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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Enemy Front and Valiant Hearts: The Great War.

TranscriptEdit

Now that video gaming's twin cheerleaders of military intervention, Battlefield and Call of Duty, have pledged to start modeling themselves respectively on The Italian Job and Battlestar Galactica, I think it's fair to say that gaming has grown weary of contemporary warfare. The days of straight-faced, ripped-from-the-headlines, right-wing wish-fulfillment giving Johnny Terrorist what-for in the dusty ruins of Suicide Bomber University are waning, maybe because the house of cards that is stability in the Middle East just refuses to stay up no matter how many times we set fire to it, or perhaps there's a growing sense that our personal safety is less at risk from jabbering extremists inspired by 72 virgins and more from frustrated white loners inspired by one virgin, namely himself.

I think conservatives in America have been hoist by their own petard. They just kept knocking down any chance of gun legislation and effectively forced America to accept that a massacre is something it's just gonna have to put up with now and again. And then they wonder why no one seems to care about taking revenge for 9/11 anymore! But I digress.

Small wonder that war-based games are running for the comfortable security blanket of World War II, a time with none of that troublesome ambiguity. Yes, we definitely are fighting bastards and yes, they definitely will come over and burn all our stuff if we don't. To this setting comes Enemy Front, yet another candidate for the Shitty Title award. What, as opposed to those nice friendly fronts they have in wars, where two allies dig trenches opposite each other and have bake-offs?

Our hero is a war correspondent named Hawkins. (I didn't register his first name, because he's about as generic as protagonists get, so I'm just going to call him Brenda.) Our game opens with Brenda giving an inspiring broadcast to occupied Europe that leads us into a flashback of him aiding Resistance fighters, which leads us to another flashback of him leading some other Resistance fighters in France. Steady on, Christopher Nolan! How many levels deep are we goingEnemy Front gropes in vain for a unique selling point. It mines lesser known battlegrounds like Warsaw and Norway, but I can't say that adds much; slit one Nazi throat against a background of bombed-out historical buildings, slit them all.

But Enemy Front makes an interesting comparison with another new release, Valiant Hearts, a game by Ubisoft. So even though I installed it on Steam, of course it had to open Uplay to actually start it. This is our fault; we didn't complain enough when games started opening with twelve different unskippable idents, so now they're taking it even further. Five years from now, we'll have to open up seventeen front-ends before they even let us into the fucking CD-key! But I digress, again.

Valiant Hearts is set in the First World War, rarely touched by popular culture for lacking the clean, "us vs. bastards" fairytale narrative of its sequel. World War I was just Europe being such a fluster-cuck of grudges and alliances that when Serbia turned the little crank of Austro-Hungary, it set off the whole Mouse Trap machine of alliances, and by the time the little plastic man jumped into the pool, everyone was fighting everyone else. So Valiant Hearts can't rely on stirring our sense of duty and pride towards our country's role in a psychotic game of political backsies, and instead focuses on the personal struggles of a small group of individuals more devoted to each other than their respective countries, which is thankfully a hell of a lot less depressing than the war.

Enemy Front's gameplay isn't exactly letting itself stress too much about blowing our minds with innovation, and once it's established that Nazis come out here and bullets come out here and things get interesting when the two intersect, the game is content to put its feet up and take a relaxed attitude to life: an open-ended level, some Nazis, some weapons, do it however you choose. Oh, so I can go in dressed as a Bavarian milkmaid and turn the officers to the side of good with my mind-blowing tit-fucks? No of course not! "However you choose" means the same thing it usually means: go in guns blazing or laboriously sneak around giving other people wedgies.

Unfortunately, Hawkins is unfamiliar with the traditional clean neck-snap or throat-slash and his stealth kill involves lying on top of the poor bastard and stabbing him fifty times, making it likelier you'll be spotted once you're locked into it. But it hardly matters, since if you are spotted, you can just run around a corner and put up a little "queue here" sign. See, the challenge of multiple gameplay options is not to make one of them a million times quicker and easier than the others. Don't see why I should have to pick your head lice out with tweezers when there's this perfectly good blowtorch here. Oh, stop crying, you wanted them out!

Valiant Hearts, meanwhile, takes a more scattershot approach to game design and provides what can best be described as a series of diversions. Half the time, it's an adventure game in a sort of Lego Star Wars sense, searching for the right shaped pegs to jab into whatever hole is available (which is one way to relieve the monotony in the foxhole).

The other half of the time you spend playing Guitar Hero. No, really. Oh it comes in many forms, like moving around during a charge to ensure that you are not where the bomb lands, or driving around obstacles that appear in time with the background music, or when it's at its most blatant, pressing button prompts throughout a medical procedure 'cause apparently we learned medicine from Professor Dance Dance Revolution.

Not that it's completely bad. The musical car-driving I found actually kind of delightful, but I think we're falling into the trap of crowbarring in token gameplay when the story gets away from problems requiring violence. Actually, since you mention it, I don't think there's a single moment when you pick up a gun and shoot it at someone. Rather a noteworthy absence for a war game. It's like Tim Burton making a film without casting Johnny Depp.

The thing is, Enemy Front is a game about war, but that's all that it's about. Every character is a cipher representative of their entire social group: Brenda the brash American on the fence about getting involved with it all, sexy French Resistance Lady being all resistant and French, and sexy. And a lady. And the realistic graphics and dramatic score is utterly straight-faced and utterly dull. What is its message, that the Nazis were shits and smacking them down was a really good idea? Yeah, we've been stirring that pot for seventy years, thanks for contributing!

Contrarily, Valiant Hearts is a game about people, where the war is a monstrous background thing they have no power to avoid, like a big black dog closing in on the unsupervised Jaffa Cakes. But because it seems more facetious with its silly gameplay and cartoonish ligne claire art style (mmm, yes I, read a book once), it actually carries some impact when things turn serious. While it has flaws, the "come on lads, let's give those monkeys a damn good spanking" sense of adventure in the first half followed up with gut-punches and despair in the second recreates the memory of the war it depicts a hell of a lot better than Enemy Front does, which mainly seems to be recreating a Whac-a-Mole machine that plays "Ride of the Valkyries."

AddendaEdit

  • What is he good for: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I served a Nazi some nice valiant tarts but he spilled them all down his enemy front
  • War is a whore that always wants more

ScreenshotsEdit

TriviaEdit

  • the car Croshaw is driving while dodging obstacles is basely a Ford Model T while 2 evil imps play a saxophone and a violin.
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe

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