What’s hiding in the sights of CrossFire 2?

Just what do we know about the the sequel to SmileGate’s surprise hit?
The CrossFire logo
CrossFire © SmileGate
By Adam Cook

It’s not often you hear the numerical value 'trillion' used when talking about a video game (outside of No Man’s Sky’s quintillion, of course), but for SmileGate’s first-person shooter, CrossFire, that’s just how huge it is. Bringing in 1.5 trillion Korean Won (or $1.3 billion) in global sales, this is the top-grossing game of 2014 by some distance.

So it’s no surprise, then, that a movie is in the works, reportedly being produced by Neil Moritz of Fast & Furious fame. Nor will you be shocked, perhaps, to hear that the game has 650 million registered users, and boasts the most amount of people playing all at once, at over 8 million, all being played across 80 countries. It’s okay, you’re allowed to say “wow”, here. But what you may not know, however, is that it is a free-to-play, team-based online shooter, that was released in March of 2005, and is something you should be paying attention to.

Based around authenticity, there are two factions that are fighting all over the world: Global Risk and Black List. As you’d expect, these teams share opposing views, with Global Risk fighting for justice, while Black List are terrorists that only care about money.

With a steady stream of updates since release in 2005, SmileGate’s behemoth has a plethora of modes and maps now, even featuring military units that are based on their real-life counterparts, as well as ones that are made up to exist solely in the game’s universe.

All of this combines to make CrossFire a breakout success and an eSport played for money that, while it doesn’t quite match Dota 2 prize pools (topping out as it does at around $187,355), it’s certainly not chump change.

A selection of the characters available in CrossFire
The cast of characters in CrossFire © SmileGate Entertainment

So why haven’t you heard of it, and why are we telling you about it now? Well, put simply, while it’s a huge success and played in 80 countries (including European ones), it does originate from South Korea, and has the usual connotations that free to play games suffer from, especially the resistance to try it out, assuming it’ll be bad.

The enormous numbers we talked about it profiting from are thanks to premium in-game purchases that modify the weapons, which often doesn’t sit well with some. Published by Z8Games in Europe and the USA, it also doesn’t have the pedigree you’d expect from a huge shooter, either.

But even if you haven’t heard of it, or don’t intend to play it, there’s a reason you should start to pay attention to SmileGate, and it comes in the form of Quantum Break and Max Payne creator, Remedy Entertainment.

That’s right, the team behind the cult classic that never got a proper sequel (come on Remedy, make Alan Wake 2!) are developing a story mode for CrossFire 2. According to a press release on Remedy’s site, they’ve been working on the game “for a while” and were chosen specifically to bring their “unique blend of storytelling, memorable characters, and inventive gameplay” to the game.

What this means is that, while CrossFire may have been bigger in Eastern territories, CrossFire 2 is going global, with a beloved developer famed for making third-person shooters that grab the player because of the story.

But here’s the crazy thing, SmileGate announced they had invested US$40m in Starbreeze (developer of The Darkness, Syndicate, Payday 2, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, The Chronicles of Riddick, and more) this year, too, giving Starbreeze a 10-year right to “develop, publish and distribute an all-new first-person co-op game on SmileGate’s CrossFire franchise for Western markets”, while also gaining the rights to put out Payday 2 and Overkill’s The Walking Dead in Asian markets on their own digital gaming store.

Games being developed by multiple studios are not a new thing. Ubisoft do it all the time, handing, say, multiplayer to one studio, single player to another, and even a third component to a separate studio. Does this mean that CrossFire 2 will have both Starbreeze and Remedy involved? Because if so, we want it yesterday. 

A scene from CrossFire
In game with CrossFire © SmileGate Entertainment

There’s so much potential here that the mind boggles. We’re talking about a game made in the East that has, thanks to huge profits, been able to invest in Western developers, and popular ones at that.

This is a sequel to an online shooter that is incorporating a developer famed for story to make its campaign mode and, while we don’t know too much about CrossFire 2’s specifics, it has been announced that Starbreeze are handling a “premium first-person shooter co-op game for PC based on SmileGate’s CrossFire franchise”, that uses Starbreeze’s Valhalla engine (used in Overkill’s The Walking Dead). So, it’s not a huge leap to assume we’re either getting two games, or a single game for the West with some great developers behind the sights.

With CrossFire being a similar game to Counter-Strike – but including modes that have zombies, sword fights, mutants, invisible opponents, and much more – the possibilities for CrossFire 2 are endless. With Remedy and Starbreeze fighting their corner as well, there’s no telling what it could do in Western territories. One thing is for certain, though, if you weren’t aware of SmileGate before, you most certainly ought to be paying attention now.

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