As the old saying goes, you wait ages for a non-sniper-based World War Two FPS where you shoot Nazis and two come along at once. Of course I still remember when it was Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and despite being still fun id Software's venerable franchise couldn't really hold a candle to the game that set the template for the all-conquering Call of Duty. Now it's the new Wolfenstein versus CI Games' Enemy Front, and I don't think I'm spoiling the surprise by saying this time it's BJ Blazkowicz that comes out on top. This time around there really is no contest. Enemy Front is not a very good game.
The setting is Poland during the war years (duh), and you play a journalist called Hawkins who ends up fighting with the resistance movement. Most of the game is set during Warsaw in the fight against the German occupation, however there are flashback missions set over Europe which offer variety from the ruins of the Polish capital. Despite trying to tell a compelling true-life story Enemy Front completely fails in this regard. Cutscenes are low quality and are both badly acted and animated, characters pop in and out and make little impact of note, and all the drama is completely lost through incompetence.
Quick, take cover facing him! He'll never expect that!
Let me spell out what Enemy Front is for you: Call of Duty but without any polish. Can I go home now? I need 600+ more words? Fine. Let me elaborate on that. The gameplay is almost entirely a rip-off of COD, like most FPSs these days admittedly but when you're making a WW2 shooter (like COD was until they made the gaming world bored with it) it's particularly conspicuous. Following guys, only being able to open two normal doors by yourself in the entire game, breaching other doors that inexplicably slow down time allowing you to kill everyone, two weapons, no vehicles, small areas with low-to-no exploration value, guys barking orders at you and the objectives they just said popping up on screen, these types of things.
But the "less polish" thing? Give the Call of Duty games their due, they really are polished to perfection. They're big cinematic popcorn fests you can tuck into and enjoy the craziness. Enemy Front wants to be that but doesn't know how, simply through lack of care. For starters there are simply bugs, like characters walking through walls, a table flipping over by itself or enemies completely disappearing (all of which I encountered), and straight crashes (which were common, apparently afflicting the console version too to the extent that save files can be corrupted). Beyond that though there's sheer incompetence in design, like a confusing HUD that groups everything into one corner of the screen or invisible walls such as one I found stopping me going up a small very path-like incline to reach two enemies shooting at me - the game doesn't want you going that way though, so those two Nazis are still there trying to shoot me through walls.
It's the AI that really ruins all the grand moments, and I don't just mean taking cover the wrong way so I can see them in full or wandering dumbly backwards and forwards in front of my iron sights (although these happen too). There are occasionally largish areas to fight in, complete with great sniping locations, underground shortcuts, several paths of attack, and numerous potentially fun battlegrounds to fight over, such as a small walled village I found a couple of hours into the campaign. The trouble is that after I shot the guard at the gate (with a sniper rifle) every single soldier in the village poured out slowly through the gate and allowed me to mow them down. By the end of it I had a pile of dead bodies (ironically matching the "shocking" pile of dead villagers I found moments before) and that wonderful well-designed and exciting battleground was left completely empty. I explored the area and found nothing of interest - it was designed entirely to be a fun place to fight in but the enemy AI didn't want anything to do with it.
Stealth! Nazis! Fresh fruit!
There's also stealth supposedly, but you'll need a masters degree in patience to get through any area without being seen. With the exception of one short snowy area you never get any silenced weapons, there are no throwing knives or anything like that and the sneak kill takes absolutely ages (even though a regular melee attack kills instantaneously). You can pick up bodies but this also takes too long, and half the time you'll pick up their gun instead (even though the prompt says "pick up body"). Oh, and your enemies' patrol routes always keeps them in sight of another guard at nearly all times, so there's no fun in stealth at all. And yes, one single shot, from you or a soldier, and every Nazi within earshot will be on you like a pack of hounds with poor AI.
Unfortunately as I've hinted at already the shooting isn't much fun either. To be fair the guns themselves handle very well, and since Enemy Front is from the same studio that made Sniper: Ghost Warrior the sniping is probably the most amount of fun you can have in the game once you get that rifle with a scope. You can hold your breath to steady your aim and marginally slow down the action, and occasionally there'll be a cool bullet-tracking animation from your gun to the moment it explodes into your target- not a new idea by any means but satisfying all the same. Poor enemy AI spoils a lot of the fun in shooting though, and unlike Call of Duty there's no visual pay-off either. There are no exciting set-pieces and while it looks all okay on the CryEngine (which version I'm not sure) it's most assured a last-gen game - which is why it's not out on Xbox One or PS4, and the PC version doesn't get things much better.
Pictured - the other end of the James Bond gun-barrel opening
There's multiplayer, but it's the very definition of an afterthought. There are just four maps and three modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and a Domination-like called Radio Transmission. Radio Transmission is the most fun, although that's not the 'f' word I was using the most while playing it. I don't want to call anyone out as cheating without proof, but either this just-released game has a large population of extremely experienced players or there's something dodgy going on. Enemy Front is not a one-hit-kills game and yet no matter the distance or surprise as soon as nearly every player just glanced at me I was dead immediately, and that's including over long distances with inaccurate machine-gun weapons. The fun value is moot anyway, since frankly you'll be lucky to find a server where anyone's playing.
Enemy Front's problem.
ENEMY FRONT VERDICT
I wanted to like Enemy Front since despite my crack about Wolfenstein: The New Order at the beginning there is a gap in the market for a proper serious World War Two FPS that isn’t predominantly about sniping (Rebellion’s Sniper Elite 3 is out soon too). Unfortunately Enemy Front isn’t it, and in the 8-10 hours it takes to finish ironically I only really had fun playing it in the sniping moments. It plays like a poor man’s Call of Duty, copying everything except the stuff that makes the series enjoyable. It’s unpolished, has terrible enemy AI, impossible stealth, boring multiplayer, a badly-told story, last-gen graphics, and the shooting is merely okay. The only above-average things I can say about it is that the loading screens are nice and the music is neatly rousing, like the old Medal of Honor games. If you absolutely must play a World War Two shooter that isn’t focused on sniping and doesn’t have killer robot dogs, then it’s probably best to play through Call of Duty: World At War again because Enemy Front is not worth your time.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Sniping a Nazi occasionally gives you a cool bullet cam. Yes 90% of the games with sniping have this feature, so perhaps now you’ll understand