During this past summer, Fantahorn Studio and Vive Studio released WW2 first-person shooter (FPS) Front Defense, a stationary experience that utilised HTC Vive’s roomscale technology so you could hide behind sandbags whilst reloading or prepping grenades as the German army descended on your position. The single-player experience received a lukewarm response, so now the developers are looking to improve upon that first outing with a new multiplayer only title called Front Defense: Heroes.
Seemingly taking a leaf out of Ready at Dawn’s development book with Lone Echo and Echo Arena, Front Defense: Heroes takes the WW2 theme and focuses purely on a five vs five multiplayer, set across a range of maps.
If you’ve played Front Defense then you’ll instantly be familiar with the layout of guns, how they reload, how to use grenades and so forth. As such Front Defense: Heroes retains its siblings less than smooth reloading mechanic where changing a clip involves a couple of button presses – the trigger to grip, then then touchpad to release the clip – which can feel very long winded when under fire. This is partially due to realism Fantahorn Studio is going for, and it’s certainly commendable – and immersive – when popping another missile in the bazooka for example.
As with any multiplayer focused experience, especially VR FPS ones movement is crucial. Weirdly there’s no teleportation system in sight, yeah that’s right, no hopping about point to point. Instead the developer has created what it calls ‘V-Move’, a locomotion system very similar to the one found in Gunfire Games’ From Other Suns, that involves your 3D character running out in front of you. Once stopped you then appear in its place – ok, so it’s a form of teleporting. With this system you can run round corners, or if you’re really good and know the map intimately, sprint round the entire map. Obviously the downside to this is wandering straight into an enemy and getting your head blown off. There’s certainly a fine art to running up to a corner of a building just so, so you peer round cautiously.
Looking round corners, hiding behind low cover and generally using roomscale to its utmost has been heavily implemented by Fantahorn, but you’ll need plenty of space to get the most out of it. Front Defense: Heroes states that it needs a minimum area of 4m x 3m – which is quite significant for players in countries with smaller homes – but the title is still playable in smaller rooms, as this review was played in an area of 2.5m x 2m. You just have to be careful you don’t get too carried away.
Don’t worry if you prefer smooth locomotion. While that’s not yet available, Fantahorn will be adding this movement feature in a future update – it’s a shame it’s not available at launch.
Matches revolve around selecting which server location you’d like to play in – or which areas of the world are most awake – then selecting a match of starting one of your own. You’ll then find yourself in a battlefield lobby, being able to see your team and your opponents. From here you can switch between Allies and Axis, choose your loadout weapon – a selection of WW2 era rifles and machine guns – then head into battle.
Due to issues like reloading and jumpy nature of V-Move, battles tend to have an inconsistent, fliting nature to them. Maybe after many, many hours of gameplay you’ll find a sweet spot but you may not be so patient. In comparison to Front Defense, Front Defense: Heroes is certainly a step up, offering a far more dynamic experience than its single-player sibling, it’s just not quite the standout experience it could’ve been.