Homefront Review (360/PS3)
Set in 2027 North Korean dictator Kim Jong-II has passed away and his son Kim Jon-Un has taken to the vacant leadership role. Korea in united and Kim Jon-Un begins to build a new Korean empire. After successfully invading Japan the Koreans unleash a crippling EMP weapon on the US and begin their occupation of the land of the free. Taking the role of a military pilot who is recruited by ‘The Resistance’ the campaign will take players through war torn America and through many a fire fight.
The campaign itself may present something of a under used concept and does offer a number of interesting situations however Homefront doesn’t make the most of its setting. From the first five minutes Homfront tries to pull on the heart strings and develop a sense of oppression by presenting the player imagery of military occupation and some brutal scenes one of which involving the execution of two parents in front of their crying child. It almost feels that the game is trying too hard to drive home the sense of oppression and occupation to the point where it becomes something of a hindrance. To Homefronts credit the campaign does mange to present some interesting imagery and some nice set pieces but it never gets beyond ‘nice’ which often leaves to a sense of lacking when compared to other titles in a cinematic styled dominated genre such as the FPS.
Another issue that stems from Homefront’s campaign is the lack of a true feeling that you’re fighting in a resistance; instead it feels more like your just part of another run of the mill military force. This issue may not be anything major but it does play down the overall feel and atmosphere and takes off the gritty effect which would be more than at home within this game. Homefront’s campaign also has a problem with mission objectives and overall combat, for most part players will find them self’s following the AI (I would say a character name here but there isn’t much character development and thus they may as well be seen as nothing more than AI) from point A to point B at once at the point either shoot some Koreans or blow up a turret. Repeating the same objectives over and over can get old after one full play through of the 4-5 hour campaign, it’s also a shame that the objectives are a little unoriginal given the guerrilla warfare theme that runs throughout the game.
The single player experience may be hit or miss but the core gameplay manages to satisfy for the most part. It doesnt feel the smoothest FPS ever but nor is it the most clunky of FPS’s, it feels quite dated however with the natural rhythm of the game feeling a little disjointed. Perhaps its fatigue from the over saturated FPS market with the added touch of linear game play but Homefront comes off as feeling as a under developed title. There isn’t any real mixture to the gameplay bar a few cases in the single layer campaign which involve vehicles (which for most part don’t really control or feel all that different from each other) and for most part the range in weapons isn’t all that varied or interesting. It would have been nice to have some kind of choice on how to approach each fire fight or at least some kind of ability to have a personal touch on things. Instead the cookie cutter ‘shoot shoot take cover shoot’ structure takes hold. Oddly Homefront seems to be crying out for a cover system, the levels are littered with obstacles that the AI can take cover behind while the player can merely go prone behind a small wall and still sponge a few hits. It seems quite odd there’s no cover system even more so towards the end of the game.
Level design is linear and very rarely allows a player to stray from the set path. The level locations are also quite limited as well which is a crying shame; Homefronts setting could have provided some truly amazing levels locations but instead players are given suburbs and the odd rural area. The level’s do like decent however and are able to host decent action but do come off as a little bit repetitive as the game draws to a end. A few issues do arise in terms of map design and the games AI, in a few fire fights it appeared the AI was becoming trapped in corners or were kept in a blind spot making them almost alien from the ongoing action. The chances are this is mostly down to the erratic AI which goes from being solid to full out crazy, a key example of this is watching an enemy suddenly break cover and bolt towards the player in such an unnatural and illogical manner. Friendly AI tend to purely stick to the set path’s of each level and never really seem too interested in anything that’s not directly in front them which can lead to them walking straight past an enemy which is quite amusing at first but quickly becomes annoying.
Homefront lacks the visual finesse that has been show cased by titles such as Bulletstorm, Bad Company 2, Killzone 3 and the soon to be released Crysis 2 however that’s not to say Homefront is ugly. Its visuals are able to pull off the battle torn streets of the US and the dirty labour camps however when the game attempts to showcase a scene (for example seeing the first labour camp) the dramatic effect is lost due to lack of detail and some rough textures. Texture pop is also a minor issue which often happens when a NPC begins to talk to you (at one point a women’s face did not load up apart from her eyes which resulted in some of the scariest imagery since Silent Hill) or when you switch weapons. The texture pop also affects the scenery for a short period of time but for most part is only ever present for 10 seconds maximum. The visuals don’t tend to be able to handle the human face all that well, you’ll often fine faces look a little odd and lacking detail or any natural or realistic look to them. The animation is also something of a disappointment as NPC’s faces tend to move in a robotic fashion, this does not apply to other department of the game however. Character movement and the many reloading animations all look fluent and natural which adds to the sense of realism. Enemy character models pop out of cover in a smooth transition and their general movement animation never looks unnatural.
