Remedy’s ‘Crossfire X’ Streamlines the Shooter in a Big Way

Crossfire X Single Player Preview

There’s an old saying: nobody thinks of themselves as evil. The mustache-twirling bad guys of fiction are just that. In real life, people just live their lives, do what they do. They justify their bad behavior in their own minds, while everyone else looks on in horror. I thought of that while playing Crossfire X, the new military-themed first person shooter from Remedy, Smilegate and Xbox Games.

With a staggering 1 billion players, Smilegate’s Crossfire games are, to say the least, popular. The free-to-play shooter launched in 2007, and is huge in Asia. The game centers on an ongoing conflict between two private military forces, Black List and Global Reach. But back to that good and evil premise, Global Reach are the “good guys” and Black List are supposedly not, but both sides use extreme tactics and lots of shooting to achieve their goals. Global Reach maintain the status quo, and Black list are the disruptors. Whether either faction is evil or benign depends on your point of view.

The upcoming Crossfire X is being developed by several studios. Smilegate is crafting the multiplayer part of the game, and Remedy is building the single player campaign. The multiplayer will be free, but the single player will not be. I previewed a bit of the single player component.

Two Campaigns

Crossfire X’s single player component consists of two operations, each divided into re-playable chapters. Operation Catalyst is from the Global Reach point of view, while Operation Spectre is told from the Black List side. Operation Catalyst begins in a fictional middle eastern country we’ll call Generistan. When everything goes south, the story pivots to a rescue mission and takes the Global Reach squad through small towns and into abandoned mines, always fighting pockets of Black List soldiers for hire. At least at the start, Operation Spectre is more like an action movie, with big set pieces in an urban setting. Eventually, it shifts to the Caribbean and then to a Global Reach base.

Throughout each operation, the player will take control of different characters. This helps tell each campaign’s story from different and shifting points of view. It’s an effective mechanic and I enjoyed the changing narrative. Speaking of which, the story is pretty engaging in both campaigns, and motion capture and voice work are great. Neither campaign avoids the kind of macho posturing common to military shooters. I can’t say that the dialogue was always believable. But both operations have at least a little bit of wry humor. They’re not just grim.

Remedy are masters of action-focused storytelling. Max Payne, Control,  Alan Wake — the developer has a pretty strong track record. Crossfire X’s operations do a good job of mixing up the pace, with plenty of short cut scenes to provide a break from the combat.

Interesting Environments, Simple Mechanics

Crossfire X’s graphics are clean and sharp, and the environments look great. The kinds of locations are pretty familiar to shooter fans but there is just enough detail to make them interesting. Lighting is used effectively. The combat areas provide a lot of opportunity for cover. Although the route through each chapter is linear, and there is basically one way to complete objectives, there are many ways to approach combat. This is not a stealth focused game, though it’s useful at times. More often than not, it’s you versus a whole bunch of enemies. Enemy AI is relatively challenging. It makes good use of grenades to flush you out of hiding.

Since Crossfire X is a realistic, near future FPS, most all of the weapons are real-world pistols, rifles, shotguns, machine guns and the like. Crossfire X is a pure action game, not a simulation, but the weapons sound very good and each one is fun and useful to some degree. Guns and ammo are ridiculously plentiful, at least at normal difficulty.

One very obvious videogame element is the option to use a bullet-time effect to slow down enemy movement, called Combat Breaker. It’s on a timer and recharges, but it makes a lot of difference when shooting at fast-moving enemies.

While there is player progression and an upgrade path in Crossfire X’s multiplayer mode, the campaign seems to be free of it. Instead, players can pick up weapons as needed from the battlefield. Moving between characters in the story work against upgrading a persistent player character.

Prepare to Engage

Crossfire X’s single player campaign promises to be special. It isn’t revolutionary, but there are enough original ideas to keep it interesting. The action is plain fun. Swapping between characters keeps the story moving, and it’s perfected-paced. Some players might look at the single-player aspect as superfluous, but Remedy has obviously put a lot of effort into making it worth your time. Crossfire X drops on February 10, 2022. It will be exclusive to Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One.

***Crossfire X provided by the publisher for preview***