THQ's first volley in the attack to create the next great shooter franchise offers up a scary what-if scenery that deftly utilizes familiar sights of Americana in a burned out war-torn landscape and a brutal enemy. It's just a shame that the single-player game is so rooted in old-school design sensibilities. The multiplayer, on the other hand, is dead on for fans of Call of Duty who want something familiar, but still a little new.
- Great multiplayer
- Some intense large-scale battles
- Excellent variety of vehicles and weapons
- Incredibly over-scripted
- Reliance on cheap effects like endlessly respawning enemies
- Incredibly short single-player campaign
THQ has been unleashing a monster of a hype machine for Homefront since the game was first announced. The company is clearly attempting to set Activision’s Call of Duty and EA’s Medal of Honor in their sights, with the game’s mix of near-future, military-themed combat and effectively scary premise of what-if the North Koreans invaded America in the 2020’s. Unfortunately, merely desiring to mix it up with the big boys doesn’t equate to success.
Oh, Home on the Front
Homefront comes complete with an extensive back story that quickly explains how America could possibly be invaded by a foreign power. Largely basing the US downfall on the very-real economic recession, the 2027 setting for the game is realistic enough to make the plot line more than a little unsettling. Korean forces manage to violently take over major cities and small towns, and the game focuses on one pocket of the rebellion forces.
Starting off in Colorado, the ultimate goal of the game is to join up with the army in San Francisco to stage a major offensive against the Greater Korean Republic’s occupation there. You take the role of an Air Force pilot who is captured by the Koreans, then rescued in a daring escape by a group of American guerillas. Why you were specifically rescued is only actually explained well into the game, when the skills of a pilot are needed for their daring plan to drive back enemy forces.
A Very Scripted Event
Through the whole game you’re pretty much a standard, military action hero. The story was penned by John Milius, who wrote and directed Red Dawn and the original Conan the Barbarian, and was the screenwriter for Apocalypse Now. Just the same, aside from the overall setting there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. The characters are mostly stereotypes—especially the player character, who is a nearly faceless soldier who never speaks and only follows the orders given to him. Homefront isn’t very long—maybe six hours—and the game just sort of ends after a huge set-piece firefight.
Homefront is really just a series of events, as if it was designed to be a movie that focused entirely on big, explosive scripted sequences. At times, this works great. Many of the battles are tough and intense. Other times, the gameplay just feels trite and predictable. Part of the problem is that Homefront is completely linear. The game blocks you in with cheap tricks like endlessly respawning troops and invisible barriers.
The few stealth levels are effective, but all you’re really doing is waiting for another member of your group to tell you when to move or stay hidden. As long as you do exactly as told, there’s no challenge at all. Still other times, you’re left to fend for yourself against overwhelming odds, while the rest of the team goes off to do something else. There are also vehicles, such as tanks, humvees, and a helicopter, which breaks up the action. The helicopter, however, is particularly unrealistic and able to bash against walls like a pinball.
AI is surprisingly good though. Both friendly and enemy forces act in a manner that makes the action feel like a chaotic battle most of the time, instead of all the bad guys shooting at you constantly. The Goliath RV tank is great as well, since it relies on you to target enemies before unleashing hell on them. So, without a doubt, the single-player game has moments of greatness, but the overall experience is too mired down in antiquated design standards.
On the flipside, the multiplayer is excellent. The maps offer a great sense of variety and scale amidst the bombed out American landscape, and taking over map points in old farm houses, burned-out Hooters, and other familiar locations is just a lot of intense fun. The game offers up team deathmatching and a CTF-variant at first, but as you rise in rank, more modes are unlocked. Even better is that as you gain experience with the various classes, you’ll unlock new weapons, special abilities, and vehicles.
While none of this is new, Homefront offers a few interesting tricks. One distinction is the use of RC ground and aerial vehicles. You can remotely fly attack drones and helicopters for air strikes, or ground-based attack bots, in addition to driving or hitching a ride on tanks, humvees, and other vehicles. Initial progression is quick to get you going, and slows down just enough after that to keep you addicted.
Back and Forth
Homefront is definitely a game divided. The single-player game is entertaining in bursts, but far from great. Short and full of cliché and dogged linear design, it’s mostly fun while it lasts, but not at all noteworthy. For multiplayer fans, however, Homefront offers a great alternative to Black Ops and Killzone 3, with a surprisingly polished online experience.