Homefront’s single player campaign can be finished within 4-5 hours with replay value coming in the shape of collectables and achievements/trophies. Although it has its faults the campaign is an action packed romp through little old America. Decent fire fights and intense action (limited as it may be) is always fun and Homefront just manages to pull it off to satisfying level. There is nothing complex or new to master allowing the game to be open to FPS veterans and casuals alike. The vehicle sections ad a little something extra to the experience although they do feel a little underdeveloped. The story may not be top notch and there is certainly many a missed opportunity when it comes to the locations of the levels. A lack of any true feeling of playing as the underdog in this war and the over bearing (and a little awkward) attempts to provoke emotion do take something away from the single experience. Short, brutal but fun is perhaps the easiest way to explain the single player section of Homefront.
Of course Homefront isn’t just about a single player experience, the multiplayer is where a big part of the game can be found. With two core game modes in the shape of Team Death Match and Ground Control (capture points dotted around a map) and a further two slight variants of the same modes known as Commander Modes. Both game modes offer a decent experience as two teams do class based battle to achieve victory. The class based system found in Homefront is anything original, players are allowed to build a class that suites them from the primary weapon down to the perk and ability they have access to. The weapons don’t stray from the norm of assault rifles, sub machineguns. Sniper rifles, shotguns and light machine guns. Each weapon has the ability to carry camo as well as this the majority of weapons also have option to attach scopes or grenade launchers or even shotguns to them. It adds a level of choice when it comes to how you want to approach combat.
The perk system plays in a part in how effective your class is as certain things, for example reloading faster or carrying more grenades or even reducing the cost of calling in vehicles. Drones and abilities are also available to each player, the drone’s offer a similar experience to that of 2008’s Frontlines: Fuel of War. The drones allow player to assisting their team from afar, the way in which they assist depends on the nature of the drone. The most commonly used drone (and cheapest) is the recon drone which allows players to fly around the map marking out enemies for their allies. Other drones include a small anti personal assault drone, an anti-tank variant and small helicopter packed with missiles. Other abilities include flak vests air strikes and rocket launchers as well as the ability to hop into vehicles such as tanks and helicopters. Vehicles and all cost battle points which are earned via kills, assists and taking objectives. The battle point system is a very effective tool and encouraging teamwork as well as making sure multiplayer games don’t become too one sided. A ranking system is also at hand along with unlocks and weapon challenges to keep things fresh.
The map choice is a little thin on the ground at the moment but there is a decent section of map types such as close range inner town fire fights to wide open spaces ripe for sniping. The levels at time do end up being a bit easy to spawn trap or indeed camp in but the chances are campers won’t last long thanks to the range of abilities at hand. Overall Homefront’s multiplayer manages to deliver a tight and solid battlefield like experience that encourages team work as opposed to run and gun tactics which seem favoured by other titles in the genre. The experience isn’t perfect though with the games severs and match making both being fragile and some of the weapons feeling rather under powered.
Homefront may be lacking on the single player side of things but with a short but enjoyable campaign and a solid addictive multiplayer it’s hard to argue against at least trying the game. It may have a problem trying to stand out in an over saturated market but that doesn’t take away from the games overall quality. Although Homefont manages to satisfy on both fronts there is room for improvements, a short single player campaign with not much variation or any particular visual finesse and quite clunky gameplay allows for any follow up to build upon the failings of Homefront.
At best Homefront will have gamers looking for an action packed first person shooter more than happy, but with first person shooter fatigue becoming rapidly more popular Homefront may come as something of a disappointing title that fails use its setting to its full potential. Homefront could be the very definition of the perfect ‘Rental title’ or indeed the definition of a standing issue within the industry of undeveloped titles being released.