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Front Defense: Heroes Review – A Classic WWII FPS In VR

by David Jagneaux • December 22nd, 2017
Platforms: HTC Vive
Positives

- Satisfying gun mechanics
- Good level design that encourages roomscale movement
- Solid amount of game modes and weapon variety

Negatives

- V-Move locomotion is awkward
- Some bugs and wonkiness
- Not a lot of depth other than point and shoot

I’ve played a lot of WWII shooters in my lifetime. They’re not as popular now as they used to be, replaced mostly by zombies and an obsession with the post-apocalypse, but I must have killed millions of digital Nazis over the years.  But what I haven’t done much of yet, surprisingly, is visit that era from inside a VR headset — a topic the Front Defense series aims to rectify.

Most of the VR shooters we’ve seen so far focus on either zombies or try to take a futuristic sci-fi spin on things, but that’s not the case with Front Defense: Heroes. Instead, it’s a throwback of sorts to the days of Axis vs. Allies and MP40s. After spending some time with Front Defense: Heroes we don’t think it will have much trouble finding a market for itself despite some glaring flaws.

Check out a bunch of gameplay footage here:

What Front Defense: Heroes lacks in terms of original content it makes up for in its mechanics. Aiming down the sights of a rifle or the scope of a sniper feels great, as does ejecting and reloading a magazine in the heat of battle. Once you’ve got the rhythm down and you can effortlessly snag a new clip from your belt without even needing to look down, you’ll know the sense of presence is strong.

And then that’s when the awkward movement system that no one asked for, known as V-Move, rears its ugly head. I understand that a lot of people do still experience motion sickness when trying to use smooth movement in VR, but for a game such as Front Defense: Heroes, anything other than full, smooth locomotion cripples the entire experience.

The V-Move system works by having you press a direction on the left trackpad and then you watch as your character moves in third-person. When you let go of the trackpad you resume control in the first-person view again. It’s just like the comfort setting in From Other Suns. The result is a quite literally stop-and-go experience that throttles the action and forces you to master an obtuse mechanic before you can actually enjoy the game.

To be clear: the developers have told me that a full, smooth locomotion system will be added, but as of the time of this writing that has not happened, multiple weeks after launch. It gets the job done for what it is in its current state, but it’s far from a real solution for a game like this. In Front Defense: Heroes I want to move and shoot at the same time such as I would in Call of Duty, Battlefield, or even Onward. With V-Move that’s impossible.

Looking beyond the strange movement system decision, the rest of the game has promise. It’s a bare bones multiplayer affair for the most part and feels like an early 2000s multiplayer shooter got VR support, but given the nature of the technology it doesn’t feel out of place.

I got to play both Team Deathmatch and an Attack vs. Defend game mode. The latter game mode tasked my team, the Defenders, with preventing the Attacking team from laying explosive down on tanks. If we prevented them from blowing up all three before the time ran out then we won. Fantahorn and Vive Studios have also mentioned there should be a Capture the Flag mode at launch too.

Games support up to 5v5 but we only ever were able to do 3v3 for the testing session. Between pistols, automatic rifles, single shot rifles, rocket launchers, snipers, grenades, and more there was plenty to do in each match. The game is very likely going to open up dramatically once we get the chance to try it with smooth locomotion.

Perhaps most impressively of all though is the way in which HTC is planning to distribute this title. Like the lackluster, stationary wave shooter before it, Front Defense, this new title, Front Defense: Heroes, is a Vive Studios game, which means it has support from HTC behind it.

The game launched at a discounted price of only $4.99 and will be given away for free to anyone that already owns Front Defense. Plus, you can buy both games in a bundle right now for $9.99 and Front Defense: Heroes will be added to the Viveport Subscription service. The powers that be really want everyone with a Vive to play this game.

Final Score: 6/10 – Decent

Front Defense: Heroes is certainly much better than its poorly conceived wave shooter sibling, Front Defense, but it still feels a bit unfinished. It’s a shame it still doesn’t have smooth locomotion, but even in its current form it scratches a bit of an itch for VR shooter fans by delivering something a bit more casual and arcadey in design than its competitors.

You can find Front Defense: Heroes on both Viveport and Steam for HTC Vive with a special launch price of only $4.95. You can read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrive at our review scores.

[Editor’s Note] – This was originally a review in progress on December 8th, 2017, but has since been updated with additional context throughout the article and with a final score on December 22nd, 2017.

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  • Raphael

    I like the idea of returning to a WW2 shooter. Agree about the ugly movement system. Blink and instant teleports are no longer acceptable for me. If they really do add full locomotion I will support them with a purchase and recommend to friends also. The backlash leveled at Doom VFR and Payday 2 should be a good indication to devs that teleport-only games are no longer acceptable.

    • While I do agree, this isn’t even teleportation. I described the movement in pretty good detail and included a gameplay video.

      • Raphael

        Yes, I see what you mean. I have to say it’s the ugliest and dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. If I had to choose between teleport or this I’d go with teleport. I seem to recall a space game on octopus rift using a similar 3rd person move mechanic. This is ugly!

