Having been a gamer for a good few years now I have commanded troops and fired weapons on just about every major blood stained battlefield in mankind’s violent history, most of which encompass first person shooters that exhibit the United States as the vanquishers of evil and injustice in some foreign land. While Homefront does little to confiscate America’s heroic title, it does introduce a fresh but rather terrifying suggestion.
For those of you, who were living in an archipelago cave at the time, 2010 saw a growing tension between North and South Korea peak after an exchange of artillery fire near the two borders, and the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel by a North Korean submarine. While this was going on America was trying to avoid an economic melt down and simultaneously orchestrate a massive withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Why am I telling you this? Well, quite simply because these events form the backbone of the story behind Homefront’s single player campaign.
The year is 2027 and a series of events leading up to this date have drastically changed the world as we know it. North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il has died, leaving the reigns to his son who unites North and South Korea into the Greater Korean Republic, and subsequently claims Japan after an unconditional surrender following the destruction of a nuclear facility and the threat of invasion. While America deals with a plummeting economy, dwindling allies and the spread of disease, the GKR launches a massive EMP (electromagnetic pulse) strike above Kansas rendering the country defenseless, whilst paratroopers are dropped over central North America, capturing most of the territories west of the Mississippi river.
As a result of the invasion United States is forced to deal with a vastly superior hostile force on home soil, while the continuous occupation turns happy suburban areas into desolate restricted neighbourhoods. The once blissful citizens now live in concentration camps improvised from school buildings and football fields, as the remorseless Korean army patrol the suburbs in search of any stragglers who refuse to comply. Fortunately there is a small faction of resistance fighters who, while completely outmanned and outgunned are willing none the less to give life and limb for the good old star spangled banner, and this is where you come in.
Without the well put together story and the chilling display of brutality that draws you into this speculative but disturbing future existence, Homefront is really just another first person shooter in terms of game play. To be blunt, you will eliminate copious amounts of enemies with a multitude of weapons while dodging bullets and searching for ammo, the same way you would in just about any other FPS out there. What breaks the mould here is context, while the game play might feel all too familiar; the overall experience although short, is what makes Homefront’s single player campaign comparatively interesting and fresh.
Unfortunately while the plot adds that little something extra and helps differentiate Homefront from its competitors, the games sound and visuals make no particular attempt at setting the bar a little higher. While these attributes are far from terrible and take very little away from the overall enjoyment, the graphics are a bit average for a game trying to force its way into an already overpopulated genre. Although Homefront does have some decent sound, and a good fluctuating score that compliments game play, the voiceovers and sound effects while getting the job done, left no significant lasting impression on me, save for one instance in the beginning of the game when you witness the execution of a couple in front of their child and the resulting screams sent chills down my spine.
While Homefront single player campaign comes across as somewhat standard, the multiplayer aspect of the game is anything but. There are many recognizable concepts at work here combined with some pretty interesting new additions that make the online experience a worth while undertaking. Besides your customary load outs, perks and upgrades, Homefront incorporates an economy system whereby a player can earn battle points for doing just about anything constructive on the battlefield. The player can then use these points in the field to purchase certain tools in his/ her load out arsenal that might help in different scenarios. For instance, besides a primary and secondary weapon you are able to equip one of many additional drones or armaments in your load out, which can be called upon during battle in an appropriate situation provided you have earned enough battle points to bring them into play. Alternatively battle points can also be saved and spent on something more powerful like a tank or helicopter later in the match and it is these small decisions on an individual level that can really turn the tide of a battle. Once a skirmish is over, collected BP are converted into experience points which contribute to the rank up process, giving you access to new weapons, drones and vehicles.
Despite the fact that there are only two multiplayer modes, there is the option of playing the habitual team deathmatch and capture type games with the addition of a “Battle Commander”. This variant of the standard modes has an AI general on each team that will automatically assign objectives and award players with perks as their kill streaks rise. Unfortunately, your efficiency on the battle field will also be noticed by the opposing commander who will consequently mark you as a threat according to your wanted star rating and target you as an objective to your enemies. The multiplayer maps are fun to play and very well constructed and while they are rather large the games support 32 players, resulting in some well paced action in spite of the maps size.
While I enjoyed playing Homefront, I have mixed feelings about the entire experience considering the games inconsistencies. Although the storyline by John Milius (Red Dawn, Apocalypse Now) and the setting of the game created an ominous and tense tone that captured the desperation of a former superpower now struggling for its freedom, the single player campaign feels dismally short when considering the backing of such a rich storyline. Also, it seems almost tragic to go through so much effort to make a game with a decent plot and action that intensifies at a good steady pace and wrap it all up in a less than spectacular bow. In spite of the things I didn’t have much to say about because they were really quite ordinary, I thoroughly enjoyed the multiplayer aspect of this game and I kept going for more.
There is nothing really new to see here. Homefront plays like a typical first person shooter.
Design and Presentation: 8.5
While the sound and visuals really are nothing to write home about, the storyline is gripping and presented in such a way that the established tone and setting of the game become disturbingly believable. In my opinion, were it not for the underlying strength of the storyline, Homefront’s single player campaign would have very little going for it.
The single player campaign is disappointingly short taking into account the amount of effort put into establishing a tone and setting for the game, however the multiplayer modes offer a decent replay value, with the introduction of some fresh new concepts, well assembled maps, and some good ol fashioned hard to but put your controller down fun.
Overall: 7.4 (not an average)
I really enjoyed Homefront, unfortunately while there are some really good things going here, it is not nearly as well rounded as it could be.