Much time has passed since Stuart Black, creator of the hard-as-nails shooter Black, went to work crafting his next World War II adventure. The game in question has now been announced as Enemy Front, put on display at E3 2012 by developer City Interactive.
In a world filled with modern military shooters and WWII titles that place emphasis on historical accuracy, Enemy Front seeks to tell a good old-fashioned war story that puts adventure and fun above all else.
The development team clearly isn't looking to disregard the actual facts and battles of World War II, but maintain that those stories have already been told. What hasn't gotten enough attention in video games are the war movies which helped popularize the genre by simply using the backdrop of war-torn Europe for compelling stories and adventures. Stuart Black previously explained his desire to bring some 'rock and roll' to the WWII shooter with Enemy Front, and the early footage is promising.
While still pre-alpha in construction, the demo shown at E3 followed the main character - referred to as 'Alders' - battling his way through a French village occupied by German forces. As an OSS Ranger dropped behind enemy lines, the players is not simply required to complete a straightforward objective as part of a larger offensive, but stumbles upon a conspiracy that will send him hurtling across Europe. Even with this brief plot synopsis, the dedication to war films over WWII shooters is evident.
One feature which will be separating Enemy Front from the more recent games set in the time period - we're looking at you, CoD - is the unabashed desire of Black and City to craft an experience that hearkens back to films like The Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare, or even Inglourious Basterds. The attitude or action of those films may be what first comes to mind, but what may be overlooked is the commitment to placing interesting characters into extreme situations.
The difference is a subtle one, but exemplified by the opening of the demo: a cutscene depicting the main character Alders' jeep being shot up and crashed. Getting to see Alders avoid gunfire and throw out a quip to his assailants before taking control of the character helped to establish the experience as one far more character-focused than might be expected from the setting. The difference between being a nameless soldier and getting to play as one established through cutscenes and dialogue is a hard one to describe, but certainly seems to be one of City's priorities.
The game's stages set within France, Poland and Germany may not exactly be untapped wells, but the studio's commitment to CryENGINE 3 means that there will be some new features to experiment with. Enemy Front, like Black, will be placing an emphasis on the destructible environments and construction that the new engine makes possible. Enemy gunfire was shown to result in everything from splintered wood to pulverized masonry, so the moment-to-moment instances of spraying-and-praying do offer a satisfying amount of visual and audio feedback.
While the implausibility of the plot - sending a single soldier across Europe to do what an army cannot - may imply a suspension of disbelief in terms of danger and overwhelming odds, players won't have to indulge themselves in invincibility. Occasionally the number of approaching enemies will mean that avoiding a skirmish is the best course of action. But, this being a game designed by Stuart Black, the game's mechanics aren't exactly beholden to a sense of realism.
A pistol with infinte ammo is set to keep the action moving forward, just one of many tropes of the genre set to appear. A proper English Commando and an alluring female French resistance fighter will be aiding Alders in his investigation, and those capable of dispatching German soldiers will be treated with a smart remark from Alders worthy of a wink to the camera.
The developers promise a wide range of period weaponry including lesser-known models of machine-guns and throwing knives, the use of vehicles in combat, and the ability to work with friendly forces as their missions align with that of Alders. Among the locations teased was the 'Wolf's Lair,' Hitler's base of operations on the Eastern Front, so expect the game's campaign to depict a seriously grueling trek.
The basic gameplay of Enemy Front is not attempting to reinvent the shooter genre in any way, and while the footage shown was far from finished, the foundation seems strong. AI behavior and hit detection all seemed to be well-tuned, and the design team's decision to work all ammo and directional indicators into a single widget in the corner of the screen, thus leaving the rest of the screen free from obstruction, was a particularly nice touch.
At this point there is little to go on besides this brief look at gameplay and the general direction the team is taking. But like City's other featured demo, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, the developer seems intent on showing just how many unique experiences are possible within the sizable FPS genre. Neither game will be competing with the industry's behemoth shooter franchises, but those wishing to feel like they're fighting their way through a Peckinpah WWII adventure now have a release to look forward to.
Enemy Front is currently scheduled for a release in the first half of 2013, for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.