Review: Homefront

By on March 26, 2011

 

Its 2027, the global economy is in disarray and the world marches towards political collapse. The Greater Korean Republic controls almost all of the East Asian World and has occupied the United States. For two years they have systematically dismantled the American infrastructure, scattered its Armed Forces, and forced its citizens into mass labor camps. For most, this has become an accepted way of life, but for some, it has bred defiance and for a few, revolution. It is this reality that you will come to understand and it is for this reason that you will rise up and fight. Homefront aims to make you rethink your role in a first person shooter, by making you not the armed to the teeth commando, but the simple man who can make a difference. By making you come to understand the true depravity of war and what it means to stand for something. THQ and Kaos Studios’ new FPS has a lofty goal in a genre crowded with machismo and blockbuster cool factor. Does Homefront have what it takes to deliver a unique heart wrenching experience or is it simply another serving of “Go here, kill these foreign bad guys”?

Homefront works hard to make its near future scenario plausible by using a combination of actual news reel footage and CGI to create an interesting visual timeline of the events that led up to the game’s 2027 time period. After the death of infamous North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, his son, Kim Jong Un, takes his father’s place as the supreme leader of the isolated country. This charismatic young man quickly draws mass support as he promotes the idea that the Korean race is superior and has been denied its proper glory for far too long. He then rallies the country’s vast military and invades their democratic neighbor South Korea, thereby unifying them once again into the Greater Korea Republic. After threat of annihilation, Japan quickly surrenders as well. Meanwhile, war in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran destroys large amount of oil wells which drastically limits supply to the rest of the world. Civil unrest breaks out in the United States as the U.S. Dollar loses all value and banks freeze all accounts. Epidemics such as avian flu kill millions, poverty grips the entire nation, and the entire country verges on a state of total collapse. By 2025, the Greater Korea Republic launches a new satellite which effectively shuts down the entire North American electrical system causing nationwide blackouts and communication failure. After which they quickly invade and subsequently occupy the entire United States.

Homefront at its core is a very solid shooter, as it borrows heavily from Call of Duty’s winning formula. The controls are fast and fluid, while the mechanics are quick to pick up and feel right. However one of the main problems with Homefront lies in its broken promises of its Single Player Campaign. You take control of a former Military Helicopter Pilot who is captured by the Korean Military because they want to use his skills. However the local American resistance group intervenes and rescues you, turns out they need a pilot to help their cause. You are introduced to your squad of teammates early on, but don’t bother even remembering their names because they are extremely forgettable and flat. While Homefront’s back story and setting are interesting, the game never seems to build on this premise. You simply move from one area to the next killing every heavily armed Korean soldier you come across. You never actually feel as if you are a resistance fighter, since you seem to have no problem dispatching a battalion of enemy troops. Another problem stems from the fact that nothing about your enemy distinguishes them as Korean. You could make them any other nationality and it would not change a single thing about the game. It does not help that the majority of them look like Stormtroopers from Star Wars, which just further removes the idea that you are actually killing a real human enemy, let alone a certain nationality. Thankfully at least the missions vary in terms of setting, which feature some truly great set pieces. One moment you will be trying to escape a burning retail store and the next you will be commanding an unmanned remote control tank as it tears through houses in a crowded neighborhood.

While the game’s “Kill them all” concept of a plot is disappointing, at least Homefront can be commended with the variety of ways of which it executes this. A good number of weapons are up for grabs which sport a variety of attachments. Assault Rifles, Submachine Guns, Shotguns, Pistols, all the ones you expect are here and they feel right. There’s even an old fashioned stealth mission complete with Sniper Rifle, and yes there’s even a bell tower. Original? No, but still very fun. At one point you finally get control of a helicopter and you are tasked with escorting your allies down a long highway. This is easily one the more enjoyable helicopters I have flown in a video game as you have full control. No rails or boundaries to be found here. There is just something about toggling on thermal vision and making Swiss cheese out of soldiers and vehicles that does the soul good. As you can see, Homefront is an enjoyable Single Player experience but that brings me to the other major flaw, its length. At most, Homefront’s Campaign is only four hours long. Four. Hours. Long. That’s just unacceptable in this day and age for any full priced sixty-dollar game. This is made worse by the fact that the game has one of the worst endings seen in awhile. Remember Halo 2′s ending? Yeah, like that but minus the cool one-liner. It just feels like half of the game is missing, and now you have to wait for the inevitable sequel. Disappointing is the best way to sum up the single player, enjoyable but in the end unfulfilling.

