Good fiction takes a backseat to generic action
The American economy has fallen, most of Asia has joined forces with North Korea under threat of total annihilation, and food in the U.S. is scarce. In 2027, a fragile America is nothing other than a shadow of its former self. A newly formed Asian empire has taken advantage of the fallen superpower and launched a full-scale attack. Overwhelmed, the U.S. military is scattered and utterly defeated. Homefront tells the tale of an occupied America. From a distance, this setting might sound like something straight out of a Tom Clancy novel or the event that crazy survivalists prepare their entire lives for. Homefront’s narrative is easily its greatest strength, but it unfortunately takes a back seat.
Shooters have become so commonplace among the gaming industry to the point that the genre has almost become a parody of itself. There are few examples of action oriented games standing out from the crowd, but most games that involve shooting dudes in the face rather hangout with the Call of Duty crowd. From a gameplay perspective, Homefront is entirely a product of the Call of Duty generation. Everything from how the game controls, to the pacing, and even has gone so far to as copy the stealth mission from Call of Duty 4. So yeah, you’ll shoot Koreans, lots of them.
Its unfortunate Homefront’s action is so derivative because its narrative shows strong potential. The game definitely puts its best foot forward bringing you up to speed with two decades of fictitious history that led to America’s demise. The newspaper collectibles that are scattered throughout the campaign are more interesting than the wash, rinse, and repeat combat. There I read details of the middle eastern war that broke out after coalition troops pulled from Iraq, Korea expanding its military, and all the political pressure that came with civilians depending on $20 gas and food rations. Homefront’s biggest failing is making the fiction take a backseat to gameplay we’ve all seen before.
You're a silent protagonist trailing along with a rag-tag group of resistance fighters that are on a mission to gather fuel for a big showdown in San Francisco. There are multiple attempts to humanize the characters, but nothing ever comes into fruition. At no point did I really care about the horrible things my teammates were going through. The majority of the plot is completely predictable. My team and I traveled to a concentration camp populated by starved and overworked Americans. Eventually, we discovered a mass grave. A dude I’m with gets totally pissed, I see a large amount of Koreans…and dude gives us away by shooting blindly in a fit of rage. The game gives away all of its “oh shit” moments way before they actually happen.
The singleplayer campaign is sprinkled with great moments. At its core, there’s a good game in Homefront. However, the entire experienced feels too under-produced to compete with other modern action games. The campaign is inexcusably short. It took me about five hours to complete. But the action is so mediocre, I was pretty happy when the credits rolled.
They should have used all that Hooters and White Castle ad money to generate a more enjoyable shooter. If in-game advertising easily turns you off, Homefront is definitely a title you should steer clear of. There are two segments in which you have to run into a building and defend against a wave of Koreans. However, instead of your friend saying “into that building!”, it’s “get inside the White Castle”, or “Quick, inside the Hooters!”. He might as well told me about how great White Castles $0.68 burgers were. In a world were gas is $20 per gallon, I guess White Castle and cheap artery-clogging food served by attractive women are all the pleasantries people can afford.
The multiplayer has been getting a lot of positive buzz. I’ve only managed to play two games. Getting into the dedicated servers is virtually impossible. The two games I’ve played were totally fun and reminiscent of Battlefield. In an age were console gamers have many fantastic reliable games to chose from, it’s hard to recommend a game that’s unreliable to establish a community, let alone work. I really enjoyed the idea of gathering battlepoints through kills and objectives. Then using those points mid match to gain access to perks, vehicles, and more powerful weapons instead of unlocking them in the same fashion that’s industry standard at this point.
Homefront is awesome as an idea. Its environments are believable and do an excellent job at telling a backstory. But the game constantly chasing more established shooters is too obvious. The game should’ve slowed down the pace and allowed the player to see more of the world instead of shooting dudes in the face. Your Korean-American ally alludes to the hardships he has suffered. Hey Kaos, you should show, not tell. Homefront is totally worth checking out if you don’t have to pay full price. Just don’t expect anything more from the gameplay than mediocrity.
-Steven Beynon (EpicSteve)