I have genuninely held the opinion that it was impossible to make an ugly game using the CryEngine. Numerous Crysis games, Star Citizen and even the free-to-play Warface are all amazingly gorgeous. Alas, in Enemy Front I've finally found the exception to my rule.
Sadly the visuals are only beginning of a long list of issues with CI Games' new World War II title.
Enemy Front is ambitious in what it wants to do. It aims to offer FPS fans a series of missions that are supposedly structured like Dishonored's wonderful sandbox levels offering a variety of approaches to achiev your objectives. It also attempts to wrap it up in a thoughtful Band Of Brothers-style storyline as it follows the adventures of Richard Hawkins, a journalist embedded with the variety of resistance movements that struck at the Nazis during the Second World War.
Sounds promising, right?
The first warning signs for Enemy Front appeared well before the game even released. It was originally the brainchild of Stuart Black, the creator of Criterion's excellent but narcissitically named FPS Black. However, Black left the Enemy Front's development about half-way through citing creative differences and went on to form his own indie studio.
This story may sound familiar. Codemasters' notorious and final FPS Body Count was Stuart Black's previous attempt to rekindle the spirit of Black. Again, he left the project about half-way through development and Body Count released as a messy flop bringing to the end any aspirations that Codemasters had of building good games outside the racing genre.
Enemy Front thrusts you straight into the action with the Polish Resistance engaging the German forces in anticipation of the Soviet advance. As the game prompts seem to favour the Xbox 360 as control method of choice I jumped straight with my controller to find a poorly optimized control scheme. The right thumbstick is sluggish in hip-fire aiming but immediately becomes over-sensitive when switching to iron sights. Not a good start and it's only made worse by the relatively quick pace of the game's opening sequence. That said it's fairly dull as it just involves shooting Nazis at a barricade across a street then diving into the sewers to escape when the position is compromised.
Switching controls to the mouse and keyboard yields a slightly better performance from Enemy Front but there's an odd sense of disconnection between the controls and the game. You never really get a sense of the weight of motion of the character or the solidity of the weapons. It all feels rather wishy-washy. There's no sense of the game wanting to cater to PC gamers either as the prompts still show as if I was using an Xbox 360 controller even when I switched to the mouse and keyboard.
Enemy Front is its own worst enemy as far as visuals are concerned. Even with the settings turned all of the way up at 1080p the game still feels like it is filled with jaggy edges and the textures have a feel of Xbox 360 or PS3 textures that just refuse to scale up in anything but the most vaguely blurry sense. Quite how Enemy Front manages to look blurry and jaggy at the same time is beyond me and I'd marvel at the achievement if it didn't make for such a jarring experience.
There's animation issues as well. NPC don't seem to move particularly realistic and enemies frequently clip through the cover they are hiding behind enableing them effectively to shoot through walls. Talking to NPCs is unpleasant as their facial animations always suffer from a weird ghosting effect. This probably should have been caught in QA really early given that it happens with the first NPC you need to talk to and almost every other one that you talk with from that moment forward.
Enemy Front is ridiculously broken and it's really hard to understand how it managed to get released in this state as its verging on unplayable. Because of this it's really hard to look beyond the flaws to see if the developers managed to achieve some of the bold and adventurous ideas that they claimed that the game would have.
I'm still confused at how CI Games managed to make an ugly-looking game with the CryEngine. Play anything else if you can this summer because Enemy Front is just plain broken.
Enemy Front is out now on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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