‘Front Defense: Heroes’ is a stunning virtual reality title that has been available on the Oculus Rift for a while now, and it’s now available on Steam. The game is a unique take on WWII combat experiences, and lets you control the battlefront from both the attackers and defenders perspective.
Vestern Front: Heroes is a newVR game from the developers of Front Defense, that promises to recreate the popular Front Defense gameplay. The game is set during the Second World War, where you play as a young soldier who gets recruited by the British Army and sent to fight in the European Theatre.
Front Defense: Heroes (2017), Fantahorn’s latest WWII-themed shooter, is now available in Early Access for HTC Vive, including multiplayer action in the traditional 5v5 shooter format. We don’t provide ratings in Early Access, which is probably a good thing since there are too many game-breaking bugs to make this anything more than a short distraction right now.
Set towards the bloody conclusion of World War 2, you may pick between Allied (now just Americans) and Nazi forces, fighting it out over five different maps: a French hamlet, a church, nighttime city streets, an abandoned factory, and a railway depot with an armored train. Only the train map, which allows for a Counter-Strike-style bomb planting option, offers anything other than a standard deathmatch.
At this point, the maps are extremely crude. Despite being told that the pre-release version might contain problems, I had difficulty going through door frames and was trapped many times in the maps’ geometry. The studio recommended dropping your pistol to reset your position throughout the battle, but it never worked for me, so I had to wait for the 5-minute round to end before being spawned back in at my team’s starting point. The maps, to their credit, are both diverse and intriguing enough to keep you playing for quite some time.
Because weapon classes aren’t restricted to whatever side you choose, an Allied player may choose to load-out with a common Axis weapon like an MP-40 or Gewehr 43, which I thought was a huge oversight. When you roll up on a squad of Nazis and all you can hear is the roar of M1-carbines and Tommy guns, much of the pleasure of creeping about in WW2 multiplayer games is taken away forever.
It wasn’t the most polished shooting experience I’ve ever had. Reloading is easy and straightforward, which is a major advantage since it eliminates the need to fiddle about looking for your next magazine. When you shoot two-handed, the recoil of the gun is considerably reduced. To my dismay, ubiquitous crosshairs appear everywhere you point, implying that you’ll never have to aim down the sites to obtain a clean shot.
When attempting to reload a magazine for my rifle, I grabbed a grenade and pulled the pin a few times, despite the fact that there was no friendly fire in the pre-launch matches I played—annoying, but not punishing.
Unfortunately, for a game that prides itself on realism, the rifles seemed somewhat smaller than they should, though this is less apparent in the game’s handguns, the Colt 1911 and Pistole Parabellum 1908. (aka Nazi Luger). I’ve fired both an original full-stock M1 carbine and a modern-day Colt 1911 replica, so I can speak from personal experience. The change isn’t huge, but it’s apparent to anybody who has worked with guns.
Shooting firearms in VR never seems quite right until you have a peripheral like a gun stock. It’s never heavy enough, and the dual-grips never give you the impression that you’re carrying a substantial weapon. That’s more of a problem with VR in general, not the game specifically, so it’s difficult to criticize Front Defense: Heroes for being ineffective in that regard.
Avatars currently leave a lot to the imagination in terms of immersion. Players are well-animated while engaged in automatic running (described in the ‘Comfort’ section), with regular strides and attitudes. The change is instantly evident when you return to regular room-scale movement. Several of my brothers and sisters in arms were placed at the wrong heights, causing some to walk on their tiptoes and others to float in mid-air at times.
I already stated that I clipped many times when working with geometry. That’s something I’d want to change. About half the time I was playing, a combination of reloading, tossing grenades, and walking caused me to fall through the globe or into structures that weren’t usually accessible, rendering me immobile or giving me a sudden wall-hacking shooting edge over other players. The studio told me that this was an important problem that they were working on and would try to resolve before the film’s release.
Smooth movement is tied to your head, not your hand, like in the virtual reality shooter Onward (2017). Personally, I prefer head-locked smooth motion over the former, but it is a matter of personal preference.
Third-person mobility, similar to that seen in From Other Suns (2017), is a major bonus, allowing you to ‘drive’ a remote-controlled version of yourself and immediately teleport to where you’ve stopped. V-move is the studio’s name for their version. This degree of physical continuity is essential in shooters since you can’t zip about avoiding bullets or pop out of view anytime you want because you’re constantly exposed to enemy fire.
Firearms are easy to reach once they’re on your person, but I’d like to see more ‘force grabbing’ capability, since you have to physically bend down to pick up guns off the ground.
It’s difficult not to take a risk on some WW2 deathmatch action for around $10. Front Defense: Heroes, as it is today, need some significant TLC in order to establish itself as a reliable VR shooter that players will return to. The game’s fundamental concept is sound—basically it’s Day of Defeat in VR—but whether Fantahorn can invest in the time to get this rusted wheel spinning before its full consumer release remains to be seen.
Note: Because this game is under Early Access, the creators consider it unfinished and expect it to evolve over time. This review will not be given a numerical score since it is an evaluation of the game’s present condition.
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