A lot has been said about the plausible dystopia that is the setting behind Kaos Studios' upcoming shooter Homefront, but until recently the media hadn't had a crack at the game's multiplayer modes. Anyone familiar with Kaos' previous title Frontlines: Fuel of War, and its approach to large-scale shooter action between large-scale numbers of gamers would be interested to know that Homefront builds upon and refines a number of the ideas in the previous game. It's almost as if they're trying to get it right this time.
Not to say they didn't have some success with multiplayer in the critically-mixed Frontlines, but to be honest I don't remember playing that game. I think I did, but for the life of me I don't remember a minute of it. What Frontlines featured that's being implemented into Homefront is the concept of large scale battles, featuring 32 players at a time, each taking on different battlefield roles with different weapon loadouts and vehicles at their fingertips. Oh, and drones; awesome flying and ground-based drones that the player will control.
Much like other large-scale combat shooters like Battlefield Bad Company, Homefront will allow you to customize your loadout, giving you more of a role to play in the upcoming firefights. It wont be anything restrictive like medic or engineer classes, but more like the customized loadouts of Modern Warfare. In addition to your two primary weapons, you'll have access to three more pieces of equipment that you'll need to buy on the fly with money (battlepoints, actually) that you earn for doing things in battle. Killing or assisting in killing a guy is great, but if you want to earn the big points, and unlock things like your rover drone or guided missile airstrikes, you'll have to go after big-ticket targets like tanks and helicopters.
You can buy vehicles at respawn as well, or just choose to spawn into a teammates vehicle, provided they have the room. Since this all costs battlepoints, the early goings of the Ground Control rounds will feel small at first: everyone just has their rifles and what not. But as the slaughter gets underway, you'll start seeing bigger and badder weaponry on the field of battle as both teams start earning enough points to buy them in.
This evolving battlefield concept was on clear display in the levels we played at a recent multiplayer event hosted by the game's publisher THQ. There were two maps, “Cul-de-sac” and “Farm” where teams took turns attacking and defending control points that kept moving back as one pair was captured after another. Farm is large and expansive, with tons of places for snipers to hide, but room for plenty of tank on tank or helicopter on helicopter or drone on drone (or any possible combination thereof). Cul-de-sac on the other hand, is tighter and more controlled, taking place on a destroyed suburban street where refugees once eked out an egalitarian existence after the peak oil collapse. Both maps feature a lot of ways for a lot of players to have a lot of fun at once.
While the hopefully-not-too-prescient story written by Hollywood scribe John Milius is the big attraction to Homefront, the devs are obviously hoping that the multiplayer will keep gamers coming back for more. It's different enough from its modern combat competitors to do so.
Homefront will be available on PS3, PC and Xbox 360 in March of next year.