It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong with Enemy Front. Developers CI Games have a sketchy pedigree at best, but their most recent shooter effort, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, was a solid romp featuring some great set-pieces and some very decent sniper action. It may be that Enemy Front has suffered due to its long and chequered development history, or simply that CI Games’ ambition exceeded their reach, but whatever the reasons behind it, there’s no escaping the fact that Enemy Front is, very simply, a bad game.
Shooters have come along way in the last ten years, and the most recent examples of the genre done well (Halo 4, Battlefield 4, Wolfenstein: The New Order) render Enemy Front almost totally superfluous – a position not helped by the fact that it doesn’t have a single fresh idea to show off. Everything it does is borrowed from somewhere else, and the result is a game that feels overdone and tedious almost from the word go.
The narrative follows Robert Hawkins, an American (of course) war correspondent as he recounts the stories of his time spent fighting the hun and aiding the resistance in Nazi-occupied Europe. Flitting back and forth between his present day and remembered missions, the narrative puts in a valiant effort to make things interesting, but only results in coughing up cliché after cliché. The beautiful but fiery Resistance fighter who needs rescuing, the All-American hero with a troubled past… We’ve seen it a thousand times before, often done better.
Of course, the by-the-numbers storytelling can sometimes be excused if the gameplay is up to scratch, but unfortunately Enemy Front presents a mish-mash of other peoples’ ideas with all the excitement and pulse-raising spectacle of a Sunday afternoon in the pub. There are moments where it really tries to be thrilling, when the rousing music kicks in and the Nazi enemies start shouting and running around, but it’s all so straightforward. Much has been made about the “open-ended” missions, but while you are indeed given a certain amount of freedom to use stealth or combat, the levels themselves are mostly quite short and it’s almost always easier to just shoot everyone.
The stealth element isn’t bad, but the enemy AI is such that it undermines player skill because the enemies are so mind-numbingly stupid. You can actually position yourself in any given doorway and wait for them to line-up. Inevitably, after a few moments, they will stand up and run right at you like South Park deer. I entered one courtyard in particular and killed eight soldiers in a firefight while a ninth stood right beside me, smoking, and didn’t even respond. It’s shockingly bad in places, including times when the enemy moves towards a thrown grenade or simply mill around cover because they can’t decide who gets to sit behind it.
The only satisfaction to be gleaned from the lacklustre guns comes from rifles, be they sniper or otherwise, which give off a satisfying crack and spray of skull-juice when you cap a Nazi at 100 yards. Machine guns and pistols lack a sense of impact, not helped by the feeling that Mr. Hawkins is sliding around on ice.
Although CI Games were keen to announce that Enemy Front runs on the CryEngine 3, you’d be hard-pressed to notice it. The murky, washed-out visuals are frequently horrendous, presenting bland, almost feature-less environments and badly animated character models, even in cutscenes. Character movement is afflicted with a strange kind of motion-blurring effect that harks back to the PlayStation 2 days and makes it hard to even see who’s shooting at you while you’re running for cover. Between the lack of visual pizazz and the troubled framerate, it’s hard to see what the CryEngine 3 has been used for.
If there’s a positive element to Enemy Front, it’s the multiplayer. While it’s not even in the same sport, let alone the same league, as a Battlefield or a Halo, the limited number of modes suit the game well – and it’s not hamstrung by the dodgy storyline or brain-dead AI. That said, few people will be rushing out to buy a WWII shooter for the multiplayer when there are many better alternatives.
VERDICT: CI Games don’t lack ambition – but they do appear to lack the ability to bring those ambitions to full fruition. A tragic step back from the above-average Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, Enemy Front is a turgid, listless affair with far too many problems to recommend. Terrible AI, truly awful graphics and a dull plot add up to make this a World War II shooter that you’ll want to avoid like a Nazi death squad. Disappointing and derivative.
TERRIBLE. A step up from “diabolical”, but a minor one. A 2/10 will have at best one or two positive features that, alongside its catalogue of disappointments, just aren’t enough to render it playable.
Review code provided by publisher.