CrossfireX review: Remedy’s biggest blunder

With over 690 million registered users, crossfire is perhaps the largest multiplayer shooter in the world. What makes its recent Xbox release special is the inclusion of a two-part single-player campaign developed by Remedy Entertainment, the makers of Control, Maximum Payne, as well as Alan Wake to name a few. It’s a pity then that despite Remedy being a master of storytelling, world-building, and lofty ideals, and with such a huge property to work with, this time, she showed mediocrity.

Crossfire was originally created by South Korean developer Smilegate Entertainment. He has a huge following in China and South Korea. Counter-Strike and other team-based shooters put players in the shoes of two opposing but theoretically similar teams: Black List and Global Risk. From the point of view of the lore, these are both groups of mercenaries, where one is allegedly a terrorist organization (claiming to fight for freedom), and the other is an anti-terrorist faction (claiming to be law and order).

Well, fine. I guess. I have two teams that are indistinguishable from each other have worked in multiplayer shooters since time immemorial. The problem is that this moralistic antagonism doesn’t find application in the new story-driven gameplay, as players don’t spend time learning these principles on the battlefield but simply exchange volleys of bullets.

In the Catalyst campaign, players wearing the boots of the Global Risk team fly into Every military Eastern European city that has ever appeared in military shooters to destroy the leader from the Blacklist. The story is told by a character named Captain Hall, who is so versatile that he might as well be called John Smith. He is a plot vector designed for archetypal roles: father, husband, friend. What kind of father, husband, or friend is he? I have no idea. His personality is as shallow as the plot, and his dialogue is just a sort of Metatron for the plot gods. He is the sieve through which the story is pushed before it becomes a hodgepodge on the other side.

The story follows Hall as he receives strange dream-like messages from his missing friends. It appears that Black List has discovered a supercomputer called the Catalyst that can predict the future if it finds the right host. After going through both campaigns, I still have no idea what the Catalyst looked like, where it came from, or who made it.” It just… was there.

Players switch between three characters: Hall as a stormtrooper, Randall as a sniper, and Morales as a machine gunner. The campaign takes place in monotonous, unkempt outdoor areas and buildings, with tufts of grass, burned-out parks, and so on, ad nauseam. In both Catalyst and the next campaign, Ghostordinary citizens do not seem to exist – everyone either carries weapons with them or follows them.

Specter’s opening scene drops players – literally from a helicopter – onto a moving train, where they take on the role of a man named Logan. This time the players are in Blacklist boots. In one of the few interesting scenario maneuvers, players now need to eliminate a mercenary from the previous campaign, a man the game clearly wants us to empathize with, no matter how difficult that may be. It feels like Remedy is trying to emulate its usual greatness but doesn’t understand what makes its other projects special.

Ghost The bombastic intro shows players transitioning from a train into a nighttime urban environment, fighting atop a corporate building, and destroying said structure. After a short respite, the players change perspective again and suddenly find themselves in the shoes of a petty thief named Torres, who, it turns out, is wanted for a crime he has yet to commit. This opens up exciting possibilities and hints that the plot is gaining momentum – Philip K. Dick explored this concept in the minority report, in the end, with stunning effect.

But Remedy does not realize that potential. Despite being exemplars in the realm of weird sci-fi stories, excellent storytellers usually provide a little backstory, pacing, or plot to convey these lofty concepts. Torres is considered a future criminal, and Global Risk tries to avert the coming disaster as you drive along a bumpy, shaky, often disorienting road. While it may not be Remedy’s stellar game in terms of storytelling or awareness, the weapons feel solid, and the death animations feel sickeningly realistic. This is a Remedy game of muscle and bone, but not in spirit.

But as a package, Catalyst as well as Ghost perhaps the most action-packed video game stories I’ve come across in years, populated by small characters and based only on whispers of intrigue rather than actual compelling plot threads. In the end, all of this showed just a glimpse of the Remedy weirdness that I’ve grown to love over the years. Tales of “strange ancient supercomputers capable of destroying the world” or “magic soldiers who became harbingers of doom” exactly in the Remedy’s wheelhouse – bye, CrossfireX never considers or explores them in an intriguing way. IN Control, where players encountered the most bizarre concepts, the story was enhanced with in-universe explanations, albeit far-fetched ones, that connected all the parts. This connection is completely absent in CrossfireX. It’s all just glorified window dressing.

It feels like Remedy is trying to emulate its usual greatness but doesn’t understand what makes its other projects special. The studio took the fears of self-destruction, the fragility of reality, and the fear of the unknown and turned them all into their own unique brand. Strange. Control used the origin story of superheroes to show how the most mundane things in the world can kill us; Alan Wake took campy horror plot to illustrate the world-changing power of storytelling; Max Payne took an ordinary cop game and turned his revenge into poetry, showing us the pointlessness of self-destruction.

I kept hoping and waiting for some similar Remedy subversion in this mediocre military shooter—waiting for some Remedy shard to pop out of the skin of this boring game framework. But nothing appeared. The Remedy trademark is just a thin film that this sluggish porridge has been stuffed into.

I’ve always been fascinated by Remedy’s worlds – the stories the studio tells, the concepts the creators play with. There are many studios that are good at making action movies, but few can create well-written stories based on weird concepts. IN CrossfireX, Remedy seems to have erased its identity and just done what many studios are already capable of.

There isn’t much I can say about the characters. Even the voice acting is felt off like a badly dubbed B-movie. Indeed, the story was often a B-grade hack. It doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” – see how Remedy handled Stephen King’s campy horror in Alan Wake and turned it into a truly creepy and gripping story with memorable characters, setting, and clever ideas. Genre knows no boundaries. But here, everything is somehow crooked. If you choose to play it just for the Remedy name, don’t expect the Remedy bloodline to come with it.

CrossfireX was released on February 10 on Xbox One and Xbox Series X via Game Pass. The game has been verified on Xbox using a preload code provided by Smilegate Entertainment. Vox Media has partnerships. This does not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Read more about Polygon’s ethical policy here.

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