Homefront is the new first-person "emotional" shooter from Kaos Studios, published by THQ. Homefront starts with a great intro that explains the speculative fiction behind the game. The year is 2027. After the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, his son, Kim Jong-Un takes over. He unites all of Korea and begins to build an empire, taking over Japan and then invading the United States after unleashing a crippling electromagnetic pulse.
Homefront takes place in this war-torn United States now occupied by the Korean People's Army. It begins in a version of Montrose, Colorado that more closely resembles Poland during World War II than a quaint western Colorado town. You step into the shoes of a pilot rescued from Unified Korean forces by The Resistance. They need your help in getting some very important goods out of Korean hands and delivering them to the US Army.
Homefront is a solid shooter with tight controls and a variety of weapons and a few alternate gameplay sections. The single-player campaign focuses more on guerrilla tactics than traditional military shooters since you're working with a small group of resistance fighters rather than an organized formal military. Hiding in urban settings, using improvised tactics, and using whatever weapons you find lying around are very prominent throughout Homefront. The Goliath is a frequent support vehicle featured in the campaign; an unmanned armored vehicle that lays down suppressive fire and lets you designate targets for missile volleys. The Goliath always makes for a fun experience with rolling cover and heavy artillery at your disposal. Toward the end of the game, there's also a fun helicopter section in which you hijack some trucks, lay down cover fire for ground troops, and do battle with surface-to-air missile batteries.
The game is squad-based, with two or three AI companions accompanying you and taking out enemies along with you. Generally, their AI is very good and they do their part in a fight, though they occasionally get in the way when you're trying to jump out of cover. This does expose a big drawback of the gameplay, though. Homefront does not feature a formal cover system, so there's no way to shoot from cover. Instead you just have to keep part of yourself behind cover and sneak out to take a shot or just go all Rambo and stand out in the open taking enemies down. While this is perfectly acceptable in many FPS games, Homefront's single-player maps just seems to beg for a cover system, particularly when AI companions were taking proper cover.
As with most shooters, gamers will likely spend more time in the multiplayer modes than the single player campaign. Homefront offers a few new tools to the online FPS toolshed with Battle Points. Battle Points are in-match currency gained by taking down enemies, performing headshots, completing challenges, and getting killstreaks. These points can then be spent on in-match abilities ranging from flak jackets to air support. They can also be used to spawn in an armored vehicle the next time you die.
Homefront offers basically just two multiplayer modes: Ground Control and Team Deathmatch. There is also Skirmish, but that is just a random alternation of the other two. Team Deathmatch is just what you would expect: kill your enemies. Ground Control is an objective-based mode in which there are three areas that need to be controlled. Points are racked up as long as a team has control of an objective. After time expires for one round, three new objectives are designated on the same map and the next round begins. First team to win two rounds wins the match. The maps are varied and very well designed. There are suburban maps that make best use of melee and close-range weapons as well as large outdoor maps perfect for sniping.
These modes all offer a Battle Commander version in which killstreaks are rewarded and punished at the same time. As a player builds up a killstreak, bonuses will be bestowed upon him/her, but there's a catch: the opposing forces will be notified of the Battle Commander's general position and a bounty of Battle Points will be put on his/her head. While this sounds like a very cool new idea, in reality it loses its novelty rather quickly as it becomes just another objective on the field.
With matches consisting of 16-32 people and varying support abilities so easily earned, Homefront's online component became very frantic very quickly. In Call of Duty, air support is harder to earn and there aren't as many players on one map. I recall at one point in Homefrontthere were six attack helicopters and two tanks roaming the battlefield, making it difficult to take two steps without being blown to bits.
Homefront looks amazing. From a firefight in a burning building to the epic final battle on an internationally recognizable US landmark,Homefront was filled with "wow" moments graphically. The graphics of this "emotional" shooter rival any other AAA FPS on the market with cinematic sequences of the same sort recent Call of Duty games are known for. I keep using the word "emotional" because that's how it has been described in many marketing materials, and not without cause. Kaos used real-world brand product placement, but it affects you when you see these very real-world logos and products amidst all the carnage and chaos of an enemy-occupied United States. I've played shooters in suburban settings before, but they never had the heartfelt realism Homefront achieves.
The sound design in Homefront equals or perhaps even surpasses the graphical excellence it achieves. The music is very well done, driving you forward with the intensity of an action blockbuster film at times while at other points hitting poignant emotional lows. The firefights in single-player fill any surround sound system with the symphony of war. Gunfire, heavy artillery, the screams of citizens, and the emboldened war cries of your fellow combatants will fill your gaming room with sounds from all directions. This excellence even extends into the multiplayer. I had a particularly blissful experience of hearing footsteps advancing behind me, so I spun around and hit the melee button, perfectly timed to kill an opponent who thought he had the drop on me.
Now we come to the inevitable downfall of Homefront; the Achilles Heel, if you will. The single player campaign took less than four hours to complete. Most military FPS games Homefront is competing with take 8-10, sometimes 12 hours to complete. I'm an experienced gamer, but I'm definitely not a pro at FPS games. I died several times playing on normal and still finished the story in under four hours. Further hurting the value of Homefront is limited online mode offering and the complete lack of a local multiplayer. Alright, Homefront offers system link as a "local" option, but there's no split-screen, the far more used option for local multiplayer.
At first glance, Homefront is a great new game with a brilliant speculative fiction back-story. After several hours, however, you realize it's actually just half of a great game. A four hour campaign, no split-screen, and only two multiplayer modes make Homefront literally half of other AAA FPS games that it's trying to compete with. What's there is brilliant, Kaos and THQ just forgot to give us a game worthy of $60.