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Enemy Front

The True Spiritual Successor To Black

 

Enemy Front opens like many World War II first-person shooters. You are running through a dilapidated city fighting enemies with swastikas emblazoned on their shoulders. It’s familiar territory, but there are enough differences to make Enemy Front worth taking a look at.

Enemy Front comes for the mind of Stuart Black, the namesake and co-creator of 2006’s Black on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The two games may not share the same setting or timeframe, but their mechanics have a lot in common. Much like Black, the main focus of the game is shooting things. Stuart Black feels that there are only five or six really good shooters out there, and the rest compensate for their mediocre quality with forgettable gimmicks. Black’s goal for Enemy Front is to make shooting, something you’ll be doing a lot, the main focus.

We were shown snippets from two different levels. In Call of Duty -- the most successful first-person shooter on the market -- it’s all about momentum. Follow the marker and move towards it at all costs, picking off a seemingly endless stream of enemies who go down after a few shots. In Enemy Front, I found myself getting comfortable behind cover. I was less concerned with my location, and more concerned with firing my weapon and tossing grenades towards my enemies. Plenty of explosive fuel barrels and combustible vehicles litter the battlefield, providing many opportunities to obliterate foes stupid enough to use them as cover.

This really encapsulates what Enemy Front is all about. Who cares that the enemies are dumb enough to hide behind a car, or right next to an explosive barrel? What matters is that blowing them to bits with an impromptu fireworks display is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s in this way the Enemy Front reminded me of Black in the best way. Black was all about orchestrated explosions conducted by you with the help of your powerful weapons. The way the camera jolts and shudders when you fire and the way it all sounds really drives home what firing a gun is all about. The guns in Enemy Front have that same feeling of weight and danger to them, just as they did in Black.

Programming an enemy to use an explosive barrel as cover for your enjoyment, however, isn’t the same as dumb AI. Enemy Front is being built with the Crytek engine, the same engine that behind Crysis 2. Even though the games feature different play styles, they share an AI engine, and Black and his team at City Interactive are spending a lot of time making sure the AI is interesting and varied. There are going to be 10 different enemy class types, with jobs spanning from typical armed opposition and medics running around the battlefield healing enemies you merely maimed, to enemies whose job it is to run off and call for back-up by blowing whistles or shooting off flares.

Another way Enemy Front focuses on gunplay is by offering three unique play styles that correspond to different types of shooters. You choose your style at the beginning of your game. Hope mode offers rechargeable health. Honor mode takes away rechargeable health but lets the player pick up and use health packs. Players also scavenge for health packs in Glory mode, which offers the purest cinematic experience by taking away your crosshairs and HUD. By letting gamers play the game the way they want, all you have to worry about is shooting the enemy.

Stuart Black considers himself a selfish gamer, so he’s making Enemy Front into the game he wants to play. He is also striving to make the AI as unpredictable as possible, so that he won’t get bored with playing the game over and over. Black also hates that most single-player campaign first-person shooters only last about five hours, so he’s shooting to extend that to 11 hours.

The recently released Bodycount -- a game Stuart Black was involved with early on but left partway through development -- was touted as the spiritual successor to Black when it was first being marketed. What resulted was a disappointing shooter that was clearly missing Black’s touch by the time it released. With Stuart Black on board as the creative director for Enemy Front, we may finally have a worthy follow-up to one of last generation’s most interesting first-person shooters.

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