With it’s catchy tagline: “Home is where the war is”, going into Homefront the excitements were extremely high. Steeped in a story and plot penned by John Milius, co-writer of Apocalypse Now and director and writer of Red Dawn, developer KAOS had a blueprint any new shooter IP would be destined to take full advantage of. Unfortunately, as the Homefront play-through took form, I had to keep reminding myself that we are in fact still in 2011, despite the games blast to the past technical shortcomings.
Unlike our cozy American lifestyles, in the year 2027 life as we know it does not exist. Life is no longer, so cozy. Homefront offers a plot where the economic downfall of America has made the nation extremely weak, allowing for a united Korea and its massive forces to plow through the American defenses with no real form of resistance until now.
Homefront starts out with a strong message introduced by the games emotionally charged presentation. Public executions are taking place in the streets in broad daylight leaving children without parents, dead bodies of American citizens are poured into ditches by bulldozers. Like cattle citizens are corralled into small concentration camps located on the football field of the local high schools. Homes are boarded up and or blown to pieces while supermarket parking lots are commonplace for stand-off shoot-outs between the invading Korean forces and the local resistance freedom fighters.
The story and action quickly picks-up in Homefront as you play former Marine helicopter pilot Robert Jacobs whose ride is cut short when his bus is ambushed by American resistance fighters Connor Morgan and Rianna. Presented with the standard tutorial walk-through, players are finally confronted by the enemy, giving you your first taste of action. Eventually you are led to Oasis, a resistance hideout where you are also introduced to other resistance fighters, all doing their part to re-establish their lost America.
For starters, Homefront is probably the most unattractive shooter you will play across both the PS3 and Xbox 360 and that’s putting it mildly. Not that the game suffers from frame rate issues or any extreme texture pop-ups which occasionally shows it’s head, Homefront is one of the ugliest shooters I’ve ever played period. What makes Homefront so ugly is everything that catches your eye. Concerning only the visuals, I had to keep reminding myself that this was in fact an Xbox 360, PS3 and PC title. When compared to software on the PS2 and the original Xbox that has been re-mastered in HD, such as the God of War Collection or Beyond Good & Evil which is available across Xbox Live, while the older titles are not as ambitious in their design do to the limited hardware of last-gen, they clearly offer a graphical edge over Homefront which I can’t seem to understand.
If you’re able to get past the games eye-cracking visuals and besides the interesting cut-scenes narrated by the ‘voice of freedom’, playing through the campaign of Homefront while sometimes entertaining, introduces nothing new to the shooter genre. Homefront is a very brief romp lasting 5 to 7 hours depending on the difficulty through familiar city and states such as Montrose, Colorado, San Francisco, California and the popular Golden Gate bridge and Utah. Accompanied by freedom fighters Connor and Rianna through most of the campaign, I found myself getting frustrated by the games stiff controls and underwhelming gunplay
Try sprinting in Homefront and you start to feel like a hampster quickly going nowhere. Sprinting doesn’t feel anyhwere close to complete. In addition, the enemy AI feels like a tapped on system where enemies just run out from nowhere desperately waiting to meet your bullet head-on. You’re never flanked or intelligently engaged by the games enemies of war. What you get is a bunch of respawned enemies that just appear until eventually you are in fact gunned down or have completed the objective.
The campaign however, is not without it’s subtle surprises. Whether hiding under the dead bodies of fallen American citizens, utilizing guerrilla tactics or commandeering military vehicles and utilizing advanced drone technology there are some set-pieces that put a smile on my face. Nevertheless, with so much to keeping hoping for, the bad far outweighed the good by a long shot. After the the campaign finally came to a close, the satisfaction that it was over cemented the overall experience of the campaign.
Homefront as a multiplayer experience, feels completely different game from it’s lackluster campaign counterpart. The multiplayer is focused on large-scale combat with vehicle based combat and gunplay that reminded us of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Frontline: Fuels of War. It’s pure FUN!
The experience is based on a points system, allowing player to purchase weapons, gear and vehicles while supporting up to 32 players online. Battlefields are introduced from a top-down perspective until you have been placed in the combats first person mode giving player a brief birds-eye view of the battlefield.
The two primary modes in the multiplayer are; Ground Control and Team Deathmatch, with maps played across believable US landscapes offering a simple yet fun experience we still have a hard time putting down.
In conslusion, while it’s quite difficult to encourage anyone to put down $60 for Homefront with so many other AAA shooters to choose from, we are indeed huge fans of the games multiplayer experience. The presentation offered in Homefront is great, but is never fully realized as the technical limitations of the game take away from what could’ve been awesome. Certain set-pieces deserved to be seen in a higher graphical fidelity in order to truly convey the message the game was aiming for. In the end we can only recommend this for PC as there was just too much of a last-gen experience in the campaign that was barely saved by a simple and entertaining online multiplayer played across the PS3 and Xbox 360.