Wednesday, June 11, 2014

(Spoilers) Enemy Front (PC) SP Review

***SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers may be found in the post below about VARIOUS ITEMS. And I'm going to add in a bit of filler text here to limit how much of the main article gets shown in a preview. That should take care of most of it. Hopefully. And away we go. SPOILER WARNING. ***

This came a bit out of nowhere for me. I was browsing Steam looking for something new and stumbled on this only a week ago. The description and screenshots impressed me. I ended up getting it on release day, June 10, 2014. I snatched it a few hours before it unlocked and managed to get the DLC -- it was advertised for 20% off shortly afterwards for the next week. For some reason the game was only US$ 30 on Steam for PC on release day. I found it for about US$ 40 on for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 at the time too.

Note 1, June 11/14: I only put in about 5 hours into the single-player campaign at the time of writing this review, so it is more like a first impressions write-up. Updates will be made to this post and highlighted once I finish the game. The multiplayer doesn't interest me. Sorry, you won't find anything on that here. Only the single-player campaign is discussed in this review.

Note 2, June 12/14: All done. Finished the single-player campaign and the extra DLC mission in just under six hours on regular. The Saint Nazaire DLC map was barely 30 minutes long.

Enemy Front is a World War II based first-person shooter that's centered around an American reporter fighting as a partisan/resistance fighter. I'll try to avoid spoiling the story, but if you've played a World War II game before, chances are you'll figure out the "story". This one centers around Warsaw, Poland. The enemies are obviously the Germans.
The closest comparable game I can think is Call of Duty 2. Not just because they're both set in WWII, but because they both have pretty good graphics, what appears to be heavily scripted gameplay, friendly AI support, regenerating health (no med-packs), iron sights, and they're relatively linear. There are differences in Enemy Front though. You can use stealth (i.e. don't have to kill everything in sight but can), the maps are more open with more approaches available (not more open like Skyrim and Farcry 2), and the graphics are nicer.

It uses the CRYENGINE, which I believe refers to the game engine used in one of the Crysis games. Enemy Front definitely feels similar to Crysis as well. I only ever played the first two in the series set on an island so I don't know what's happened since. However, the first two have pretty wide open maps, drivable vehicles, and parts of the environment that can be destroyed.

Interacting with the Environment
Aside from barrels and vehicles that can explode, and certain wooden objects that break apart when shot, I don't think Enemy Front offers the same amount of destructible objects as Crysis (the first one, at least). Trying to tip over a guard tower ended mixed: the tower stayed upright but the wooden floor broke, which did kill the guard. There also didn't appear to be the same level of "crap" (e.g. barrels, steel sheets, sheds) flying around when explosions went off.

Also unlike Crysis, I don't think there are any drivable vehicles. I haven't been able to find one yet after five hours of play and I can't recall any "on-rail" sequences after five hours. Even the machineguns mounted on half-tracks didn't appear to be usable -- they did seem to work for the AI during scripted sequences though. Fixed, heavy machineguns set into various emplacements were functional.

Doors are generally treated pretty specially with entire animations showing the player opening and closing doors behind him. And like Call of Duty, certain doors are part of "breach" sequences where the player opens it and time slows down to give him a chance to clear the room.

The single-player campaign so far has been a mix of attack and defend missions in buildings or across towns in the countryside. Some of it felt like Crysis with fairly open-ended exterior maps, and others felt like Call of Duty type rail-sequences. There have been both solo and team missions. The team missions didn't feel as integrated as more recent Call of Duty games. I didn't feel as much a part of a team despite having friendly AI with me. In addition, it felt like there were fewer character interactions and banter.

Enemy Artificial Intelligence
They take cover, throw grenades, use melee attacks, and shoot from behind cover well. Running into them seems to throw them off occasionally. I have charged into a few guys and they either got stuck on me or kept running in circles. When working properly, they use a pretty well sequenced melee attack where an enemy struggles with the player onto the ground -- pressing a key at the right time leads to a counter-attack.

On more than a few occasions they have gotten stuck in the environment and objects as well. For example, once, a German got stuck in a small crater, spinning in circles while I shot him repeatedly. Another time, one appeared to clip through a wall or floor and pop back up out of nowhere. And another time, the guy popped a few meters into the air and then right back down.

It feels like a console port. The menu system feels like it's designed for a console and so does the keyboard layout. There is an option to change advanced graphics options and rebind keys though. No lean keys are available. By default, the "Q" key is for throwing Molotov cocktails and the "E" key is for grenades. The HUD is relatively compact sitting in the bottom left corner. It contains a GPS type map with markers, and a summary of equipment quantities can also be found in it.

Movement feels sluggish. One way to describe it is that moving around feels like you're moving a body with weight and momentum. Another way to put it is that it feels like you're always running on ice. The default moving speed also appears to be a walking pace with the ability to run for a limited amount of time. I also wasn't able to go prone. Keys did not appear to be available to lock into a crouching position or to keep iron sights activated.

Graphics and Performance
I'm running a couple year old computer with all settings around "high". No major performance issues have shown yet. The game is smooth and load times are under a minute. This actually surprised me a bit given the age of my computer. Having more than 4 GB of RAM, and a mid-range, at the time, AMD 6xxx series video card sort of helps. It does stress my system though. To be honest, this really shouldn't have surprised me as it appears that it was only released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 -- not the new Xbox One or Playstation 4.

Did I mention that everything looks gorgeous? Exteriors are filled with vegetation, textures are well detailed, explosions and fires look great, water is beautiful, and light reflects off everything. Various visual effects like light saturating the eye and depth of field show up well too. My only complaint is that the lighting is a bit overdone occasionally with heavy glare caused by muzzle flashes when using iron sights and the sun when outdoors.

Unfortunately, the game has crashed twice, thrice if you count the most recent time after I hit "Quit", already on day one. It happened the first time when launching for the first time ever but my system recovered -- this was the video driver dying. Second time happened after about two hours of uninterrupted play while loading a level -- again, video driver dying but I couldn't get back to Windows so had to hit reset.

Update: My computer does not like this game. After the first few crashes, I updated my video card driver to the latest. On day two, the game managed to completely crash my computer via blue screen three times within an hour: once while quitting after finishing the game and twice during the intro/splash screens while launching the game. Funny. It didn't crash once while in the game world. Every crash was during a menu or load screen outside the game world. And if you're wondering, everything is run at stock with no overclocking. It's stable as a rock in Windows and older games. Some more recent and resource intensive games have given it trouble (e.g. CoD: Ghosts, Metro 2033).


First Impressions Score: 7.5

After five hours, I would recommend Enemy Front, especially for only US$ 30 on opening day. The game runs well and looks beautiful. Most importantly, it's fun. I can kind of see why it didn't sell for full-price (i.e. US$ 50 and up) though. I wouldn't say that it brings anything especially new or revolutionary to the genre. There were also some minor technical issues on release day.

Final Score: 6.0

Final clock for single-player showed about six hours on medium difficulty. It's fun, but I have to admit that I wasn't blown away and everything started looking familiar after the first few hours. The price isn't bad but if I could do it again, I wouldn't pay more than US$ 15. I'm also not impressed that it managed to crash my entire system, requiring hard reboots so many times.

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