"WAR!! uuuurrg.....yeeeah.....what is it good for?" once said Edwin Starr. Well, if you look at the video gaming world, war is good for sending your company stock prices through the roof, having a multi-squillion selling game and making so much profit you can build yourself a swimming pool tiled with gold and filled with unicorn tears.
The latest game to throw it's hat into the first person shooter battle is Homefront, developed by Kaos Studios and publish by THQ. It sees the good old US of A invaded by an evil Korean force, and the scrappy remnants of the US army and rebel groups trying to take back their country. It's been very highly anticipated, if you've been following the progress of the game up to release date you probably have it already. If you're waiting to be convinced, then, dear reader......erm.....read on.
Following a story string that's actually quite believable, Homefront sees the USA in a state of buggery. The constant wars in the middle east and outbreaks of disease in the country, as well as a collapsing dollar rate that sees the price of a pint of milk rocket to the price of a family car, has America on the ropes. The new Korean state, unified between north and south, sees Kim-Jong "i'm so ronery" il pass away, and his son.....Kim-Jong "mental case"-un take the reigns of power. Korea launches a new satellite into space, saying it will bring peace to the world. However, it's actually a huge floating EMP device, which is flown over the States and activated, wiping out the power and opening up the country for invasion, which is just what the Koreans need to fulfill their ambitions. One invasion later, and the US is now occupied. Playing as a former military pilot, we take the role of Robert Jacobs, who while being taking to a re-education camp by the Koreans, is busted out by two American freedom fighters, who need your skills for an upcoming mission the resistance have planned. Freed from your captors, gun in hand, it's now time for Jacobs and the resistance to take back what was once theirs!
What I liked:
Firstly, i'd like to quickly mention the game world. It really does convey America in ruin. Buildings are battered, cars mangled, and people live in hastily constructed camps, full of things that are roped and taped together, people struggling to get food and keep warm, and technology cobbled together from other things. It's almost like modern day Detroit. The world really reminded me of another game that nailed the atmosphere, the superb Metro 2033, if you have played that you'll see the comparisons with the game. Graphically the game suits it's purpose, with some nice, if a bit jaggy environments, but it suits the rough and ready nature of the game. The actual gameplay is quite solid, the guns feel nice and weighty, the weapon selections are good, but take a slight getting used to, as you can only top up your ammo with a gun of the same make and model. You will find yourself swapping guns out of necessity rather than through choice, but i guess in the despoiled America you're living in it makes sense. Aiming is tight, and the enemies actually die when you blow then away, rather than soak up a shed load of bullets as they cycle through their "injured animation", Medal of Honour style. The story is utterly believable, and shown is some shocking ways. To mention them would spoil the game, so I won't, but during the opening journey on a bus you witness the true brutality of the invading Koreans, and in a later level you find out where a lot of the missing people have ended up, with sick bag-inducing consequences. A couple of levels, such as the one where you meet a group of survivalists, and another featuring a shootout in a car park, come a fleas pubic hairs-breadth away from sheer brilliance. Sound is also well handled, with some big sounds for the various weapons that you get your hands on, helicopters and planes roaring through the air and huge explosions that seem to happen every time you take a single step.
Online multiplayer is great. There are your ususal objective based modes, as well as team deathmatch. One new addition is that of battle commander, which like the rolling objective modes in Killzone 2-3 has a commander marking out priority targets to take out, as well as things to capture. Every action, be it a kill assist, an actual kill or capturing an objective sees you amass battle points, which can then be spent on various upgrades, from flak jackets to UAV drones. Even if you're not too hot in online multiplayer games, you can keep saving your points up rather than spend them which means even average players will be able to access the bigger ordinance, such as tanks, jeeps and attack choppers.....a very nice addition. In whole it looks like the online component will gather a huge fanbase.
What I loathed:
There is much floating around about the length of the games campaign. It's short. It's far too short. I got through it within 5 hours. Essentially what's in the single player game boils down to one mission.....get a helicopter. If it wasn't for the introductory bus journey, you could be forgiven in thinking you have joined the game half way through. You do fight through some interesting missions, but no sooner do you get used to the game world and how it plays you're thrown into the last, abet very impressive final mission, and then BANG!!!!!........the credits roll. It's a fucking joke. It's a smear on the rest of the game. It just leaves you wanting more, much much more. It's akin to a bad tour seeing the pyramids of Egypt....you have this marvel in front of you, and the tour operator gives you two minutes to get off the bus, take pictures and then you're done. My bugbear with short games is known to anyone who reads my blog, but this just really pissed me off almost beyond words. Some of the resistance characters you meet, especially the ones that join your band, are irritating and spew bad dialogue from their mouth-holes. The NPC's you meet in the ramshackle towns are more interesting. The missions are varied, as are the weapons, but there is nothing you haven't seen before....snipe these people, blow these up, take this gun turret....blah blah blah. But then again....what else are you going to do in a shooting game?
Homefront is a great game. The short campaign is a real issue. I you're not one for playing online I really cannot recommend a purchase when a rental will see you go through the game within an afternoon. If you do decide to buy the game, you'll find a great little campaign which, while very short, is interesting, well done and it's a game you should experience. If you do play online, you'll find a great game which seems to be solid, it's well done with regards to its battle points system and i'm sure it'll soak up a load of your time, as it's already doing with this very gamefreak.
(Xbox 360 version reviewed)
So did you get it? What do you think?
Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.
Homefront is available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.