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Preview: 'Enemy Front' is just days away, our thoughts and hands-on

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CI Games, of Sniper: Ghost Warrior fame, prepares to offer up Enemy Front, a WWII first-person shooter, focused on the activities of the resistance during the war. CI, headquartered in Warsaw, looks to shake up gameplay during the players run through, and adds in some interesting quirks that will make exploring your approach a more necessary process heading toward each engagement.

Enemy Front’s story follows Robert Hawkins, an American journalist deep behind enemy lines and embedded with a group of resistance fighters. Hawkins journey will find him utilizing many tools in order to complete the open-ended style missions featured in Enemy Front. The player is left to decide how to approach each engagement with Nazi forces, and truly does have the choice of consequence for the German foes. Repeatedly during our play-through we noticed assets in the environment that would momentarily glint, informing the player that you could shoot that object to trigger some sort of distraction, or perhaps an environmental method of dispatching your enemy. Removing the stop-blocks from a truck’s tires causes the truck to careen out of a garage and slam into the side of a nearby guard building. The guards investigate, giving Hawkins enough time to slip by to the next area, or to place a few suppressed shots into their cavities, choice is the name of the game. Cranes with hanging boxes can be shot to drop their payload on unsuspecting Nazis. Logs holding back a wall of timber can be removed via bullet and send the lumber heading downhill to take out enemies.

During our play, we tried out two independent missions, the first set in the mountains of Norway at a hydroelectric power plant being used to further Nazi aspirations of an atomic superweapon. Some may be surprised to know that this is in fact an actual Special Forces mission carried out in WWII by British and Norwegian operatives working with the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Immediately upon insertion a few things were clear; CryEngine 3 is capable of stunning landscapes, and being granted two silenced weapons in addition to a standard sniper rifle dictated that choice was an emphasis. Environmental and particle effects did wonders conveying the sense of cold and bitter stinging that must be inevitable at the installation we were about to raid. Frost was rendered on to assets like boxes in a way that made us physically feel a bit of that chill that our SOE friends must have endured.

The mission played out as many do within the FPS genre, kill enemies to proceed to your objective, kill said enemy/place bomb/release prisoners and continue on your path. What was not so apparent in this preview build was the narrative emphasis or what story CI Games was truly trying to tell. It became an exercise in muscle memory for mouse clicking and peeking around cover, but ultimately felt a bit stale and less than thrilling. The protagonist’s motivations beyond killing Nazis and blowing up a plant were a bit unclear, and the voice acting from the primary character seemed a bit forced. While AI squadmates did accompany for part of the mission, they barked typical FPS banter during firefights, and provided some context for what needed to happen next, but again felt as though they were just side characters in a march through the installation.

Upon exiting the mission area, a short cut scene does a good job of setting up what to expect from the mission to follow. Our main character and cohort are approached by their squad mate exiting the facility, only to find that a large shipment of heavy water has already left the plant, bound for German research institutions. This detail again confirms the fairly accurate retelling of history through Enemy Front, in that this is indeed what happened during the SOE raids, and SOE forces ultimately follow this information to engage the shipment that left.

“Fire in the Sky” as it was called was our second mission to try in Enemy Front, and provided another chance to dive in to the world of mid 40’s conflict, and perhaps reveal some more motivations behind our protagonist and his unit.

The mission begins with Hawkins sneaking his way in to yet another Nazi installation, this time the environment has changed to less of the harsh cold of the Norwegian peaks, and more to the forests of lower altitudes. We were granted a suppressed submachine gun, pistol, and a standard assault rifle to carry out our infiltration. We utilized the vehicle distraction mentioned earlier to get in past the guards, kill whomever might uncover our presence, and continue to clear the way for our Air Force to bombard the V1/V2 missile location.

More often than not, attempted stealth tactics worked for a bit until that one pesky guard decided now is the best time to turn around. This led to multiple firefights that brought back more of the same feelings from the first level of crouch for cover, reload, shoot, rinse, repeat. While it’s tough to shake FPS convention in firefights, Enemy Front does do a great job of making you feel like you can resolve the fight in different manners. More than once we triggered those environmentals just to see what might happen, and how it would change the flow of the game. The level continued to some open areas and ultimately a launch pad wherein we had to destroy the V2 rockets with their systems targeting our homes.

Overall the time with Enemy Front was enjoyable, but what didn’t resonate nearly enough was any sort of emotional weight or narrative drive. We didn’t feel that connection to the characters thats almost necessary in a modern made WWII shooter. While the historical accuracy of the missions, locations, units, and weapons is most certainly there, it can’t go unnoticed that the story seemed to be lacking passion. We didn’t feel that same emotion that showed up in earlier promotional trailers. Whether the full game suffers from the same emotional disconnect is something we will all find out when Enemy Front launches on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on June 10th. The game will be offered in a Standard Edition with retailer specific DLC Packs for $39.99 or a Special Edition which includes the French Liberation Officer DLC, British Commando DLC, an exclusive single-player mission: Raid on St. Nazaire, and a pair of weapons in the M1 Garand rifle and Webley pistol

Remaining to be seen is how Enemy Front’s 12-player multiplayer will stack up and differentiate itself, as well as how the rest of the game follows Hawkins, the SOE group, and what locations will play their part in the game.

Examiner was provided a preview code for download of the detailed gameply by CI Games in order to evaluate the game in it’s current state. The author has not received any other compensation or incentive from the publisher or developer of the title.

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