Note: This review covers the single-player campaigns of CrossfireX. Stay tuned for our review of the multiplayer component, coming soon.
If you were hoping that Remedy, the developer of Control and Alan Wake, could live up to its name and find a cure for CrossfireX’s dreadful multiplayer sandbox, I have some bad news. Not only do both modes suffer from the same issues involving gunplay and controls mostly, but the single-player campaign’s shallow stories told across two mini-episodes only add to the disappointment. Both of CrossfireX’s campaigns are built around the pointless adventures of dull characters, never approach anything resembling a challenge due to enemy AI that’s as useful as a chocolate tea kettle, and feel incomplete and unsatisfying as they come to an abrupt end after only a few hours each. As a single-player game, CrossfireX is very much a bomb.
This pair of three-hour campaigns both feel like a hundred military shooters I’ve played over the years and immediately forgotten. The first, Operation Catalyst, has you working with a squad of some of the most generic soldiers in recent memory as they set out to kill a leader of their rival organization in the fictional country of Azkharzia. What follows is a bizarre mission to save one of your own squadmates while the main protagonist descends into madness for… reasons. It’s still utterly unclear to me why, which is disappointing given Remedy’s history of making bizarre characters on the edge of insanity work well.
Though Catalyst’s story makes little sense and almost none of the moment-to-moment gunplay is engaging, switching between different squadmates is an interesting mechanic that shows its potential now and again. One of the few memorable moments has you swapping between a footsoldier trying to escape enemy capture and a sniper, so you’re giving yourself cover fire. There’s even a part where you have to snipe the handcuffs off your teammate’s hands to break him free, which was really satisfying. It’s a concept that begged to be further explored.
Instead it ends abruptly, and Operation Spectre sadly does away with the squad formula as it puts you in the shoes of a troubled thief who finds himself recruited by an organization known as Black List to become their ultimate weapon. The weird, prophetic story here is vague, predictable, and feels crammed into another tiny campaign I completed in a single sitting. The highlight of Spectre is the final level when it finally starts introducing some new and interesting mechanics… just before the story ends with little fanfare a few minutes later. At least most of the action looks cool.
There are moments in both weak stories that seemed to be flirting with the supernatural and gave me false hope that a redeeming twist that would take this by-the-numbers shooter and turn it into something more interesting was just around the corner. In both cases I was left with the bitter taste of disappointment.
Unfortunately, weak storytelling is only the beginning for CrossfireX’s single-player modes. The real issue is that both campaigns use a slight variation of the same atrocious gunplay and controls found in the multiplayer modes. I’ve played a lot of shooters, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. Aiming is sloppy no matter what settings you select, almost every weapon feels identical to the last, and there are very few interesting mechanics to break up any of that monotony. There are only four types of enemies throughout both campaigns: unarmored soldiers who die immediately, armored soldiers who take a few extra shots to kill, soldiers with shields who can just be shot in the legs, and drones who seem to mostly just hover around and wait to be killed. Even if the campaigns were masterpieces of storytelling, it would still be hard to forgive just how frustrating, uninventive, and mind-numbingly dull the action is in nearly every single chapter.
One of the only distinctive features is a bullet time ability that exaggerates gunfire that makes a satisfying sound for each enemy downed and gives you some health back so you can turn the tables on the enemy when you’re in a pinch. I was usually just disappointed at my inability to wrestle the controls to hit a target even when in slow motion. And since you get the bullet time ability back every couple of seconds, it has the added side-effect of making an already unchallenging experience laughably easy.
The biggest culprit behind CrossfireX’s complete lack of challenge, though, is the enemy AI, which is about as effective a deterrent as red lights in Grand Theft Auto. You’ll never find soldiers more expertly trained in the art of running straight into incoming gunfire with almost no resistance. I played on Hard difficulty and felt entirely comfortable running and gunning, even when surrounded by a dozen enemy soldiers. Even if these Storm Trooper-level markmen manage to hit you, not only can you can take far more damage than you might expect for a “realistic” shooter, but you only need to go a second or so without getting hit by a hail of gunfire to fully recover your health, so death is extremely rare. It made strolling through both campaigns a cakewalk and all the more forgettable.