LateView – Homefront

A review of Homefront can be summarized in just a few words: big on promise, low on return. The preceding words may sound harsh, but then again, playing this game may feel harsh at times, at least in the earlier parts of the campaign. Let me start off by explaining the promise of Homefront.

Homefront was developed by Kaos Studios and published by THQ, running on Unreal Engine 3 and slated as a triple-A first-person shooter. With a story written by John Milius (Apocalypse Now, Red Dawn), Homefront pits players in a resistance movement against the North Korean military, who have occupied the United States.

The world of Homefront is by far the most appealing part of the game. From the start of the campaign, we are met with a cinematic that crosses the bounds of fact and fiction. Live-action footed mixed with computer-generated motion graphics, paints a very believable narrative of how a Korean occupied United States could come to pass. As strange as that may sound, the story is not as farfetched as it may initially seem. These cut scenes start off great, but unfortunately they become less and less interesting as the story progresses, which undoubtedly attributes to the narrative falling apart.

From the start of the campaign, we are met with a cinematic that crosses the bounds of fact and fiction.

Homefront controls exactly like a Call of Duty, which is clearly the audience it aims to capture. Any player of said franchise will feel right at home with the controls, which are pretty standard first-person shooter fare. That being said, at times the controls just feel ‘a bit off’. I played on the Xbox 360, so it could have been something to due with console-specific tuning or tweaking that was failed to be addressed. Whatever that case, you do eventually get use to the feel, but it never feels great in my opinion.

The graphics of Homefront seem average at best for the Xbox 360. I wouldn’t call this a pretty game by any means, at least in the first half of the game anyway. Graphics seem to take a turn for the better in the latter levels, concluding the game with a rather interesting battle at a historic landmark.

The initial gameplay is where Homefront begins to fall apart for me. This could be due to the guerilla-style of warfare in which you are contributing to, or maybe even the lack of intelligent level design. You see, I would figure a game which is based on a more guerrilla-style of gameplay would lend itself to more player choice and less scripted sequences. Instead you are just shuffled from section to section, with little player choice. Although this linear gameplay is not that surprising, I kind of see it as an opportunity missed. With the premise of Homefront, a ragtag-get-it-done-how-you-want-to style would have felt more appropriate.

Fortunately, Homefront picks up tremendously by the latter levels, both in gameplay and graphics. Honestly the last level almost feels like a different game. Intentional or not, the environment chosen to conclude the game automatically lends itself to good level design, while earlier stages just feel somewhat thrown together.

Homefront also suffers from poor scripting. Instead of allowing the game to be dynamic and adjust to what the player is doing, you have to go down the linear path that has been presented for you, often times waiting for a non-player character to do a specific task to advance. This could have been alleviated by better que’s or onscreen direction, but no such thing exists in this game.

Lastly, this game is extremely short. On normal difficulty, it can be beaten in about four to six hours. For a $59.99 price point at the time of initial retail release, that’s kind of unacceptable. People have come to expect much more out of a triple-A title. As a more than a year old get it on the cheap title, at twenty bucks, its short-ness is more forgiving.

The game does have a multiplayer component, which I only briefly explored. I specifically played team deathmatch mode, and I have to say it felt pretty good. Controls felt better than they did in the actual single player campaign. With the campaign being as short as it is, this is where anyone who purchases this title will be spending the bulk of their time. Again, any Call of Duty player should feel right at home here. If you buying it used, be ready to ante up a few dollars to be able to play past level five or unlock guns, as THQ has implemented an online digital rights management system, much like Electronic Arts.

Ultimately, I’m really conflicted about this title. I really wanted it to be good and I was drawn into the initial promise of the story. Despite mixed reviews, overall sales were okay and THQ has a sequel in the works. And this is where it gets interesting. After the demise of Kaos Studios, the sequel has been handed off to Crytek’s Nottingham UK studio. This move bodes well for Homefront 2, as it will now be developed on the latest CryEngine technology, rather than what feels like an outdated Unreal Engine 3.

I’m not even sure if I can recommend getting this game on the cheap unless you are into alternate versions of history and what that could mean. Multiplayer feels solid, while the campaign is just unacceptably short. This title was very ambitious on story, but failed to deliver on the most important part, gameplay.

Stay away, even at twenty bucks.

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