The son of Kim Jong Il, proves to be quite a nasty daddy’s little boy and after ‘unifying’ North and South Korea, he decides to stretch his legs a bit in this alternative future-based first-person-shooter.
While Korea was on the up, America was trying to recover from a flu virus that killed millions and soaring gas prices that crippled the nation’s industry. When Korea launched a surprise attack, the US never stood a chance. Using EMP strikes, Korea destroyed America’s vulnerable, digitally reliant infrastructure.
The game begins well into the occupation of America, with your ever silent hero, Robert Jacobs, bundled into a transport bus as the Koreans collect former pilots. After driving past some disturbing scenes of civilians being rounded up, a resistance gang smash into the bus and free you.
From here you must fight your way back to the resistance cell’s hide-out community to await further orders. Weapons are mainly assault rifles and SMGs, annoyingly consecutive enemy soldiers don’t seem to be using the same weapons and you can’t carry much ammo, meaning you’re constantly having to swap guns. Shotguns and sniper rifles are only briefly used too.
The missions over the game’s seven chapters do try and maintain some variety though. You’ll have to outflank sentry turrets to blow them up from behind, take on small enemy encampments and use the Goliath truck’s missiles with a laser-designator while on foot. The Goliath missions are a real blast as you line-up soldier and vehicle targets for it to destroy.
Other tasks involve putting tracking beacons on fuel trucks, which involve a desperate sprint as they set off early. Later on you find yourself out of suburbia and out in the sticks where some of the local rednecks have lost it in typical Fallout fashion. The ’stealth’ mission that follows is a little forced in nature as all you’re actually doing is following a member of you team slowly through a field, occasionally picking off lone enemies. It’s no ‘All Ghillied Up’ though.
Surprisingly, there’s only one helicopter mission (you are a pilot after all) and it’s almost on-rails, despite multiplayer allowing full-control. Nevertheless, raining down destruction is always fun, even when you’re having to protect a convoy of the world’s slowest driving trucks.
By the time the final mission comes around you’ll be hoping that there’s more, but if you’ve had a peak at the Achievements list you’ll be ready for the abrupt end. Things don’t end on a particularly grand scale either, even the vista at the start of the level will have PS3 players shrugging in indifference as they remember Resistance 2 doing a better job with the location. It feels like too much is being held back to make Homefront an ongoing franchise rather than a killer single-strike.
Much has been made of Kaos Studios’ efforts to try and help gamers avoid ‘massacre fatigue’ by giving them a reason to fight via lots of emotionally engaging scenes. They get off to a good start with the initial bus ride where you’re able to see how the KPA troops are treating civilians. Blood splatter hits your window and there’s no denying the darkness of seeing a small child’s parents executed right in front of him.
It becomes apparent that all the emotional cards have been played too soon though. There are only two more moments throughout the rest of the game that attempt to reach out to you in similar ways and the last one can be spotted a mile off.
Ultimately though, Kaos have succeeded in stopped us from becoming too jaded early on, but not because of these scenes. It’s because the game only lasts 4-5 hours on the normal settings, even when you die a lot (god-damn rocket launchers). There are newspaper clippings and QR images to scan off your TV to provide some decent and often chilling back story if you take the time to look.
Apart from the short nature of the campaign mode and a few annoying AI partner bugs (get through the door dickhead!), it will keep you entertained throughout. Compared to the Call of Duty and Bad Company games though, it merely comes off as ‘good.’ There’s nothing great about it, no wow moments, nothing you’ve not seen done before and done better. Good thing the multiplayer’s great then.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an early build of the multiplayer build a while back and I’m happy to report it’s still awesome. It is a little short on the number of weapons and modes available, which reeks of future DLC, which will also be timed-exclusives on the 360. But what is here is strong. The list of soldier perks is wide and very customisable.
Rather than continue further down the COD path, Kaos have come up with a Battle Points system to be used in-game. These points are earned during each match for kills, assists, headshots, melee kill, taking bases, revenge kills, avenging team-mates and destroying vehicles.
