Every Friday, audiovisual club staff members kick off our weekly open thread for discussion of game plans and recent gaming glories. But of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What are you playing this weekend?
Finnish game developer Remedy Entertainment has pretty much always been a studio designed to be loved. His first big hits were Max Payne games, which were the first post-The matrix to really make bullet time a cool and integral part of the experience. Years later, the studio released the excellent Alan Wake, an extended homage to Stephen King that might as well be the definitive example of a cult classic video game. The studio’s next major release was Quantum Breaka slightly quirky action game with cool time-bending mechanics that boldly tell its story through live TV episodes.
after it was Control, a game I can’t say enough good things aboutand one of Remedy’s next big games will be a long-awaited sequel to Alan Wake. But Remedy actually released a new game earlier this year, and in a bizarre twist after decades of success – or, if not outright success, at least fan-following video games – no one really noticed. .
And there’s also a pretty obvious reason for that: the game is a new single-player mode for Crossfire Xa free-to-play shooter made by South Korean studio Smilegate which is apparently very popular in Asia and not at all popular in the West. I haven’t spent much time in the free multiplayer version of Crossfire X, but I can say with some confidence that it’s awful. You won’t find much in Crossfire X which you can’t find in other best shooting games like Counter-Strike, Call of Dutyor even Tourniquet 007.
So, as a fan of Remedy’s work, I was a bit oddly curious to see how bad his take on a bad shooter would be. After completing the two mini-campaigns available for Crossfire X“Operation Catalyst” and “Operation Spectre” I’m surprised to say are only moderately bad, but in a way that gives me more confidence than ever in Remedy’s ability to consistently deliver.
Despite great discussions about being inspired by Solid metal gear and resident Evil (two franchises that still deliver sweet zaniness), both campaigns are mostly just soldier bullshit, but with at least enough fantastical silliness to stave off any comparison to real current events. There are two competing private military organizations in his world, Global Risk and Blacklist, one of which is somewhat traditional and the other is made up of ruthless “terrorists”.
You play as Global Risk and fight Blacklist in the first campaign, then move on to the second, following a storyline about a Global Risk soldier who logs into some kind of machine that shows him a future world where a Blacklist soldier gets a super-suit and becomes an unstoppable killing machine. Or something like that. Until you actually become that killing machine – which isn’t as fun as it should be – all that really matters is that guys are shooting at you and you have to fire back at them.
Oddly, the somewhat stiff but squirrel shot in multiplayer feels more refined in single player, probably because Remedy has been grafted Crossfire on its existing technology rather than reusing what Smilegate had created, resulting in a game that does a good job of capturing the hard to define feel good shooters like Call of Duty. Being “playable” is a low bar to cross, but the single-player mode crosses it nonetheless.
The thing about Remedy’s work on Crossfire X it’s that there are small moments of ingenuity or eccentricity that make it clear that it was made by a studio with artistic ambitions, rather than mere mercenary work. For example, you have a Max Payne-esque that slows things down, and Remedy chose to hilariously increase the effect of every gunshot, bullet impact, and explosion when this mode is activated, creating absurd showers of sparks with enemy bodies flying in the air in an impossible way. There is no reason for this to happen; it’s just clunky, and it makes the game more fun than it is – and call me a sucker, but it works.
A handful of moments also embrace Remedy’s trippy architecture and visuals. Control, with looping hallways and rooms that stretch incredibly endlessly. There’s even an inexplicable cameo from a live-action actor, an adorably silly halbrand of Remedy Games. I was disappointed not to come across an unnecessarily elaborate musical sequence whose soundtrack is composed by the Finnish rock group Poets Of The Fall (as seen in Alan Wake and Control), or an earth-shattering easter egg referencing other Remedy titles, but they need to retain the best tropes for real games.
Tome, Crossfire X it’s like putting a really good driver in a lousy race car. Remedy has proven it can be successful with its weird original games, but rather than crashing and burning when handed someone else’s weird game, the studio still managed to do cross the finish line at the ugly, staggering monstrosity. The studio is simply It’s good. Now can we please go back to those weird original games?