        • SomeGuyorAnother

          While I agree that the third person movement method is ugly as all hell, there’s a mechanics reason for it you can’t overlook over teleport. Teleport is a quick A to B motion that can confuse AI or players, or abuse mechanics when compared to full locomotion, while this V-Motion balances this by allowing you to still get pegged if moving from cover A to cover B. However, this becomes pointless if there’s no full locomotion option to justify it, since you’re not trying to balance it. So yes, if they don’t plan on implementing full locomotion, teleport would be preferred. I could only guess they wanted to avoid the sci-fi feel teleport can give people.

          • mirak

            The sci-fi feel that’s probably why teleport works so well in Serious Sam.

            But at the same time, what matter is that you feel you are free, and it shouldn’t matter that it’s not realistic as long as makes things more enjoyable.

            What you want is to move from point A to point B . If teleport gives that satisfaction then it’s all right, and Croteam figured that.

            Balancing should be done differently by giving maybe more energy or more bullets, whatever.

    • mirak

      Serious Sam is unbelievably faster and crazier with teleport.

      So it really depends of the teleport implementation.

      Doom and Payday teleport are bad in comparison.

      The bullet time of doom teleport just break the owner of the game, and payday teleport is wonky.

      • Raphael

        Dunt bother trying to sell me teleport flappy. I’ve been playing games since the 80s and owned vr since 2006. I dunt need ugly immersion destroying teleport to move around quicker. Teleport in serious sam vr is fecking ugly. Made the game look like a disorienting myst adventure.

        • mirak

          You are an idiot.

          • Raphael

            Still trying to sell your anti vomit bollocks? I’d sooner sign up for mormon religion. Try elsewhere flappy. Every game crippled with teleport has been immersion destroying. I don’t get dizzy and fall over, nor do i vomit.

            You nausea clan members do make me sick though.

            Go peddle your teleport pish to someone who spews.

          • mirak

            Stop presuming things.
            I am not sick at all with Serious Sam locomotion.
            I am doing SS2 with locomotion after doing SS1 with teleport, and teleport is a more intense and fun experience because it’s faster.
            Yes it’s faster contrary to what I would have believed too before. But I tried it and though it might be the default for a reason which is not just motion sickness.

            Your presumptions are just blinding you.
            I can play both extensively and can enjoy both, and you apparently don’t, so that disqualifies your opinion on the matter.

          • Raphael

            What fucks me off about a percentage of teleport users is that they try to persuade you teleport is wonderful.

            If you like it use it.

          • mirak

            I am telling you I enjoy both smooth locomotion and teleport with strafe in Serious Sam.

          • Raphael

            Good for you. I only like one.

          • Raphael

            You presume I need to take your advice and play vr games with teleport because it’s quicker. SS is fast enough the way I played it early 2000. I have zero interest in instantly moving to a new location or having my eyes closed while I jump to a new location.

            People who hate teleport hate it because it ruins presence. It’s also disorienting as it would be in real life of you instantly moved or closed your eyes and moved to new location.

            You clearly have no interest in vr other than getting through a game as quickly as possible.

            Do you see me trying to persuade you to embrace full locomotion?

          • gothicvillas

            I agree teleport is bad and must be only as a 2nd choice after mandatory free locomotion

          • Raphael

            I don’t mind which method people prefer in a game but I tend to get annoyed when a TP fan tries to tell me how great TP is and how fast i can get through a game. I’ve been playing fps since wolfenstein 3d and using VR since 2006. I use VR for the immersion not to get through a game as quickly as possible with teleport.

  • Andrew McEvoy

    Disappointed its got this odd 3rd person warp move locomotion only. Dont get me wrong experiment with locomotion Im all for it,but full free movement should be another option as standard on release, unless there’s some very solid gameplay reasons not to like in Wilsons heart.

  • Rothgarr

    The sound of constant tap dancing in those videos cracks me up.

  • impurekind

    It’s crazy how much this makes me think of early Call of Duty games–in a good way. 🙂

  • mirak

    “but for a game such as Front Defense: Heroes, anything other than full, smooth locomotion cripples the entire experience.”

    Serious Sam with teleport proved me that it’s not true.
    The gameplay is even faster and crazier with teleport than with smooth locomotion.
    I did SS1 with teleport and I am doing SS2 with smooth locomotion.
    Teleport is surprisingly just more fun.

    But doom vfr or Arizona sunshine teleport is crap in comparison.

    Because the teleport must be done right, you must not feel you are going to be stuck or not be able to escape quickly.

    In Serious Sam the teleport make you responsible of what you are doing.
    If there is a hole between you and the zone you want to teleport, you will just fall.
    If there is a monster between you and the teleport point, you will just ran into the monster and take damage.

    With Arizona Sunshine the teleport will just not allow you, there are to much restrictions that breaks the flow of the game.
    Not even mentioning fatigue.

    In Serious Sam the teleport is free and doesn’t break the flow of the game.

  • Jonny

    “VR FPS In VR” There are VR FPS games that are not in VR?

  • mirak

    For teleport to work fine and be enjoyable, you need to be able to jump jump jump jump jump at will like in Serious Sam VR.

    In Serious Sam I feel more free with teleport because it’s so fast and with so little constraints, that smoith locomotion appears to be slow.

    Maybe it makes the game easier but the increased moving speed alowed by teleport makes it more intense and fun.