In the West, the first-person shooter genre is dominated by blockbusters like Call of Duty and Halo, but it's a completely different story in places like South Korea and China. The Crossfire series from Smilegate Entertainment has been massively successful internationally, becoming one of the most popular video game franchises of all time despite not having a significant presence in North America. Smilegate teamed with Remedy Entertainment to make Xbox exclusive CrossfireX in an attempt to change that, but FPS fans are much better off spending their time elsewhere.
CrossfireX consists of two distinct experiences: a single-player campaign made in association with Alan Wake developer Remedy Entertainment, and a free-to-play multiplayer mode developed by Smilegate. Despite Remedy having an impressive track record of delivering high-quality single-player stories and Smilegate's proven expertise in the free-to-play realm, neither half of the game is worth investing any time into.
The CrossfireX campaign itself is broken in two, with anyone interested in it having to purchase each campaign separately. There's Operation: Catalyst and Operation: Spectre, with the events of Operation: Catalyst leading directly into the story of Spectre, though CrossfireX players can technically play them in any order. Both campaigns are extremely short, with players able to get through them in a couple of hours at most, but it will be a mostly painful experience from start to finish.
The Operation: Catalyst campaign in CrossfireX is especially bad. It checks off the list of everything that one would expect from a typical Call of Duty campaign, almost coming across as a parody. Players are funneled through hallways of dumb enemies that stand and wait to get shot, completing one cliché objective after another. It's painfully generic and uninspired, doing absolutely nothing compelling from a gameplay standpoint to keep players interested or entertained.
The CrossfireX campaign gameplay is rough, with players having to deal with input lag, an unruly camera, and unresponsive controls. Players will find themselves actively struggling against the controls, as there is a serious learning curve when going from a well-made FPS to this one. It controls like someone took a typical Call of Duty campaign soldier and got them drunk. At some point, players will actually get used to the weird aiming and find themselves automatically compensating for it, which makes the game more playable but still unremarkable.
There is some fun to be had in mowing down bad guys, with the game's slow motion mechanic adding some visual spectacle to the proceedings, but other games have done this before and done it much better. There's no challenge to be had on the recommended difficulty setting, but CrossfireX does provide a power fantasy, with players able to easily dispatch large groups of enemies with a variety of guns and grenades.
Throwing a well-timed grenade and watching enemies fly dramatically across the screen can be amusing, but then players will remember that most of those enemies were caught in the explosion because their AI wasn't smart enough to move out of the way. Players will often see enemies hanging out in front of the many explosive barrels that litter each level, or if a grenade happens to land by their feet, attempt to flee, only to stop moving while still within the explosion's radius and wait to be blown to smithereens.
On the bright side, Operation: Catalyst is short, with players only having to spend a couple hours suffering through a generic military shooter story filled with some of the most unmemorable characters that have ever been featured in a video game. To its credit, CrossfireX ends on an intriguing plot twist that essentially lets Operation: Spectre change genres, shifting from a military-shooter to one with a more interesting sci-fi bent. It doesn't make the characters or writing any better, but it does make the plot more enjoyable because players will be interested in seeing what wild thing happens next.
Operation: Spectre is a step up from Operation: Catalyst, but despite some trippy dream sequences and bizarre imagery, neither feel like they were actually made by Remedy Entertainment. It's hard to believe that Remedy could go from making the award-winning Control to having a hand in this, and players won't be able to shake the feeling that CrossfireX was completely phoned-in.
This lack of care is apparent throughout the entire CrossfireX experience. Players will immediately realize something is not quite right when they boot up the game for the first time and see its UI, which has players moving a cursor across the screen instead of simply selecting from a menu like the vast majority of other console games. What's worse is that prompts will appear on the screen that ask players to hit the A button to continue, but they have to drag the cursor over to the prompt first. While some might say complaining about the UI is nitpicking, it's puzzling that the UI is seemingly built with a mouse and keyboard in mind despite the game being an Xbox exclusive with no PC version, and it is a perfect example of how this game seems like it was rushed out the door with little thought.
The CrossfireX free-to-play multiplayer is not much better, though it does provide the most entertainment one can get from the game. It plays like a bargain bin version of Call of Duty in some modes and like a bare bones Counter-Strike in others, with CrossfireX copying popular modes from those games. The controls and aiming problems from the campaign are present in the multiplayer as well, and with plenty of higher quality, free-to-play FPS games on the market, there's really no reason to bother with CrossfireX in its current state.
Those curious enough to try it will find that the CrossfireX multiplayer is also split in two. The "Modern" multiplayer provides more movement options and lets players aim down the sights, while the "Classic" multiplayer is stripped down. Modern offers Search & Destroy on the Black Widow map, Point Capture on the GR Tower map, and it will eventually include Escort on the Babylon map, though it's not available in the game quite yet.
Classic, meanwhile, lets players play Search & Destroy on Black Widow, Spectre on Laboratory, Team Deathmatch on Transport Ship, and Nano on Babylon Lab. The multiplayer maps in CrossfireX actually look quite good and are designed with their specific game modes in mind. This works out for the most part except with the Nano map Babylon Lab. Nano is essentially the Infection game mode from other FPS games, with one team consisting of monsters that have to convert the human players by killing them. There are a couple of spots on the map that can easily be abused, either by giving the human players a big advantage or by making it easy for griefers to block paths, trapping players in rooms and bringing the game to a standstill.
There's a Battle Pass and store that players can blow real world money on if they somehow enjoy CrossfireX, but otherwise there's nothing else to report about the game. It does what every other FPS does, but worse. One could say that it being free-to-play means that players shouldn't care as much about the quality, but CrossfireX makes no argument as to why anyone should spend their time on the game versus the numerous higher quality free-to-play FPS games available on Xbox.
Smilegate itself has admitted that CrossfireX has major problems and seems committed to improving the game moving forward. The matchmaking has worked quite well in our time with the game so far, but the content, controls, and pretty much everything else needs a major facelift. As for the campaign, anyone that sees the Remedy Entertainment logo and thinks that is a testament to the quality of the single-player mode will be sorely disappointed.
CrossfireX is available for Xbox One and Xbox Series X. Game Rant was provided with an Xbox Series X code for this review.