protagonist would be to save her if she was of the short, stout, homosexual variety of woman?

Setting dynamite is a pain in the dick because you hold F to begin planting it, but then you scroll through a list of numbers 1 to 15 with the W and S keys in order to select how many seconds you want to set the timer to. I didn’t make that up, you can choose a 1 second timer for the dynamite. Sure, I’ll take one second, if you please! I’d appreciate any way out of the game at this point. To be fair, it does default to 7, like it should always only do in the first place.

The gunplay feels okay, but the game uses hit indicators in spite of the fact that it’s a single player game and those should never fucking have hit indicators. It flashes white to tell you that you hit an enemy, and it flashes red to tell you that you killed the enemy. Why not only show red flashes, then, if that’s the only flash that even matters?

You can drag dead bodies, if you really think you’ll have time to move a dead body out of the way before a second guy sees it.

Ummm… Shit, what else… Man, I mislabeled this list. This game has nothing of note going on at all.

Enemy Front’s very existence is a mystery. As soon as I saw it on Steam for $30 and looked at some screenshots, I thought, “Shit garbage.” When a game charges $30 for itself but looks super nice, that means they did not think they had $60 worth of content to offer, and that’s taking into consideration that this game offers both a single player and multiplayer mode. Oh, did I play the multiplayer? Fuck you, I have enough terrible multiplayer games.

Enemy Front’s tagline is something along the lines of, “Imagine if you were playing 2002’s Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, but you could throw rocks, and the graphics were better because it’s Cryengine 3 instead of Quake 3!” Great, but why try to prove that World War 2 shooters are still valid by making a game that people would have considered to be samey 12 years ago? I feel like someone with Cryengine scrounged up a dusty half-finished game design document from his dad’s attic and thought, “World War 2, huh? I think I saw a movie about that once,” and committed to making a full-fledged game that shit on historical accuracy and the very concept of fun. If the game doesn’t care about being fun or historically accurate or original and is just about an American single-handedly mowing down Nazis on a linear path, but with better graphics this time, then it’s not bringing anything new to the dry rotted World War 2-themed video game table. Shit, it wouldn’t have been bringing anything new to the table over a decade ago when anyone still cared.

2 thoughts on “Pregga’s Perusal: Enemy Front

  1. This game had a lot of potentials, especially during certain sections of its levels, but it sadly dropped the ball. The biggest issue was that it failed to optimize its gameplay mechanics and its design setup. It was an action run-n-gun shooter with regenerating health, but it had the design and AI setup of a stealth game. This meant that the game was extremely boring because you could just tear through everything and face very little resistance from enemies. You didn’t even have to be stealthy once! It would’ve been a much better game if it altered its gameplay mechanics to fit its stealth design, like eliminating regenerating health. That way, you would actually have the motivation to be stealthy.

  2. That last paragraph is an excellent summary of the game. Way better than any point system could have been. Well done. Love it.

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