Front Defense

Front Defense is an exclusive World War II shooter for HTC Vive which was developed by an independent developer called Fantahorn Studio, but the game is sponsored by HTC. As the name suggests, you need to protect your fort against waves of troopers and enemy vehicles using a large variety of weapons, including anti-tank rockets, submachine guns, pistols, rifles ,etc. The game is designed to be played in room-scale with its Vive motion controllers.

Front Defense First Impressions

Front Defense is a World War II gallery shooter developed by Fantahorn Studio and sponsored by HTC so it seems. It's an exclusive title that was developed to showcase the immersion of playing a first-person shooter in room-scale with its Vive motion controllers.

In the game, you play as a soldier behind a pile of sandbags trying to hold your position against waves of enemy soldiers and tanks. You can crouch down to avoid getting hit or take your time to reload your weapons. There are a large variety of weapons in the game, including anti-tanks rockets, submachine guns, pistols, rifles, grenades and so on. The game also carefully take use of specific gaming mechanics to operate these weapons. For example, you can hold on a grenade between your teeth while pulling out the pin prior to throwing it forward, You can load a bazooka by holding the weapon with one hand and loading it with a rocket with the other hand. Weapon magazines for your rifles are linked to your belt, so you need to throw an older magazine, take a new one and load it into your weapons, all using dedicated motion movements with the motion controllers.

So the thing is that it won't take you long to learn all the mechanics because it mimics real-life weapon operation, it's hard to do all that while in the middle of an intense battle against many enemies shooting at you from different directions. There isn't also, front what I could tell from the gameplay video, no aiming assist whatsoever, and no crosshair mark to help you with your aiming. You also need to be pretty accurate, for example, when you load a magazine into a weapon. If you don't accurately position the magazine, it won't be loaded into the weapon.

The idea was to make a first-person shooter with a more realistic approach, instead of just go with the concept of aim-and-shoot. You need to handle all the things in-between to be able to survive and not outrun by your enemies.

The weapon handling reminds me another game called H3VR, an FPS sandbox game for HTC Vive that really nailed the game mechanics perfectly. It has a larger variety of weapons, more depth and more polished mechanics, but it's a sandbox game, so you'll be just experimenting with weapons in a shooting range, not fighting AI enemies or something like that. But the thing is that we can already see a bit effort from developers trying to take full advantage of what HTC room-scale has to offer and try to upgrade the user experience in these game to something that most gamers haven't experience yet. HTC Vive headset was released just two months ago, and Vive owners can already enjoy some really excellent innovative games. Most of the best experiences are yet to come, and Front Defense is just a glimpse of what we can expect next on the HTC Vive.

In Front Defense, your character is stationary. I'm pretty sure that Fantahorn Studio wanted to provide the most realistic experience, and not allow free movement of your character in the war zone. There are some accessories for VR that support walking and running and many companies are working to develop their own virtual reality motion platforms to enhance VR games. There are already a few production ready VR motion platforms, including Virtuix Omni and Vection VR, but those apparently either aren't supported or won't give be effective because of the limited space you get to move in Front Defense. When these VR motion platforms become more popular, we probably going to see more games that are optimized for them. But as for now, the motion platforms are designed to fit into current games, without the game needed to support these motion platforms directly.

On the negative side, I was expecting somewhat a more social experience or a multiplayer game that can really take this game to a whole new level. Look at the game Dead & Buried, for example, it's vivid visual, social interaction and multiplayer action gameplay makes it really stand out from the rest. It's a game that also takes use of the Oculus Touch motion controllers, but the gameplay looks more enjoyable to play in my opinion. I think that HTC should have gone with that type of gameplay direction, but Front Defense has its own great appeal nevertheless.

Maybe it's not a good thing to try to mix all the possible things in one game. Maybe complex mechanics like in Front Defense will not be that satisfying in fast-paced FPS game, I'm not sure.

All in all, Front Defense looks like a great proof of what HTC Vive and its Vive controllers can deliver in terms of gameplay enjoyment and immersion. I'm sure that many people who tried it first-hand in Computex really enjoyed it. But as I mentioned, this is just one game among many other amazing room-scale games that expected to come to HTC Vive. I'm sure it will help HTC recruit more gamers to try out room-scale VR games, even those who have maybe preferred the seated experience prior to trying Front Defense. Overall, the game looks great visually and I really liked the emphasize on full motion gameplay mechanics using the Vive controllers.

Front Defense Videos

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