The Quarter Bin

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Homefront – Xbox 360

Posted by Luke Brown On March - 15 - 2011

We’ve been fortunate enough to live in a time when war is fought overseas, in lands so far from where we call home that it’s hard to imagine their existence. Kaos Studios and THQ want to bring those terrible circumstances to our shores in the new title Homefront. Teamed with screenwriter John Milius, the developer has hatched a scheme so devious and steeped in the reality of the current political climate that it almost seems plausible. Combined with tried and true first person combat and vastly customizable multiplayer, Homefront has the right ingredients to make a solid shooter. Disappointingly, the game never stretches beyond solid, and aside from its brief campaign, Homefront ends up feeling like déjà vu all over again.

Homefront – Xbox 360
Developed by Kaos Studios
Published by THQ

Homefront’s story picks up in the year 2027. After being thrust into a recession of both resources and money, America has been taken over by the Greater Korean Republic. You play as an ex-pilot recruited by the resistance movement in Colorado to aid them in expunging the Korean military from the west coast. Getting to see the devastation that’s befallen our nation up close is quite harrowing, and it’s clear a lot of time and effort went into making the universe of Homefront as real and brutal as the worst-case scenario could be. Americans are shuffled around like cattle. Those are the lucky ones. As you travel across Colorado, Utah, and eventually San Francisco, the locations change, but the sights remain very much the same. War is never easy, but it’s particularly unsettling watching cities and suburbs, very much like the ones we all live in, fall victim to the chaos and depravity of an invading army. Unfortunately, the battle in Homefront is but one of many. The campaign is over almost as quickly as it began, and the glimpse of our triumph is brief. The war? The war to take back our country is only just beginning, and this title is but the first in a series. There’s certainly enough there to mine for at least a handful of sequels, as Homefront only takes place across the lines of three states, and there are at least 47 more that could use a bit of revolution. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of the narrative Milius has created, as the tapestry is rich and deep, and the surface of this war has only just been scratched.

If you’ve played a first-person shooter before, the controls will feel very familiar to you. There isn’t much different being done here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Games like Call of Duty have pretty much perfected the console FPS control scheme, so following that blueprint not only makes sense, but it also helps ease the transition between titles. That said, the controls feel a bit more rigid than Call of Duty’s. It’s not particularly noticeable if you haven’t played a game in the genre in a while, but the shooting might be a bit stiff for you if you have. Even so, the controls do still feel natural, and regardless of how many FPS games you play, it shouldn’t take long to get the hang of it.

Like many other shooters on the market, multiplayer is where you’ll be spending a great deal of your time with Homefront. There are six modes available, though there are just two sets of the same game types with slight variations. Up to 32 players can partake in deathmatch, ground control (the objective-based type), or skirmish (a combination of both). Once you reach level seven, you unlock the Battle Commander variants of these modes. Battle Commander adds a new wrinkle to the format as it highlights players who are performing well, and singles them out for elimination for bonus points. Additional objectives are added as well, and completing tasks like taking down an enemy drone will also give you a nice bonus. As players level up, they’ll unlock new weapons, camouflage, perks, and special items. Every player has two special items like a flak jacket, drone, or air strike they can use during a match should they earn enough Battle Points. These points are earned in a similar way they are in Call of Duty. Kill an enemy? Earn some points. Capture an objective? Earn some points. Kill streak? Revenge kill? Save a teammate from death? All will grant you more points. When you’ve got enough points in your bank, you can use any of your items, and if you keep earning, you can keep using. Additionally, the points you earn can be used to purchase vehicles like humvees and tanks, though it’s really difficult to say how valuable they are versus some of the other special items. It’s solid premise, but matches against players with high levels can quickly get out of hand as the air strikes come fast and furious.

Perks are handled slightly differently, but many of them act almost identically to those found in the Call of Duty titles. You can have up to three, but you’re limited by a point system. Each of the perks has a point value, and as long as you don’t go over the total limit, you can keep adding new ones. You can also have multiple loadouts, which you can switch between before you spawn. It’s helpful to have that option, as adapting to the changing conditions on the frontlines is an important asset. The chaos that ensues when you’re in a full thirty-two-player match is a sight to behold, though you do die some pretty cheap deaths from time to time. I’m curious to see if the battlefields will always be packed with players, as many of them are fairly large, and are clearly built for masses. I’m not certain players would get the same amount of enjoyment when there’s only a dozen or so people playing, but that shouldn’t be an issue for at least a little while.

Homefront is definitely a unique title, even though it shares so many similarities with other shooters currently being played. The world and mythology of this particular America’s future are fascinating, and there’s enough minutiae to make sure a repeat play of the single-player provides a slight difference from the first time. I hope Kaos and THQ are able to showcase more of the narrative of this franchise, as this adventure was too brief to really get a grasp on the overall picture. The multiplayer modes may not be plentiful, but there’s enough depth and variety to keep even the most die-hard of FPS fans busy for a little while. Ultimately though, Homefront doesn’t really bring much new to the table, nor does it do any one aspect particularly better than any other FPS title out there. It’s a good game with a strong narrative backbone, but instead of starting a new chapter in the genre’s history, Homefront ends up more of a footnote.

78/100 – Above Average

Homefront is available March 15, 2011, on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

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