Homefront Reader Review
I love , especially the likes of Battlefield, Killzone and (for all the flack it receives for unoriginality) Call of Duty.
It was with some interest that I followed the progress of from announcement to release. The idea of a game that was basically sounded very intriguing to me, especially when most shooters are either set in space, the middle east or a war torn (brownish grey) city, it was interesting to see a game set in suburbia. From all the pre-release materials it looked like the environments would be filled with abandoned houses, lush green vegitation and intense guerilla style close quarters, urban combat.
I received my copy on day of release, patiently waited until work ended at 5 and briskly made my way home (forgoing the weekly pub trip). Upon loading the game and beginning the campaign I watched the openning cinematic which goes into quite some detail in explaning how a currently impoverished, hermit nation like North Korea could topple the powerhouse that is the United States.
To its credit the game's backstory and explanation into these events is very plausible as the events take place over a couple of decades:
- Kim jong-ill dies, his son (Kim jong-un) succeeds him
- Kim jong-un spouts lots of guff about North Korea wanting peace
- North Korea re-unifies with the South
- Korean Ruplic invades Japan and other Asian nations (bar China)
- U.S. pulls out of the middle east, amidst economic instability
- U.S. subject to an outbreak of some kind of Bird Flu
- Korean Republic launches satellite under premise of peace
- Satellite launches EMP strike on America, America gets invaded
- Korean Republic now dominates America, Homefront begins
The basic premise of the game is that you play an airforce pilot who is being transported to a detention center/forced labour camp, en-route you are saved by members of the resistance and from then on, you are effectively their bitch. I choose my words very carefully here, because at no point playing the game did I ever feel like I had any choice in the things I did or how I could approach a situation.
The game is almost completely shameless in how it half leads the player by the hand, half forces them at gun point to the next objective. Being set in American suburbia, one would expect a little freedom to traverse the wrecks of houses and gardens, but at its very core is a corridor shooter complete with invisible walls and not-so-cunningly placed objects that block your path.
Visually the game should be commended and derided; the wartorn urban environments look very interesting with a diverse colour palette and believable setting. Dilapidated houses, with boarded up windows and tarpualin covering blast holes, gardens that hide a hive of resistance activity and wrecks of family cars strewn across deserted cul-de-sacs really add to an immersive atmosphere. It's just a shame that the graphics engine is so dated, textures on characters appear very pixelated and sometimes fail to render, anti-aliasing appears non existent and character models frequently clip into things leading to a game that feels very last generation and lacking polish.
Gameplay is (as expected for an FPS) very straight forward, go here, blow this up, shoot these guys, die cheap death, start again and repeat. The player always seems to be waiting for the NPCs to play catch up, having to wait for them to open doors, remove strategically placed fridges that block progression and so on. Apart from the few instances where the player gets to control the semi-autonomous attack vehicle known as , and a short sequence where they can fly an attack chopper, there really isn't much in the way of variety and these short forays just end up feeling shoe-horned in.
The campaign weighs in at a woefully short 4-5 hours on normal, at a push this could easily be completed in less than 4 even on the higher difficulty settings. The developers seemed to be aware of how quick the game could be finished, because for most of the non-combat sections of the game, the player is forced to walk at a snails pace between engagements and listen to the resistance NPC's waffle on about how everythin really sucks and that they 'didn't sign up for this'.
Multiplayer is probably the one redeeming quality of the game (when it works). It more or less contains all the standard FPS multiplayer features, but adds a currency system known as 'Battle Points' into the mix, this can be used to purchase vehicles and gadgets that can affect the outcome of a match. The gameplay feels fairly satisfying but ultimately makes the player feel like they were playing a game that did a particular thing better e.g. Call of Duty or Battlefield. At present it takes about 20 minutes of waiting just to get enough people to play a match, even then you aren't garaunteed a full game as the servers have a penchant for kicking you out before the end (though these issues will probably be fixed as more people play online).
Ultimately, Homefront is a game that had a lot of potential but fails to make its mark in the current market of high production value FPS games. It has some interesting features but will leave you feeling like you wish you were playing something else.