Homefront Review (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)

golden_gate_featured-300x154I’m a sucker for stories that involve an alternate history or future. The movies and games that are created by asking, “what if?” (What if?) Russians invade the United States and high schoolers have to win the war for us? (What if?) Biff gives himself a sports almanac and makes a fortune betting? (What if?) North Korea tries to take over the world? Okay, so plausability hasn’t always been the strong suit for this genre, but the point is to let your imagination loose for a bit and become immersed in the story.

With Homefront, the last of those questions is answered. In short, there is a global economic meltdown due war and astronomical gas prices, the cost of living is so high people start to revolt, and North and South Korea unify, and then invade the United States. You play as a pilot that is inexplicably pulled into fighting for a small group of resistance fighters in the midwest. The group needs you to pilot a helicopter in their plan to hijack some fuel trucks and give them to the U.S. Military, and what ensues is a very brief but immersive campaign that leaves you wondering what else you could have spent your $50 on.

The Good

Atmosphere is Homefront’s strongest point. While other first person shooters follow action with more action, Homefront slows down a little between missions to focus on the characters in the game. You get to walk through a resistance compound and get the feel for what it’s like to live in the occupied United States. Mothers cooking meals, people tending to gardens, those that are usually behind the scenes in a war game. It feels almost post-apocalyptic due to how low tech life has become. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, you hear the sounds of the resistance radio, and you forget for a brief period that you are behind enemy lines during a war.

Ambience is something that is taken lightly in many games, but not in Homefront. When you visit a labor camp you are instantly struck by the dreary sounds of children coughing and women crying, while in the background you hear machines running and people working. These types of moments pull the player further into the story, developing the main characters more so that when the action starts back up, you feel much more involved in what they are fighting for.

The Bad

It’s rediculously short. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It will take 5 hours tops to run through the whole campaign. I was hoping for so much more when I was following Homefront up until it’s release. Hearing from developers about how they spent time getting real world companies like White Castle to lend their image to give the game a more “real” feel, and how they were going to spend time focusing on the characters and not be completely based on action sequences. My hopes were set on a long and immersive experience in the American resistance, only to be shot down just as I was getting into it. The end of the game, while large in scale left me asking “then what?” I feel like the game could have kept going so much further, that the backstory leads the player to believe the entire country is at war, and yet somehow this one battle at the end of the game was all that mattered. It just feels like you are only experiencing a sliver of the total story.

While the ambient sounds of the game are well done, the sounds of the guns really lack weight to them. They don’t seem powerful at all, feeling like they’re dull and muffled compared to the same weapons in other first-person shooters.

The AI is a very mixed bag. There are times where you can run right up to an enemy and he wont shoot you until you shoot him first. Also at times your allies will run past enemies that are behind cover only to leave you getting shot in the back as you sprint to catch up to them. Your allies also don’t seem to carry their weight in battles very often, with every enemy they shoot seeming to wait until you shoot them yourself before they’ll actually die.

The Verdict

Homefront was built up to be a new kind of story driven, character centered and immersive first-person shooter. And in the end it is really just trying too hard to be Call of Duty. Sometimes it’s so blatantly obvious it’s painful. Just like in CoD, when you kick doors in you lunge into the room in slow motion giving you ample time to headshot every enemy inside.

The multiplayer for Homefront is really where you’ll get most of the bang for your buck. It is practically a Call of Duty clone because you have a ranking up system where you unlock new weapons, and it looks like the lobby, loadout, and score screens are all a direct copy from any game in the series. A big difference is the introduction of Battle Points (BP). You obtain these by getting kills or completing objectives, and you can then spend them on items like flak jackets that last until you die.

I was really hoping for a lot more from Homefront, and while the campaign is disappointingly short, the multiplayer saves it. If you are a fan of Call of Duty multiplayer you’ll like Homefront’s. Otherwise apart from a few of the immersive locations in between the action in the campaign, Homefront is really just a lot of “been there, done that” and you would probably not miss out if you wait until the price drops before you think about picking it up.

Score – 6/10