It’s truly amazing how stacked the first person shooter genre has become over the last few years. One game that has caught many eyes in anticipation is THQ and Kaos Studios have teamed up to bring us Homefront. The hype for the game has been immense and even before the games release was the most pre-ordered game in THQ’s history. So does Homefront manage to live up to its high expectations or was it just too much to live up to? Read our full review to find out.
Of course if you have heard anything about Homefront it is the story. Homefront takes place around 15 years in the future where North and South Korea have become one and took up the Nazi ideal of taking over the world. In fact there are quite a few similarities between Hitler’s Nazis and the future Korea found in the game. You can see right from the opening cut scene that Kaos took the story and the development of it extremely seriously. The single player campaign is 100% story driven and really rises and falls along with that story.
So first let me just talk about the story. It is not every day that you see a FPS with an actual story. Not to pick on the Call of Duty franchise too much but those are games that rely on the story only to move to different locals and set pieces rather then drive the game. With Homefront the story really is the campaign and a lot of that goes to the well-written story and dialogue found throughout. There were a few bad jokes in the game that didn’t feel necessary given the severity of the situations. A perfect example is a scene where Korean soldiers are set on fire in the midst of a battle and one of the NPC’s yells out that he always enjoyed “Korean Barbecue”. There isn’t much of that, but it does creep up a few times and feels a bit misplaced.
As good as the story is the game has to still do it’s part to keep you interested. The FPS elements are solid. Shooting is very familiar to anyone who has played a Call of Duty title in the past few years. There is some variety in the mission developments, which allow you to fly a helicopter, man a turret on a Humvee, and even drop air attacks on oncoming Korean forces. Technically speaking everything in Homefront plays and controls well. Throughout most of the campaign (with only a few short exceptions) you’re fighting alongside 2-4 computers AI’s who actually do a somewhat decent job of helping out in the fight.
So far I have been pretty positive about the offline campaign and that’s for good reason, however it is not without its faults. Similar to a Call of Duty campaign, there is a very scripted way in which the seven chapters of Homefront were developed. Go off the path and you’re in trouble. In fact I struggled on normal difficulty to get through most of the chapters of the game. I haven’t been this frustrated with a shooter in quite sometime. I had a lot of trial and error throughout the game that extends the length of the short campaign but not in the best way possible. The biggest issue with all of this trial and error is that it breaks up the story to a point where a lot of times you forget what’s going on.
The campaign overall even with its “trial and error” focus still remains a really impressive experience. The last chapter of Homefront that takes place on a very notable bridge is an epic twenty minutes of FPS action that has a pretty solid conclusion. What ends up being a shame is the way Kaos ends the story that wraps up very little and leaves the door wide open for future either DLC or full releases.
Of course the single player is only part of the experience, Kaos has also put out a very comprehensive multiplayer suite to dig your teeth into. The developers made sure that they put a lot of emphasis on big battles and for that they do have up to 32 players online. Having played in a number of these matches I can say that based upon pre-release matches I have had quite smooth experiences. I did not experience much if any lag which is pretty remarkable for that many players.
There are four modes to choose from which are Deathmatch, Ground Control, and two variations of Battle Commander (Deathmatch and ground control). I have to say that the multiplayer is actually really quite impressive. I for one would have liked to see maybe a few more modes but the variations between the mode works pretty well. Homefront also introduces a Battle Point system that gives you points for doing various things during a match and then allows you to spend the points for things like new weapons, air strikes, Humvees and helicopters. It’s a pretty good system and one that has a tendency to keep battles fresh.
Visually Homefront is a fine specimen. It has some of the best explosion effects I have seen a game that is coupled with sound effects as well. The character models are a tad on the bland side, which proves to give you even less reason to care about your fellow soldiers. The atmosphere in the game does an incredible job of capturing what is a war torn United States. You can see though that some levels got a much higher degree of quality control then others as I did experience a few minor visual glitches along the way.
From the moment I started Homefront I was immediately brought into the story and world that Kaos created. Even with how engrossed I was in the story I always felt like the game became frustrating. One area that continued to eat at me throughout playing the offline campaign was the sporadic checkpoints in the game. There were some points where you would have multiple checkpoints within a few minutes of each other and others where it would be a long tough stretch of replaying missions that should have been broken up a bit more with checkpoints.
First let me say that I hope that Kaos continues to develop more Homefront titles the years ahead. Homefront is one of the best new franchises in the past few years and if you have any connection with first person shooters this is a game you should check out. It is not without some minor freshman bumps, but the overall package is one of the more compelling so far in 2011.