Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: March 15th~18th 2011
Developer: Kaos Studios
Homefront is a first person shooter developed by Kaos studios and published by THQ. Set in the year 2027, a united Korean People’s army has swept the world with an unexpected ferocity and has invaded the United States. You play as a pilot who is fighting for the American resistance who is trying to survive the military occupied USA - your Homefront.
This is not suburbia like you know it.
The game opens with a movie outlining the not only the growth of the North Korean forces but the downfall of the American economy and the civil unrest that resulted. The speculative fiction is believable as there is anecdotal information spliced between each chapter. The scenes are described by an anonymous radio announcer of the resistance who is both inspiring and sets the stage very well for each chapter. The campaign has you fighting through different environments from suburb houses, to product placed stores and even end up flying across coastal mountain ranges to take back the golden gate bridge in the climax of the game. I was enticed by the setup and the atmosphere was there, I was ready to play through a Korean version of “Red Dawn”. Sounds good right? I hope I have buttered you up as the game did to me because I am about to pull the rug from underneath you. As you can tell I was quite excited to play because it grabbed my interest and did not let go, and then I actually began to play the game.
Each chapter is comprised of contrived set pieces that you will find in any typical shooter. Kill the snipers in the tower, shoot the rockets at the tanks, obligatory stealth mission....I can go on but you get the idea. Now it isn’t that these set pieces are terribly bad but you cannot progress to the next area until you do exactly what it says on your heads up display. FOLLOW, ELIMINATE, TAKE COVER were the orders I was given and I was not allowed to stray from them. There was no room for creativity or experimentation; if you missed the checkpoint and went through the wrong door - a magical bullet would kill you and you would restart the checkpoint. It is tough in this day and age to follow such a tight path and shoot your way down such a narrow hallway of a game. Homefront had the ability to allow the player to try and accomplish the goals of the mission in interesting ways, you are resistance fighters for goodness sake! Guerrilla tactics have no rules, you should be able to approach the situation in more than one way. The game design is so short sighted that they rely on big explosions and shock value to keep your interest and keep you playing.
If you don't listen to these guys you will be boned.
One of the first things I noticed with the game was the dated graphics. I can usually put graphics aside when looking at a game objectively, as my personal taste is invested more in gameplay. However the pain that my eyes suffered from the moment the game started was excruciating. What I was expecting was a great looking shooter based on all the trailers, press, and advertising. What I was presented with was a dated and grainy disgrace. I honestly have seen a better art in games 5 years ago and I had to boot up the original Half Life as a reference point. Homefront is a perfect example of what a generous marketing budget can do for a terrible game. You see the character on the box art with the bandanna over his eyes? That is not a character from the game, but the most appropriate and accurate representation of today’s consumer. They pulled the bandanna over the eyes of the 375K people who bought the game and I’m here to tighten your bandanna and hopefully allow you to see the game for what it really is.
To accompany these distasteful graphics is a game engine that is quite sloppy. There is no passion, grit, or soul in this game. Starting from the controls all the way to the presentation it does not give the player the feedback you need when playing a shooter. When a bullet leaves the chamber you want to feel like you are actually pulling that trigger. I want that head at the end of my sight to pop like a watermelon when I hit the button but none of that is present in the game. One major recommendation I would have liked to see was the inclusion of a cover mechanic. When you have an army shooting at you, the least you could is provide the player with some protection. The pop and stop method would have worked much better here and would at least have separated Homefront from its competition. It is a fast paced game much like the Call of Duty and Battlefront series but it would have benefited from some sort of ingenuity to separate the final product.
Frustrating set pieces are thrown at you around every corner.
The problems described above leak into the multiplayer as well, but with that being said it is not without some interesting qualities. You still have your custom loadouts that allow you design your character based on your play style. An interesting perk system is presented as well. You have a list of bonuses you can apply to your character and as you level up you gain access to better stuff. You equip the perks based on a set amount of points and each perk takes a certain number of points to have on your loadout. It makes for some interesting classes as I had a sniper class that could scout the battlefield with an armored drone. Another cool feature is the Battle Boint system. In addition to earning experience throughout the matches, you also earn Battle Points that are unique to each individual instanced game. Your ‘killstreaks’, if I may borrow from another game, can be accessed by earning enough Battle Points in the match and do not carry on to the next map. Think of it like an in-game currency that can be spent on various upgrades like a flak jacket or a UAV drone all the way up to Hellfire missles and precision air strikes. Vehicles are included in this game and can act as mobile spawn points, but with the size of the maps it makes the whole experience a clusterfuck. This game cannot decide if it is Battlefield or Call of Duty, as it takes some points from both but does not execute on them very well. Terrible graphics make it difficult to see enemies, and like I said before the sloppy gameplay mechanics do not help the cause.
Homefront could have been a great game. I wanted it to be a great game. It honestly could have secured a spot in the upper echelon of first person shooters had it tried to do something different. The game has sold well due to marketing and I’m warning you that it is not worth your time. There are some cool ideas with the multiplayer but both it and the single player suffer from sub par design and visuals. At least they follow suit with a short and forgettable singe player experience. The setting and atmosphere is appealing but do not let this fool you. I’m not sure what the developers were going for, but with the state that Homefront is in it stands to be lost in the realm of mediocre shooters.
This is the voice of reason. Pass on Homefront
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