Crossfire is the biggest first person shooter you’ve probably never heard of. Though it boasts over 650 million players, those players have typically been found throughout Asia as opposed to Europe and North America. With CrossfireX coming to Xbox One and Xbox Series X, Smilegate and Microsoft are hoping to break not just the geographical barrier, but also reach a big new audience on consoles.
But Smilegate have long had other ambitions for their shooter as well. It was way back in 2016 that they announced a partnership with Remedy Entertainment (Alan Wake, Control) to craft single player stories within their world of private military companies and modern warfare.
Remedy’s take on this secretive world of rival black ops forces was revealed in a new campaign trailer during last night’s Xbox Games Showcase, and we were then privy to a private hands off demo from one of the story chapters in the game, Operation Spectre.
With the game’s Asian origins, we wondered if that had any impact on how the game was created, while trying to appeal to players in Europe and America. Executive producer Tuukka Taipalvesi said, “What we’re trying to do here is to build a global product, something that works all over the world. As Thomas [Puha] said in the presentation, it’s a mash up of the best of the East meets West situation. We have our way of making games and telling stories, and then with our partner Smilegate comes the Eastern mentality and with that a slightly larger than life universe and characters.”
Right from the off, it’s clear that Remedy are leaning into some modern shooter and cinema tropes. Luis Torres is a petty thief on his way to prison in Puerto Helena, being berated by a prison guard when their bus is thrown around using an explosive drone. With Global Risk goons closing in, it’s a good thing that he’s handy enough to pick the lock on his handcuffs and make an escape.
From here, the story continues to play with broad strokes. The hospital he tries to make an escape through is abandoned due to a hurricane warning – oh, so that’s why they were ballsy enough to just blow up a bus in the middle of the day – as he’s ambushed and grappling with another Global Risk goon, he’s rescued by a lone Black List soldier, Nicholas Kamara. There’s plenty of incidental dialogue about how Nicholas is an asshole, how he doesn’t care about Torres, but that his boss wants him alive… As I said, it’s schlocky action movie stuff.
The two of you work your way through this hospital, taking on each handful of Global Risk soldiers as you go. You wouldn’t know this is Remedy’s first attempt at a first person shooter, with solid looking shooting from the handful of weapons shown – pistols, assault rifles, underslung grenade launchers, shotguns and the like – and physical movement with sliding after sprinting and the ability to lean to peak out of cover.
While Remedy are stepping away from the supernatural elements that have helped make their games so memorable over the years, they do have a hint of that with the Combat Breaker, essentially an on-tap slow motion ability to let you focus and land your headshots, while the Northlight game engine goes into overdrive, saturating the colours, making explosions look extra pretty. That’s a universal ability, available to any of the characters you play as, but does it hint at something more?
“There are different ways that you can play the game,” Tuuki explained, “there are different types of FPS gameplay that we have included in this Operation. [The Combat Breaker is] not the only gameplay feature like that, that takes it beyond the normal first person shooter.”
Communications Director Thomas Puha chimed in to tell us to “Take a close look at the campaign trailer. That’s my suggestion.”
So… we did take a second look, soaking in the rather melodramatic narrative hints throughout. Why do Global Risk want to kill Torres? Well, it’s because they somehow know that this common criminal is going to turn into a super soldier of sorts, “the Ghost”, as one enemy exclaims. Not only that, but there were a fair few gratuitous shots of a rather fancy looking combat suit covered in armoured plates, leading to the reveal of an Crysis-style active camouflage ability.
Remedy know how to put together a good action set piece too, with the demo concluding with a high speed chase through the streets of Puerto Helena, firing out of the back of an ambulance as you first reverse through the streets and then try to drive away from a bunch of heavily armoured trucks hunting you down.
Perhaps the only concern for CrossfireX is that, in trying to hit the notes of an action-filled modern day shooter, that those are the only notes that it manages to hit. When Remedy’s reputation has built up around exceptional stories and adventures, you expect the exceptional from CrossfireX as well. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of the exceptional soon.
CrossfireX is coming as a timed exclusive to Xbox One and Xbox Series X this year. The multiplayer will be free-to-play, with Remedy’s single player story campaign sold separately.