Homefront Author: T_H_Schafer -- Posted: 2011-05-16
Developer: KAOS Studios
Platform: PC (Reviewed), XBox 360, PS3
Homefront's setup is pretty interesting. Instead of relying on tried and true wars they build the story around a fictional future one and a bunch of what ifs. For example, what if North and South Korea reunited, flexed their nuclear muscle and invaded the United States? That's actually the big what if in Homefront's narrative, but it is a particularly large what if, and an interesting what if, and a what if that should have lead to some pretty interesting answers. Unfortunately, the single player campaign is over surprisingly early and the online multiplayer though alright, doesn't offer much in the way of innovation.
A lot of the hype surrounding Homefront focused on the idea of fighting off foreign invaders on America's turf, something sure to get many a patriot bursting at the seams with the 'hell yeahs!' And though it could have offered a very interesting story it never really offers anything new. It's more of a substitute location / time period so as to create one more FPS to try and compete in a market already home to some great FPS games. I can't help but feel it was the result of a board meeting where they went over what was being done in the industry and specifically how to differentiate themselves from Call of Duty. The idea wasn't the worst, in fact it is quite awesome to battle through places like White Castle and Hooter's beside vending machines and other accouterment that you'd see in an ordinary American town, it doesn't even really feel like product placement. Another addition to try and separate themselves from the pack is the inclusion of an unmanned tank called the goliath. Though you don't control the beast directly you are able to select targets that will be succinctly eliminated. Though these things are somewhat neat they don't do much to expand on the genre.
Specifically the campaign. It suffers from the same old, follow the guy - shooting gallery - follow the guy some more - watch some people talk, etc., mechanics that have been a staple of FPS campaigns for quite some time. Without a real strong narrative or real awesome set pieces it ends up feeling tedious, not fun. The characters are never really developed and the character you play as, in particular, feels like a ghost. You find out a little about who you play as at the beginning, but after that you just seem to watch the action unfold. The game does try really hard to make you hate the enemies instead of just labeling them terrorists or something. What really perplexed me though was near the end. This next paragraph is a spoiler so if you don't want the story tarnished at all, skip it.
[SPOILER] First of all you have a man of Korean descent on your squad which seems to need more attention. I thought the story might go into what it means to be American and go into details about racism, but it just kind of hovers around those subjects. Anyway, near the end, you and your team infiltrate a small village of sorts filled with Americans who are basically evil. You sneak around watching scenes of Americans brutalizing, torturing, and enslaving Korean soldiers while your team comments on how sick it all is and you snipe off targets. I mean, you basically shoot a million Korean soldiers before this bit and then you happily shoot a ton of these evil Americans while remaining in high regard of your team and your actions, but I don't know. It just seemed strange, I didn't really know what to make of it, and worst of all I didn't care enough. I felt like I was just watching things happen from a distance, not having a real say or effecting how things would have turned out anyway. I just thought it was dumb. [/SPOILER]
As for the multiplayer, it fares better than the campaign. What you've got is an in-game point system allowing you to earn currency based on performance which you can then cash in on upgrades like RPGs and flak jackets. You can also use them to purchase vehicles before you spawn. The vehicles do tend to help out quite a bit and feel pretty well balanced. Some of the modes are slight variations on the tried and true deathmatches and capture points that have come to be essentially required modes in FPSs. In Battle Commander, the player is assigned different optional objectives that if fulfilled could grant the player special perks and more currency to spend on upgrades. Overall, the multiplayer plays it safe and offers some new features that might be worth taking a look at.
In the end I am disappointed by Homefront. Are there better FPS games out there? Absolutely. Does Homefront offer a unique experience? Kind of. Is it a must have? No. Even without comparing Homefront to other games it is a disappointment. It falls short of even the slightest hype surrounding the game. What I had expected, and what seemed to be offered, was a grand campaign featuring a war on US soil but what I ended up with was a brief, mediocre shooter featuring some US locations. Homefront to me was promising a lot as far as a robust single player campaign but the campaign tends to drag the game down while the online modes at least carry the whole thing some distance. But even with a decent online multiplayer, it doesn't offer enough to snag the devoted Call of Duty and other more competent FPS game players out there away from their pedigree.