Using these points you can buy items that you have equipped pre-game in the armoury. There’s lot to unlock, although much of it lies past the Lv.20 mark. Early on you can unlock body amour and rocket launchers, but you’ll want to save up points for aerial strikes like the hellfire which lets you target the battlefield from above with two missiles. Level up more and you’ll get the wider reaching (and more expensive) white phosphorus missiles.
Or you can opt for the drones instead, which are much more fun. The first is the Wolverine (a nice nod to the game’s writer’s other famous project, Red Dawn), a small remote controlled tank with a machine gun. Soon enough you’ll unlock the recon drone that allows you to fly around and tag enemy targets with large red diamonds to help out your ground-troops. For every tag you gain 30BP and even more if that leads to a kill. If you use the drone throughout a match you’re not going to place highly, but your team will appreciate it.
Offensive drones are worth the long levelling up route though as you can get miniature helicopters, with missiles. Oh yes. The controls for these aerial drones are perfectly done and so easy to get used to, enabling immediate carnage. Drones don’t upset the balance either as they can be taken down with sustained small-arms fire.
Of course there are some grown-up sized vehicles too, such as Humvees, APCs, tanks and helicopters. These also cost BP and can be bought from the spawn menu once you’ve unlocked them. You do run the risk of getting ripped apart with a rocket launcher seconds after taking off though, which can be devastating considering the epic cost of these top-end rides.
Any BP earned converts to experience points too. There’s no bonus for funds left over at the end and they’re reset to a standard 500 at the start of each match, so you might as well spend like a madman, it’s more fun that way.
With everyone starting with the same amount it means you won’t be seeing tanks and choppers at the start of a match. This often allows the matches to gradually build up some momentum mayhem by the conclusion as choppers and phosphorus missiles paint the ground in fire.
The maps echo locations of the single player game, small US towns, roads through woodland areas and farm communities. Some of their borders might expand in line with the game mode’s progression. Team Deathmatch is as standard, while Ground Control involves familiar base-capturing albeit with a best-of-three rounds set-up with each round moving the bases to a newly unlocked area of the map. Another mode combines TDM and GC modes into one.
Battle Commander matches take place in the same match-types, but with bounties being placed on the heads of players who are enjoying a good run of kills. The longer they survive, the more stat boosts they’re given and the bigger the BP bounty on their head becomes. Their rough location is shown on the map and it’s a great distraction to the usual map objectives, especially when your whole team becomes obsessed with hunting down one player that’s managed to evade everyone by hiding on a burger bar’s roof for the last ten minutes. Matches smoothly feature up to 32 players depending on match-type.
The number of modes is a bit disappointing though, especially when you stand the game up againstBlack Ops. With the campaign mode being so short, we feel more inclined to expect more from the multiplayer modes. The Battle Points system is brilliant though and using the drones on the battlefield is a great way to keep your matches feeling fresh.
I can’t advise renting Homefront as THQ have opted for an online pass system, where a code is needed to play online past Lv.5 if you’re not the first person to play it. You can try the Wolverine tank drone, but the first aerial drone (the Recon Parrot) only unlocks at Lv.6. If you enjoy playing shooters online then Homefront is definitely worth your time though.
- Excellent multiplayer fun thanks to the options provided by Battle Points
- Flying drones add some cool variety to multiplayer
- Tries to inject some emotion to avoid massacre fatigue in single player…
- …but shows its best hand too early on
- 4-5 hours for single-player is a sad effort
- Not many modes for the multiplayer (so far)
The Short Version: Only worth your time if you’re mainly looking for an online shooter, as the single player campaign is short and lacking any serious punch in the action and dramatics stakes, aside from the emotional opening. The multiplayer is fantastic fun though and really carries the single-player and provides most of the weight for the score below.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed) | PS3 | PC
Developer: Kaos Studios
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