When you consider that people have been making video games for decades, you’d think, at the very least, that everyone would get the fundaments right. But after playing the World War II first-person shooter Enemy Front — which was made by CI Games (Sniper: Ghost Warrior), and published by Bandai Namco on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC — I’ve learned that, sadly, that’s not always the case.
In Enemy Front, you play as Robert Hawkins, a war correspondent in Poland who’s embedded himself with the local resistance. But while he declares, “I write for a living,” it’s clear he doesn’t because you spend the entire game shooting people.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice something is amiss with Enemy Front. Namely, how over-sensitive the controls are, even when they’re turned all the way down. Hawkins will also keep moving long as you stop pressing the thumbstick or “W” key (though at times it’s far less pronounced). As a result, Enemy Front feel like it’s set on a world covered in ice, but Hawkins only learned how to skate yesterday.
Sadly, the same sensitivity issue also plagues the aiming, though the aim assist does compensate a little. It’s especially bad when you’re trying to use a sniper rifle. Not only is it difficult to get a bead on anyone, but one time, I actually fell off a ledge while trying to aim.
The buttons in Enemy Front don’t work any better. On several occasions, some of them fatal, I would pull the trigger and…nothing. This was also the case when a German soldier would get too close and I’d try to stab them with my knife, only to have to jam down on that button repeatedly to get it to work.
Enemy Front is also rife with bugs. For starters, some of the walls are mere suggestions, not solid objects. Not only do enemies slip in and out of them sometimes, but during one early mission, when I was inside a house shooting enemies who were on my lawn and then ran to a back room for cover when they started shooting back, I was killed by bullets that went through the walls. And while there are some things in the game you can shoot through, such as the wooden pews in a church, I really doubt a bullet from a machine gun could go through three walls and a bureau full of underwear.
In fact, Enemy Front has a lot of problems when it comes to how things interact. At one point, I was startled by an enemy and accidentally pressed in the right thumbstick, which caused me to take out his knife and slash the guy, killing him instantly. Except that I was nowhere near the guy. Certainly not near enough where I could kill him with a knife.
These are not the only glitches you’ll see in Enemy Front. I saw both enemies and compatriots get stuck on several occasions, had my old guns disappear when I picked up a different one up off the ground, and had to go sniper a sniper at one point without ever getting a sniper rifle.
It also doesn’t help that the Germans in Enemy Front aren’t the most competent soldiers. Not only do they not pay attention half the time, but at one point I tossed a grenade into a circle jerk of German soldiers, and they just stood there until it exploded.
Enemy Front is also rather irritating when it comes to checkpoints, which are set too far apart. As a result, when you die, you end up going really far back, much further than you’d expect.
Oh, and I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a clever joke or bad casting, but when they die, some of the German soldier’s wheeze like old Jewish men from Woody Allen’s movie Love And Death.
What makes the technical flaws of Enemy Front so much more annoying is that there’s an otherwise decent game somewhere beneath them.
For starters, Enemy Front has some basic stealth elements, which let you sneak up behind your enemies if you don’t feel like going on Rambo on their asses. There are often multiple pathways to your objective, and you can distract someone by tossing a rock in hopes the noise grabs their attention. You can even, on occasion, interact with such items as a record player, turning it off so that some poor fool will come running to see who the fuck turned off my music!?! Oh, it’s the guy with the machine gun. Dang.
Along with pulling ideas from the stealth action genre, Enemy Front also culls some from sniper games, in that it lets you use binoculars to spot and mark enemies. And, well, by letting you use a sniper rifle instead of a machine gun, of course. It even once did the slo-mo follow-the-bullet thing common in sniper games, though I have no idea why and was never able to do it again.
There are even times in Enemy Front when you’ll happen upon an optional second objective, which you can not only chose to skip or do, but you can also fail without it impacting your main objective. Which, admittedly, isn’t a new idea, but it is a good one, and one that helps mix things up.
None of which makes Enemy Front into an exceptional World War II first-person shooter, of course, but because it has so many issues — control, technical, A.I. — it ends up being the worst World War II first-person shooter since 2005’s Call Of Duty 2: Big Red One.
One note: While all of the observations above were gleaned from playing the story-driven campaign, I assume they mostly hold true for the competitive multiplayer modes as well. But I can only assume that because, despite trying at multiple times on multiple days, there were never enough people playing the multiplayer modes of Enemy Front to start a match.
In the end, Enemy Front is a bad first-person shooter, World War II or otherwise. While it tries to expand the genre’s tenets, it can’t even get something as simple and basic as the controls to work right. Which is just bizarre. I mean, people have only been making video games for…how long?