Our industry may currently be focused on the modern era for its go-to generic game backdrop, but it wasn't so long ago that World War II was the fashionable FPS destination of choice. Noticing the gap in the once saturated market, City Interactive plan to leap into the breach with not one, but two, WW2 games over the next year.
Pleasingly, however, both titles couldn't be more different in terms of gameplay experience and theatres of war. Dogfight 1942 will allow us to take to the Pacific skies in over forty pilotable aircraft, while Stuart Black's Enemy Front is all about lone wolf heroism deep behind enemy lines. I was able to get to grips with both games at E3 2012.
Dogfight 1942: Boxed Quality, Downloadable Price
Fans of flight Sims haven't had much to crow about over the last few years, save Microsoft Flight, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and the upcoming World Of Warplanes. Help is at hand, though, and it's from a totally unexpected source. After slaving over a retail title called Combat Wings for two years, City Interactive have had a change of heart, deciding to retarget their arcade flight sim at downloadable marketplaces while retaining the quality and quantity of a full boxed game. Newly rebranded as Dogfight 1942, this work in progress is looking seriously impressive.
The E3 demo level showcased the desperate defence of a once-idyllic atoll in the Pacific campaign. Scrambled to intercept a squadron of Zeros, I leapt into an insane furball against dozens of simultaneous enemy pilots. City Interactive are using the phrase "old school fun is back" as their mantra, and thanks to some incredibly accessible controls, the vagaries of flight simulation have been distilled into steering, pointing, shooting and watching your targets splash over the beautiful blue Pacific waters. As bullets and flack filled the air, warships sending up tracer fire as more squadrons poured into the fray, the action quickly became incredibly visceral, tight and unbelievably satisfying. D0gfight 1942 is very much a throwback to the early Ace Combat days rather than a die-hard simulation and is all the better for it.
One of Dogfight 1942's most impressive features is a dynamic camera, which makes for some incredibly cinematic moments. The effect is almost imperceptible at first, but the closer you get to your target's six, the more the camera zooms; perfectly framing both planes as you line up the perfect burst of machine gun fire. Little flourishes like this can really improve immersion, and more importantly, will make the player feel like the star of his/her own war film.
Dogfight 1942 will contain over 40 pilotable planes and a wealth of objective types when it releases on PSN and XBLA, including defensive missions, bombing raids, escort duty and all-out, insane furballs. Pivotal battles in the European theatre of war will also be included, such as the Battle Of Britain and skirmishes over London. Price point and release date are still TBA, but we'll definitely be keeping our eyes on this exciting new venture.
Enemy Front: Stuart Black Ops
Enemy Front is the latest project from Stuart Black, the mastermind behind phenomenally fun last-gen FPS Black. After leaving Codemasters halfway through developing the ill-fated Bodycount, he found a new home with City Interactive, promising to make a "rock & roll" shooter that puts heroism and glory back into World War II. The result is Enemy Front, a game that focuses on the impact one hero can make in some of the less infamous battles of the campaign, such as the Loire Valley.
Sadly Black was unavailable during my guided tour of Enemy Front. Which is a shame, because frankly, I had some questions for him.
Visceral combat immersion is obviously a main focus of Enemy Front. It's Stuart Black's thing, after all. Bullets richochet off walls and surfaces, chips of brick spraying across the screen as you duck, pinned, waiting to return fire or make a break for it. Grenades and sustained fire can shred thin walls with merry abandon, forcing players to relocate often and consider their cover very carefully. CryEngine 3 does a great job of rendering the carnage even at this early stage, though the level of destruction certainly doesn't appear to rival Black or Battlefield 3.
Otherwise, Enemy Front seems to be your standard WW2 FPS. As a lone wolf behind German lines, you'll constantly be changing objectives, either pushing forward and securing territory or withstanding ambushes without a squad to back you up. Which boils down to using rifles, SMGs, grenades and throwing knives to kill Nazis. It's obvious that this single-character heroism will probably lead to a few hectic moments in which you're outnumbered, but never outgunned.
What wasn't obvious, however, was the Rock & Roll aspect. Based on the action we witnessed, Enemy Front is fairly slow and measured, and more worryingly, incredibly conservative. It was practically indistinct from any of this generation's WW2 games save for CryEngine 3's shiny visuals. Tellingly, when I asked City Interactive about how their game planned to stand out from the crowd, they simply told me that there isn't a crowd any more... which is never a good sign. Especially when Gearbox are set to blow the WW2 genre wide open with Furious 4, which seems to deliver a much more bombastic, action-packed thrill ride, and Red Orchestra II gives purists all the authenticity they could ever want.
In an age where we're spoilt for choice for FPS games, Enemy Front is going to have to work hard to avoid sinking into the middle of the pack. Here's hoping that Stuart Black's penchant for huge explosions and CryEngine 3's skill at rendering them will be a match made in heaven.