Homefront Review (Xbox 360)

‘Home is where the war is’ – welcome to the US, and potentially your own backyard, as you take up arms to fight against a new kind of invading force.

The concept of an invasion on home soil isn’t new but it typically takes the form of an alien force. This time around your enemy doesn’t come in the form of a lobster looking shell creature from universe X but rather the Greater Korean Republic (a now unified Korea). I found it interesting that they chose Korea, or more specifically North Korea, as the antagonist of the game considering the tension in that region. Why couldn’t they have chosen an alternate future with Australian invaders? Oppressive military characters yelling at you to “Tie me kangaroo down sport!”. How often could the classic line “You call that a knife?” be exploited? But, back to the actual game.

Homefront begins with your character, Robert Jacobs, in his apartment shortly before the door is kicked in and Korean forces arrest you. You are then introduced to the stairs. You are then ushered forcibly to an awaiting bus. You are then introduced to the horrors of war and subjected to provocative visuals. In that short time your given ample stimulus to want to pick up a gun and join the resistance. The storyline is apparent from that opening sequence and your mission is clear. Invaders are bad and your going to kill them all.

While it is no secret that the campaign is somewhat short and concise I was quite satisfied when the credits rolled. Not because it was a terrible game, but because there was so much happening all the time and a lot to take in. There are a number of set-pieces that just work as a game mechanic and at times provide a good dose of fun. I say this because while some sequences were well-done, it is difficult to take pleasure in what your witnessing. One such example occurs when your team stumbles across a mass grave. I won’t say more then that, but suffice to say it was one of the more interesting gaming moments I’ve experienced this year. In short I appreciate Homefront’s ability to thrust you into the situation, throw a noose around your neck and pull you through the campaign.

Control wise, it was very similar to other action FPS titles, such as the Call of Duty series. The auto-aim feature works in a way similar to the Modern Warfare series in that it will place your cross hairs on the enemy when you switch to the iron sights view. An often necessary feature to have in faster FPS games, as action can happen from multiple directions and at any given time. I did however find that one or two guns weren’t as sensitve to the auto aim lock-on. But as your moving so fast and constantly dropping and picking up new weapons it wasn’t a problem that lasted longer then I had a single weapon for.

I found the whole weapon situation interesting in that I was constantly running low on ammunition throughout the campaign and found that I would be swapping with discarded weapons more often then changing clips. I would pick up a weapon only to switch a minute or so later into a firefight. While this wasn’t a problem for me, it did help to instill the fact that we we’re in a dire situation and had to make do with whatever weapon we happened to stumble across.

One of the other game play features was the use of Goliath. A robotic, armoured vehicle capable of bringing down choppers, Humvees and hordes of Korean attackers. Quite simple to use, in that you’d use a tool to spot and target the enemy and prompty unload a couple missiles on the target soon afer. It’s fun, but distracting in that you’d drop the tool/sight and then have to reselect the tool to spot and target another enemy. Quite often when your using the Goliath, your chain-targetting enemies so it seems a bit strange that you need to lower the sight after every attack execution, but small fry really. Making use of Goliath is fun, but again nothing really new.

Enemy AI typically gets brought into question when talking FPS games. More often then not, it’s the annoying habits of AI that has the community talking. While I can’t say I saw anything different to most other games I do tend to zero in on problems that still exist. Such as when your sniping and well hidden, and a great distance away from your enemy, they still know that your there and can crack a wild shot off at you before you’ve even squeezed a round out. Another problem that I regularly exploited was with clever enemies not hiding properly. Quite often in a firefight I can pick off covered enemies, in relation to me, by shooting their exposed back or head. They make the effort to duck out of line-of-sight but that noggin of theirs is still smiling at me down the barrel. Now, what I did like was the difficulty of progression. You couldn’t just burst out onto an enemy saturated street twirling and dancing with your machine gun. The AI did a great job of keeping me in cover with a brief moment to pop out and try to make the kill shot. It feels like an uphill fight and, really that’s what it should be. Now if only my own team mates could work with me.

The problem I encountered with friendly AI mostly occurred when their help would have been welcome. There were moments when your in cover and would like to strafe to the right side only to be blocked by a body. Now sure, in real life there will be other folks taking cover from enemy fire too. But when they sit there and do absolutely nothing but sit, you’d be quite cranky in a game or real life too. I didn’t see a puddle beneath them, they just chose not to move till I sorted out the situation presented to us. Another instance occurred when the enemy was doing their level best to keep us from progressing up to a house. Most of the team is returning fire, but one of the members in the squad thought it best to stand, totally exposed (not like that!), and face the opposite direction and just let the fence have it. It was odd enough for me to look at the fence to see if there was an enemy stuck behind it, but I couldn’t see anything except a friendly AI having a ‘war moment’.

Now another thing I was slightly disappointed with at first was the visuals. While the picture painted is of a war torn nation, it was the little things like textures that often distracted me. I kind of expected a little better from games in 2011 in that department, but having said that it was a minor nuisance. It could also be a sign of the times that the current generation may be reaching a pinnacle in what they can do with graphically intensive games. Or it may not. Textures aside, the game looks and feels as it should – an occupied steeped in urban conflict, complete with all the destruction and pockets of untouched land that you may expect from a natural disaster. On that level it works well.

Initially I was going to steer clear from the multi-player portion of the game, however after the short, yet satisfying, campaign I thought it impossible to not consider this part of the game, as it actually works out being a damn fine piece of entertainment. While I am not the biggest multi-player fan, on a competitive level, I could easily enjoy Homefront’s offerings with it’s Ground Control game mode. While it’s nothing new as such, it’s fun in execution. You take part in a 16 player-a-side (32 total) as you fight to capture zones and push the other side further back. There is also the Team Deathmatch mode that will see a 12 vs 12 firefight for those not interested in simple objective based play.

I spent a good deal of post-campaign play in the multiplayer modes and have got to say that it’s quite a good bonus if your there mostly for the single player portion. For folks who are here primarily for multiplay you can be assured that the game comes complete with an experience and reward system as featured in other games and of course an assortment of vehicles.

Overall I found the game to be quite engaging in terms of its set pieces and subject matter. It boasts a 5-6 hour romp in normal mode and while short, it felt long enough. I was relieved when I saw the finish line and enjoyed the time that I spent running in that race. Multi-player modes add a lot of value to the game. Most notable is the Ground Control mode that kept me up late into the night and, in the end, a component of Homefront that will keep me playing for a good while longer.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

About the Author

Dan co-hosts the Gameolio Podcast and handles the administration of the website. Occasional poster and frequent deleter with a strange love of the colour green.