Will Homefront Make You Yell "Wolverines"? Probably Not.
When the most memorable thing about your game is the free tacos you were handing out to people on the streets of San Francisco, clearly something has gone wrong. Not only has developer Kaos Studios missed the mark on what should have been a great shooter set in a dystopian near future, what they put together seems down right lazy and offensive to charge full retail price for. So what went wrong with this long anticipated entry into the first person shooter genre? Where do we even start?
In recent years, the current king in the fps market (Call of Duty) has set the mark for length of single player campaigns, usually clocking in at around the 6-7 hour mark, so it is almost criminal that I finished Homefront in one sitting on the default difficulty in less than 4 hours. In comparison, I recently played Rango: The Video Game for review and it took me almost twice as long and that is a kids game. The story itself should have been enough for Kaos Studios to craft an exciting and terrifying vision of a semi plausible near future where a unified Korea starts invading and conquering neighboring countries and amasses the worlds largest army and weapons of mass destruction, while America who is on the verge of ruin following a financial and political collapse, is ripe to be invaded following a massive EMP attack.
The actual gameplay starts two years after the initial invasion and America is on it's heels. You are rounded up and put on a bus that is supposed to take you to a labor camp, which sets up a Half-Life type opening sequence that forces you to watch innocent civilians being rounded up, women being beaten, and parents being lined up and shot in front of their crying children. This should be enough to make you care about the plight of America and it's people and to want gun down thousands of Korean soldiers as you march through the 7 short missions right? If you said yes, you would be wrong.
Homefront does a poor job at conveying any sense of emotion, because as it turns out, Robert Jacobs (your character) much like Half-Life's Gordan Freeman is a mute. Silent protagonists are nothing new, especially in shooters, but with so much horror and atrocity going on around you, it just seems like your apathetic and don't give a damn about anything. Cut scenes constantly try to include you in the conversation, but you may as well be checking twitter, or playing a game on your cell phone while the severely medicated sounding voice actors deliver their lines. Nothing in this campaign makes you care, and the one scene that involves a mass grave misses the mark so hard, because the blob of graphics that are supposed to look like a pit full of dead Americans, may as well have been the same textures as the poorly rendered crabs in Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm.
The actual shooting in Homefront is decent, but clearly nothing to get too excited about. All of the weapons kind of feel the same, and it's way too easy to head shot your way through the entire game. All of the action is your standard kill all of the bad guys between checkpoints, and occasionally interact with a switch, or use a clever weapon system for a brief period of time. The second to last mission in the game breaks up the action by having you pilot a helicopter, but it may as well been a hot air balloon or a hang glider because there is no sense of physics, you could put down the controller and hover indefinitely and not move one inch, and guess what? That entire level is one big escort mission, that is the epitome of lazy gameplay.
The graphics, while not terrible, are no competition for other shooters on the market, like the recently released Crysis 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops. The sound design may be the only technical stand out in this pile of mess, as it has a distinctive Battlefield series vibe to it. The ear ringing explosions, and echoes of war all around you are a treat for the senses, but then you look around at the in game textures and remember your playing a poorly made game. Publisher THQ pushed all in on this title, and even though the game was in development for at least 2 years, everything feels rushed.
Homefront also features what is supposed to be a robust multiplayer experience, with persistent leveling of your character, a new twist on the Call of Duty style perk system, and unlock able weapons and gear. The problem with the multiplayer is two fold, for starters it doesn't offer nearly enough game modes or maps considering what it's direct competitors offer. The second problem is that even a week after the release of the game, and enough time to fix the connection and server issues, the game simply does not work as intended.
Homefront would be a great multiplayer game if you were an anti social shut in with no friends because the only way to connect to a game is by yourself, if you try to connect with even one friend in your party the game will constantly give you a vague error message about not being able to connect to a beacon, what the hell does that even mean? I tried several attempts with different combination of friends on different nights to get a match going and not once could we get into a game. Another minor quibble about multiplayer which has no bearing on the review score is that after level 6 you can create a clan tag, which is common in modern day shooters. For the past 8 years or so, me and a group of guys have been using the same clan tag in every game that comes out since Socom 2, our clan is the "H8U" clan, so when i tried to input our iconic tag into Homefront, i was told that the clan name was inappropriate and not allowed. Seriously? Homefront shoots parent in front of children, has you watch hundreds of dead crab looking bodies bulldozed into a pit, and forces you to witness Koreans being burned alive by white phosphorous, but the H8U clan tag is inappropriate? Glad to see THQ and Kaos has their priorities straight.
Homefront was one of the games i was looking forward to the most in 2011, and when it was announced that the story was being written by John Milius, who wrote and directed the classic film Red Dawn, my enthusiasm could not be contained. Instead of putting together a great piece of interactive fiction, we were given something much less without a real ending, because hey, THQ needs to sell DLC and push out a sequel. Homefront embodies some of the worse aspects of modern video game development. The shining star of the game are the 61 collectible newspapers which flesh out the back story and timeline of events from the mid 90's up until the year 2027 which the game is set in, they make for great reading and may be the only thing stopping this game from getting a one star. I so wanted to yell "WOLVERINES", instead I'm muttering "I want my money back". Homefront earns a 2 out of 5 stars.