If you play video games then you’ve heard about “Homefront.” Publisher THQ has been everywhere with it, touting the contributions of “Red Dawn” writer/director John Milius to the story, the multiplayer, the high number of pre-orders, all sorts of things. Now the day has arrived and “Homefront” is here to be played by one and all. Is it worth your time though?
“Homefront” is set in a near-future version of Earth where Korea has unified under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, the son of current real-life North Korea leader Kim Jong-il. A series of world events lead Jong-un to invade and occupy the United States. Our story opens after the change of power has occurred, with you being enlisted into an underground resistance group because of your background as a pilot. Alongside the solo campaign, “Homefront” also includes a team-based multiplayer mode with bells like character progression and whistles like kill streak bounties.
Without a doubt, the main reason anyone should even consider buying “Homefront” is its multiplayer. Kaos Studios brings its experience from “Frontlines: Fuel of War” here, and it shows. The basic Team Deathmatch and Ground Control (think “Call of Duty”’s Domination mode with control points that move midway into a match) are complemented by Battle Commander version of each. In Battle Commander mode, players earn rewards for going on kill streaks but are simultaneously marked as a threat on enemy radars, with an added XP reward for killing them. There are 75 levels of character progression, complete with unlocks, and a feature that allows players to earn in-match currency which can be spent on vehicles or items assigned to class-specific purchase slots.
Good Idea, Solid Production
The solo campaign’s underlying story comes, at least in part, from Milius, and it shows. The tone is very dark, and the design of the game’s set pieces speaks to that. From a shattered, occupied suburban town to a very familiar city skyline that has clearly seen some heavy battle, there are some cool ideas behind the visuals in this game. The music is also a standout, a Hollywood-style score with catchy melodies.
The Entire Campaign
While the underlying ideas behind the story are solid, the execution is rotten from top to bottom. To start with, the 4-to-5-hour length is appallingly short and even feels more than a little unfinished once the full story has unfolded. It’s like someone ran into the Kaos offices and said, “Guys, finish what you’re doing and make the game ready NOW.” The story itself also sputters along at certain points, notably through the game’s entire mid-section. Try to remember it once you’re finished; all you’ll likely be able to recall is a series of set pieces built around notable American “landmarks” like strip malls and baseball fields. Again, great ideas, poor execution.
War Is… Ugly
You might convince yourself at first that the game looks like “Call of Duty” with a brighter color palette. Then you’ll play “Call of Duty.” The visuals in “Homefront” are not on the level with what you’d expect from a console release these days. They’re not really even on the level of what you would have expected from a console release two or three years ago. The textures lack detail — and they frequently don’t even fetch properly — the character animations are stiff and the world itself is relatively lifeless outside of some carefully prepared set piece moments.
“Homefront” is rife with flaws that really ought to have been caught during QA. Small things, like backing out of a multiplayer lobby sends you back to the main menu, forcing you to cycle back through two more menus before you can get into another lobby. Or when your character’s movement speed slows to a crawl during narrative-focused sections of the campaign. Or when invisible walls temporarily pop up so that a group of NPCs can perform scripted actions before your character is allowed to follow them. At almost every turn, “Homefront” pulls the player out of the experience by clobbering him or her with frustrating momentum killers.
You know how I said up there in the first section that the multiplayer is solid? Well it is… to a point. With 75 levels of character progression, you’d expect a lot of toys to drool over, a lot of dangling carrots to want for as you work your way up. This is not the case. “Homefront” includes only a handful of firearms: six assault rifles, two each for SMGs, LMGs and sniper rifles and a lone shotgun, which is actually only available as DLC. There is some more variety in the available attachments, Infantry Abilities (read: Perks), weapon camo and purchase slot items. In the end though, the dangling carrots in “Homefront” are few, far between and not quite tasty enough.
I hate to say it, but “Homefront” is a bad game. There’s no way around it. Things work here and there, but the overall experience will probably just leave you wondering why you spent $60 on such a mess. The multiplayer modes provide some enjoyment and a few welcome features that set the game apart from similar competitive shooters, but it’s just not enough.