Not that THQ will ever admit it, but we got the feeling a lot was riding on Homefront. The latest first-person shooter from the makers of Frontlines: Fuel of War, its hard-hitting subject matter, the fully featured online mode and the sheer amount of publicity thrown behind it has given us the impression that THQ wanted to stand shoulder to shoulder with the heavy weights. It's ambitious, it's daring, and sadly we think Kaos may have gotten a little bit ahead of themselves.
In a past review, I touched on the concept of 'value' and how hard it was to keep in mind due to the fact that we get provided these games for free. It's a shame, but Homefront is another product that calls into question whether it's worth the RRP. It's a game that has good ideas, but ones that aren’t taken far enough, it's a game that has hidden charm, but charms that are squandered with execution that leaves something to be desired. With question marks like these, it's hard to say whether it's worth the physical cash. But putting all that aside for a moment, let's concentrate on what Homefront actually has to offer.
This game could really do with a destruction engine
First up, you have the single-player - you know the score by now: A near-future scenario depicts the simultaneous decline of western powers, especially America, as well as the rise of a Far-eastern superpower in the form the of the 'Greater Korean Republic'. The GKP, after annexing most of the pacific, eventually launches an invasion of a all-but-collapsed USA, and occupies a sizeable chunk, with the other half cut off by an irradiated Mississippi. It's a very specific scenario - as in things would have to happen pretty much exactly as described, but we've always felt it was plausible enough, and certainly worth exploring.
You play as a (mute) ex-Airforce pilot who is roped in by the local resistance cell to help orchestrate a plan that will allow the Armed Forces to retake San Francisco. The themes of occupation, resistance, consequences, and the price of victory are explored quite a lot, and the progression is split between slow-paced, emotional exposition and heart-pumping 'running and gunning'. The whole thing can be completed in about 4 - 7 hours, depending on difficulty level and your own skill, and is a little bit too short for our liking, but it's interesting.
You can tell that Kaos really wanted to explore the darker themes present here - There are moments in the campaign that go for the pure 'shock' factor, and they show off some of the story's hidden potential. A child being forced to watch as his parents are shot in front of him, Korean helicopters strafing a civilian suburb, burning it and its people to the ground, and the dumping of bodies into a mass grave in the middle of a baseball field. It certainly beats shooting up Cuba or killing JFK to say the least. Saying that, despite these 'whoa' moments, there's a lot of mediocrity as well, so don't expect it to blow your mind.
The exposition, for the most part, is handled quite well
Then of course we have the multi-player. This is where the familiarity really kicks in – sort of a half-way house between Call of Duty and Battlefield, Homefront does an ok job of combining the best of both worlds and crafting its own multiplayer experience. You have customizable classes, vehicles and purchasable 'extras' that can make for some hectic fights. Homefront uses a currency system called 'Battle Points' to help manage the scaled performance rewards, much like COD's kill streaks. You can equip your load out with two perks that you can 'purchase' at any time provided you have enough points, and points are earned through kills, special kills, assists, blowing up vehicles, and so on.
Like the single player though, the online modes don't seem to go far enough. There's hardly any weapons to choose from, offset only by the increased choice of attachments for the existing weapons, so far there's not many maps to speak off, and even gameplay modes are a little thin on the ground as well. Saying that, what is there is pretty enjoyable - Ground Control is a multi-phased control zone-type mode, there's your standard deathmatch, and there's an AI 'Battle Commander' that will assign special meta-missions to you for extra points. Granted, these are almost always killing an especially lethal opponent, but it adds some purpose to the general aimless chaos that online games tend to be.
Don't expect the scenes of occupation to be pretty
Perhaps you're getting a bit of a negative vibe from this review - we don't blame you. It's not that we had high hopes for this game, but some of the low points were kind of disappointing. There are worse things than simply making an 'ok' game, but after three years of development we expected something more. Even the game engine - which we're told is Unreal, doesn't really look that great. To be honest though, if you haven't made up your mind already, there's probably little we can say to help you decide. Like a lot of games, this is enjoyable, and it actually kind of grew on us the more we played it... but its hard to sing its praises.
Incredibly rough around the edges, wasteful of unique opportunities, and light on content, we quite frankly question the longevity of this title. But you know what? There are worse games you could spend your money on. If you want something different yet familiar whilst you wait for Battlefield 3 or the next COD maps, give this a go. Kaos and THQ may not have found its heavy-hitting FPS with which to stake a claim on the market, but they’ve created an experience that’s at least tried to create an identity for itself. Every franchise deserves a second chance, so we say bring on the sequel.
TOP GAME MOMENT
It’s a tie between the really emotional segments of the single-player and some of the more interesting multiplayer happenings.