Thankfully the other half of the Homefront experience, the multiplayer, delivers in spades. As a cross between Call of Duty’s Gunplay and Battlefield’s Large Vehicle Based Warfare, the game’s multiplayer carves out its own little niche. As you would expect, players choose a preset class prior to spawning which can be customized as you unlock new equipment by earning XP. Up to thirty-two players can join into a match, which makes for some truly epic multiplayer action. Plus since Homefront uses dedicated servers for all ranked online games, there’s hardly any lag ot be found. The negative aspect to that though is that often it is simply impossible to join any online game as the servers are often down. Now while this was a massive problem during its launch week, THQ seems to have smoothed out the majority of these issues as they have brought more servers online. It still happens occasionally however and is extremely frustrating, so it remains to be seen if this will continue to be a problem down the road. The biggest aspect of Homefront’s multiplayer is Battle Points, which is earned by performing various positive actions during a match. These include killing enemies, spotting targets, capturing points and basically anything that helps your team. These points can be spent to activate perks such as Flak Jackets which allow you to take more damage and Thermal Goggles which highlight enemies. They can also be used to equip special weapons and items such as Rocket Launchers as well as pilotable drones that come in both ground and flying varieties. Unlike Call of Duty, these points are kept even if you die which allows you to play through a match and consistently add more points to your balance. It also seems to really remove the necessity of camping which makes the action more frenzied and keeps the line of battle constantly shifting.

If you really want to save up your Battle Points, you can also use them to purchase vehicles. Unlike in Battlefield where a set number of vehicles spawn on a map and everyone has to sprint towards them to be the first to get there, in Homefront you directly summon and spawn in to your preferred vehicle from the menu. Teammates can even choose to respawn inside your vehicle should you need a gunner. Everything from Humvees, to APCs, to Tanks and even Helicopters can be utilized. All the vehicles feel fantastic to drive and while they are very powerful, they are kept in check by C4, EMP Grenades, and Heat Seeking Rocket Launchers that soldiers on foot can use. Homefront sports three main multiplayer modes, Ground Control, Team Deathmatch, and Battle Commander. Ground Control is the game’s bread and butter, it pits two teams of up to 16 against each other and tasks them with capturing three different objectives on the map and holding them to gain points. The more objectives you hold, the faster you get points. Once one side wins the round, the front line is pushed forward in to the other team’s base and three new objectives must be captured. The first team to win two rounds wins the match. Team Deathmatch is exactly what you expect, no need to explain this one. Finally there is Battle Commander, a mode that can be utilized in either Ground Control or Team Deathmatch. During the game, an A.I. Commander will assign you special missions and place bounties on opposing players’ heads that earn you more points if you complete them. You can gain notoriety and increase your bounty and points by killing many enemies without dieing. It adds a nice twist to the usual gameplay and adds a great incentive for hunting down that one guy that just keeps killing you.

The Good
Controls and Game Mechanics are Spot On
Interesting Variety of Locales and Gameplay in Single Player
Extensive Multiplayer Will Keep you Coming Back
Battle Points are an Engaging and Rewarding System

The Bad
Criminally Under Utilized Plot
Ridiculously Short Single Player Campaign
Lack of Any Sort of Closure to the Story
Frequent Server Problems Prevent Multiplayer Play at Times

The WTF?
Why is a team of four civilians more effective than the entire U.S. Military?

The Final Word
While it may not the prettiest, have the most guns, or let you demolish buildings, Homefront is a damn fun game. While the Single Player had the foundations of something truly great (For God’s sake, they pretty much marketed it as the next BioShock), it ultimately fell flat on its face because of its lack of story progression and absurd length. Lucky for us though, it sports a great Multiplayer component. Participating in a thirty-two person online match is a one of a kind experience and being immersed in the chaos of war is one good time. Just prepare for the inevitable rage when the servers go down. While it won’t be taking the crown from Call of Duty or Battlefield, if you’re in the mood for a new modern war shooter to satisfy that itch between now and this fall’s big boys, you could do a lot worse than giving revolution a try with Homefront.

 

4 out of 5

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