Beyond Enemy Lines 2 touts itself as a hardcore strategic shooter that requires patience and intelligence to make its way through. Whilst that idea is certainly an interesting one, it fails to deliver in almost all regards.
The story of Beyond Enemy Lines 2 isn’t really that important and nothing makes this clearer than in the first mission. You start in a training facility and are tasked in making your way out via jumping, crouching and whatever else. The first thing you will probably notice is the movement. Your character swings his arms jovially as he walks up to the first obstacle. You must jump over it, then crouch under the next one. Both of these activities enunciate issues with how Beyond Enemy Lines 2 runs – jumping feels janky and crawling often leaves your arms poking through the ground. You clip through pretty much any obstacle you can get your hands on (or hands through) and the overall experience of general movement just doesn’t feel great outside of the constant clipping. The aim sensitivity is not very well-balanced at all. Whilst you can change the sensitivity in settings, you can never move base aiming above a crawl whilst snipers are incredibly unruly and sensitive. This often leaves you having to run away just to turn around as a full 180 to aim behind you could take a handful of seconds each time.
The gunplay itself is not terrible, with pretty decent looking gun models and animations, however this is severely let down by its aim systems and TTK. The TTK (or time to kill) is incredibly low, often making one stray bullet the killing shot. Each level works as a miniature open area with different ways of tackling scenarios, but the poor gameplay and low TTK incentivizes standing on a high edge and just shooting pop shots at any guard you can find. Why would you bother sneaking up to slip past guards, taking out cameras and hitting silent shots when none of these work as intended?
The graphics themselves are totally fine for a game of its calibre but fall apart very quickly with the slightest strain too. Floors disappear, bodies go through walls and you constantly crash head-first into major glitches. These range from having to restart missions after being caught on a particularly pesky bit of terrain to missions like “bunker” entirely not working. After multiple restarts and a fresh save, it finally worked and let progression happen, but I don’t know why you would bother jumping through hoops.
Mission structure takes the form of a handful of menial tasks such as collecting papers or destroying tanks. Along with this come optional objectives that give you a slightly better score at the end of a mission. Beyond Enemy Lines 2 isn’t entirely void of good ideas. The semi-open structure of levels does start rather interesting, giving you options of traversal and a decent amount of things to do. Unfortunately, this foundation crumbles as you continue on. The open-ended structure starts to become tedious as objectives feel the same and the enemies’ dumb AI ruins most fun you’ll have mowing them down. It feels less like a strategic military shooter and more like shooting at a wall; it’s satisfying at the start but starts to feel pointless pretty quick.
Another interesting idea is found in its customization systems. Upon picking up a weapon, usually you have a set of upgrades that can be applied on the run with a click of up on the D-Pad. You can change things like adding a silencer, scope, or red dot. It’s fun initially to see what options you get but they don’t tend to offer any substantial difference to the central gameplay. Add a silencer, a red dot sight and a laser and you’re ready to go.
It seems clear from the design of Beyond Enemy Lines 2 what exactly the development team wanted to provide and I commend it for that. If the game delivered what it tries to, it would probably be a good experience. But it doesn’t. Harsh and clever AI that becomes a genuine challenge of wits sounds good but it’s not that. The AI is unresponsive and unperceptive and higher levels of difficulty don’t solve that. Instead of making combat more situational and clever, it merely jacks up the damage and calls it a day. This is before mentioning the poor gameplay, map design and general glitchiness.
Beyond Enemy Lines 2 on Xbox One takes a reasonably good idea and makes it a chore to play. In the times where missions and enemies come together, the AI is found to be unresponsive, controls are very poor and the base experience hardly works. Much like being behind enemy lines itself, the experience is frightening, confusing and I wouldn’t want to go back any time soon.