Posted 2 years ago By kingquagmire - David Collins
So the day has finally come. After three years of development and a ton of press coverage, the typical new FPS IP hype machine has run its course and we finally have the opportunity to see for ourselves what all the hullabaloo surrounding Homefront is about. After following the development pretty much since the initial announcement back in 2009 and already having some playtime with the multiplayer component, my desire to see what the rest of the package had in store had been growing at a steady clip over the last few weeks. In fact, it was with a bit of trepidation that I tore the plastic off of the final retail copy when it arrived in the mail. Will Homefront deliver? Will it be THAT game? You know, the game that walks in as a new IP with an unproven legacy, yet is still able to go toe-to-toe with today’s current heavy hitters like Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Halo?
Homefront has one of those plots that is either going to hit you so hard in the face that your head will spin or pass right on by you without a second glance. The domestic invasion and occupation of the United States of America; something that hasn’t happened since the country’s inception. The concept of having your home invaded can be a horrific thought for anyone, regardless of which country it is. Thus most of you will empathize with the the US in this alternate future timeline, even if you aren’t an actual citizen. This is especially true when considering how KAOS Studios handled the material. Tasking famed scriptwriter John Milius (Red Dawn, Apocalypse Now) with the story work, the dev team took the reigns of his work and very literally ran with it, crafting some of the most shocking and hard hitting segments of any game in recent memory. In fact, I will be surprised if some of these moments don’t become water cooler conversations and news feed fodder in the same way that Modern Warfare 2’s Russian Airport level did. Although, the point many were making about the necessity of including the Airport level in MW2 quite simply won’t apply here. All of these moments may be difficult to stomach, but each has a valid reason for being included and are essential to driving home the plight of the American people.
KAOS created a very rich backstory which seamlessly intertwines both fact and fiction; taking real world historical events and branching them off into a “what if” glimpse of the future. I won’t detail everything here, but the vast amount of effort undertaken to create a believable scenario is extremely evident. After the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-II in the year 2012, his son Kim Jong-un takes over and makes the reunification of Korea his first order of business. With the American economy tanking, the US’s global influence diminishes as they focus more and more on matters at home. This paves the way for the ever-strengthening Korea to flex their muscles, primarily by assimilating other Asian nations. With the US focusing inward and the UN disbanded, the global community is unable to do anything but sit and watch as Korea emerges from a broken nation to a world power within the scope of 10 years. In 2025, the invasion of the United States begins.
It becomes quickly apparent that Homefront is a game we have all played before, at least from a control standpoint. In fact, it plays almost exactly like the Call of Duty franchise, which is a good thing since the learning curve is non-existent. The familiar controls aren’t the only feature shared by Homefront and the CoDs of the world. The campaign length also seems to be a trait that KAOS adopted from the hit franchise as the single player story can be completed in 4-6 hours. While it’s hard to knock it given the similarities with most of the current shooters on the market, what it does do is shift the weight of the package to the multiplayer component (which I’ll get into in just a minute.)
So far, so good, right? Unfortunately, no. The biggest issue I had with the single player side of the game was the story-telling itself. First, the pacing came across a little slower than it should have. I completely understand the desire to slow things down for dramatic affect. However, it was a bit overdone here. What made it stand out even more was the narrative presentation. Each section of the game boiled down to you running from point A to point B with one or more AI-controlled allies. Once you hit point B, the AI will have their little powwow, sans you. The player is always the third wheel, viewing these meetings from the outside, rarely being addressed directly or included in the direction the story is taking. It doesn’t come off bad per se, just not quite as engaging as it could have been. It felt more like I was watching a movie featuring these dramatic events as they unfolded rather than experiencing them directly.
The weaponry hurt things a bit, too. It was great to experience the variety Homefront offers, especially during stages where we get to take control of the Goliath (a mammoth beast of a vehicle that is as agile as it is strong). However, anytime I can look down the sights of a shotgun and kill a target over a measurable distance with the accuracy of a sniper rifle, there’s a problem. Not a huge one, but a problem nonetheless. Again, this is more of an immersion issue than anything else.
While the pacing and narrative take a bit away from the immersion, credit does need to be given for the visuals. The level of detail is truly astounding. From the various supplies hanging around someone’s waist to the burned out cars littering the streets to the broken down sections of wall and rock - this may be America, but it’s an America you will wish you never get to see. The audio is not quite the same caliber as the graphics, but is still solid. Environmental effects, gun fire, explosions, etc. do a fine job of reminding you that even though you are home, this is still a warzone.
Given the relatively short length of the single player campaign, the multiplayer has to step up to the plate and fill in the blanks. And it can...maybe. First, the breakdown is pretty much the same as every other multiplayer FPS you’ve played. Team Deathmatch and other objective-based modes are available for up to 32 players. There is a perk system in place with a fresh spin slapped on it. You can carry two perks for each load-out. As you gain kills, you earn Battle Points which can then be spent on perks such as a life-extending flak jacket or an aerial drone you can call in to better survey the area. The Battle Commander mode make things a bit more interesting. Taking the existing modes and adding a ranked identifier to anyone who’s in the middle of a hot streak, it keeps even the best players on their toes as everyone is gunning for them. The only concern will be how the balancing holds up once the servers are flooded and the higher-ranked equipment is unlocked.
In the end, Homefront is a solid experience even if it doesn’t quite deliver what it promised. As a FPS, it’s competent. As a story device, it does tells a tale, just not quite the way it was billed out. The issues Homefront has are not terrible individually, though some may think twice once they are all lined up side by side. The campaign length will be enough to drop this one into a rental category if multiplayer isn’t your thing; if it is, that’s where the game picks up a lot of steam. The Battle Points system is a neat twist to the tried and true perk formula and the Battle Commander mode - at least for me - became the one mode to rule them all. The experience Homefront delivers doesn’t excel as it should have, but it does achieve at least a small measure of what was promised. That, in addition to a multiplayer component that is poised to liven up the competitive FPS realm, makes this a game that can supersede some of its flaws. If you are in it primarily for the solo experience, Homefront is an easy rental but nothing more. If you want to give Call of Duty a break and try some of the multiplayer, then Homefront is a purchase you won’t regret.
+ Fabulous visuals
+ Intuitive controls
+ Battle Commander MP mode adds a whole new layer to the MP experience
- Campaign is very short
- Pacing is slow
- Multiplayer could suffer with some balancing issues
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Release Date : 2011/03/15
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : THQ
Developer : Kaos Studios
Category : Action
ESRB : M
7.0 / 10
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