As the self proclaimed Call of Duty killer, Homefront places you in an alternate future where North Korea has developed an empire and has invaded the United States. You play as Robert Jacobs, a civilian in Colorado who is captured by North Korean Troops and sent off to a re-education camp in Alaska. On the way to Alaska, however, your bus is attacked by the resistance, who quickly hand you a gun and offer you a place in the army. It is up to you and the resistance to stop the Koreans before it is too late and America is lost.
The story was written by author John Milius, who was also responsible for writing and directing Red Dawn. Unfortunately, the two stories are very much the same and this feels like a re-envisioning of Red Dawn, rather than a new story in and of itself. Despite having a slightly recycled premise, the story still manages to engage, producing a number of memorable moments throughout the campaign. There are a number of points where the grim face of war and occupation come across in shocking fashion. One scene in particular, involving a young family being harassed by North Korean troops, really stands out. The family was broken up and the mother and father were pushed up face first against a wall. The small child they had with them was crying and calling out to his parents. The troops then made the parents kneel against the wall and killed them execution style while the child watched in horror. It was these moments, which really drag an emotional response out of you and show you the realities of war, that make it stand out from other military shooters. The setting was another strong point for this title. You are running through the ruins of a suburban landscape, applying guerrilla tactics to weaken the enemy. This, for me, was an interesting environment to play in, and took game immersion to a new level.
Another very strong element for this game was the multiplayer modes. The multiplayer follows the formula of success that its predecessors have discovered, but luckily, it does it well. You level up, gain experience, and unlock new weapons, perks, and vehicles, and it all feels really good. There are two main modes in the multiplayer, which include “Team Death Match” and “Capture and Hold”. Most maps are of a medium size, so sniping is an option for all those snipers, but there are enough close quarter areas to satisfy those run and gunners out there as well. This will scratch an itch for veterans of first person shooters that are getting tired of Black Ops, but are looking for something similar.
There were elements of the single player campaign that really didn’t work for me. One reason is that the campaign was extremely short. You could finish it in about 5 hours or so, which is half the normal amount of time a single player campaign should take. Since the game is so short, the campaign ends rather abruptly, leaving the player feeling a little flat, especially since they did a nice job on the story. I also felt that the characters were very shallow, and by the end you really didn’t care for them much one way or another.
Another big disappointment was the graphics, especially in the multiplayer. If this game was a launch title for the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360, you would consider this a beautiful game. Unfortunately, we are well outside the launch window, and there are studios out there pushing this hardware to the limit. As a consequence, this game does not keep to the graphics standards that are in place at the moment for this generation of consoles. This game looks pretty poor, especially with objects in the distance; they are almost indistinguishable from the backgrounds. This really hurt the game, and for me, took me out of the story several times.
Lastly, the story and the setting really feel out of sync. It is a rare development that a first person shooter spends the resources to create an environment that is this engaging, yet, when the game was over, you get the feeling that so much more could have been done to make this a better game. It is really disappointing to see this excellent premise wasted on such a linear shooter. With all the money they spent to market and promote this game, THQ could have made sure this was a better product by expanding the story.
Overall, Homefront is a mixed bag of potential. The setting and the premise are excellent, and of rare quality for the genre. An above-average multiplayer helps to round out your experience with the game, and really lends itself to feeding the hunger for the next great first person shooter. Unfortunately, the game is very limited on a number of fronts, holding this title back from being in the upper echelon of titles for 2011. When taken for the sum of its parts, it settles in the realm of mediocrity, and all forward marketing momentum is lost after the first 20 minutes of the game. Despite these shortcomings, I would recommend you play this game, though I would not recommend you pay full retail price for it. The online community is strong enough for this game that I would say wait a few months for the price to drop to a more reasonable level.
This review is based on the retail version of the Playstation 3 version of Homefront published by THQ
- Strong Multiplayer Element
- Weak Single Player
- Graphics, Especially in Multiplayer
- Story and Setting Out of Sync