Set in the near future of 2027, Homefront tells the frightening tale of a United States that has been forcefully occupied by a reunified Korea. The game opens in a war-ravaged Colorado town with Americans being bound and herded into work camps while less fortunate souls are executed in the streets as their screaming children look on. It’s heavy stuff and sets a tone that many games fail at mastering – probably in no short part due to the game being written by the author of Red Dawn and Apocalypse Now. With such a strong start and concept, does Homefront deliver the next great first-person shooter?
The scenery certainly succeeds in evoking emotions. I fought through familiar-looking suburbs, elementary schools, big box stores, and a Little League field that was now home to a mass grave. I even defended patriotic American landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Hooters. Yes, that Hooters. The game contains several real-world brands ranging from Pabst Blue Ribbon to White Castle and Coffee Beanery. I actually think the product placements work well in Homefront as they are immediately recognizable and don’t seem out of place, but rather cement the setting. The ambiance and backstory are effective and highlight that the game’s premise of fighting as a small band of civilian freedom fighters had a lot of promise.
This is a promise that goes unfulfilled by a game that is simply an adequate first-person shooter. I never got the sense that my misfit team was any different than the numerous special ops teams I’ve suited up with in other games. Throughout the majority of the four-hour campaign, I was accompanied by three compatriots. One of these three is named Connor and you can tell he’s the leader because he is constantly shouting profanities at you or giving memorable lines such as “Aim for the head. Make every bullet count.” (Note: shooting enemies in the head does in fact kill them faster, but ammo is abundant.) If you somehow forget that Connor is the leader, maybe the fact that he has an icon that says “Follow” above him for pretty much the entire game will act as a reminder. Yes, Connor is your tour guide through the linear paths of war-torn America. Should you forget this and wander off, let’s say to track down one of the shiny newspaper collectibles, Connor will suddenly channel the spirit of Scorpion and repeatedly yell “Get over here!” until you comply.
As great as the atmosphere in Homefront is, I found presentation issues that would consistently pull me out of the moment. The game is very fast-paced with a good sense of urgency to move forward, yet every time your team gets to a closed door there's a lot of awkward standing about waiting for one of your companions to decide it's time to kick it down. The scripting is poor as I often found myself wondering if I needed to do something else to trigger the next event, when in fact I did not. I was just supposed to wait for my AI teammates to open a door, climb a ladder, or push an object out of the way. They certainly seemed hesitant to perform these actions, yet had little issue trying to stand in the exact same place as I was. On more than one occasion I was behind cover and had enemies lined up in my sights only to have a teammate nudge me out into the open and into a hail of bullets. I know this is a good cover spot. That’s why I chose it! Find your own.
As far as the actual shooting goes, it works fine (especially if you shoot them in the head). You aim down the sights to snap and zoom to targets as they foolishly pop up from cover and you’ll use a variety of scoped weapons along with the occasional shotgun or sniper rifle. While the enemies may not be the brightest when running in and out of cover, they are dead-eyes, so if you stay out in the open you will be almost immediately cut to ribbons. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but I felt like I had no idea why I was dying a lot of the time. This could be the result of enemies magically repopulating areas I had already cleared out or the fact that it’s easy to be instantly killed by a rocket.
As a military first-person shooter, Homefront hits on many of the hallmarks that we've come to expect outside of the standard gunfire. Man a turret while riding on top of a Humvee. Check. Stealth mission in which your squad mate marks targets for you to snipe. Yup. The almighty trinity of helicopters: ones you shoot down, ones that you pilot, and ones that you get shot down in. You better believe it. Fancy targeting weapon that let's you remotely call in artillery. Target acquired. Homefront pulls off most of these excursions competently enough, but besides the surprisingly well done level of piloting an Apache, the rest of the game’s “moments” have already been jumbled in my brain with “moments” from other similar shooters.
With such a succinct solo campaign, Homefront hopes to hook players with its multiplayer. As with the single player, shooter fans will be familiar with the game’s online offerings. There’s a persistent leveling system that unlocks new equipment and abilities and completing challenges with each weapon presents you with customizeable accessories for that weapon. In addition to the loadouts you bring into the matches, performing well will earn you Battle Points which can be used to purchase special weapons like rocket launchers or saved up to spawn in vehicles like tanks and helicopters. Gameplay types are limited to Team DeathMatch and Ground Control (and a combination of the two called Battle Commander). Ground Control is the clear winner with both teams fighting for control of three areas on one of the six maps. Matches move quickly and even if my team was getting rocked, I constantly found myself in satisfying firefights or earning points by trying to recapture areas. All in all, it’s a fun multiplayer experience with a bevy of goals to chase down.
Homefront is a difficult game to recommend as it has so many excellent competitors and so closely follows the footsteps laid out by the Call of Duty and Battlefield series. The incredibly short campaign doesn’t excel due to dated game design and characters that fail to be anything but stereotypical. The multiplayer is well done, but I don’t know how long it will keep players from returning to their mainstay shooter.
Outstanding | Very Good | Fair | Poor | Awful
Recommended Buy Price: $30.00
Current MSRP: $59.99
Homefront was provided for review by THQ. I completed the single player campaign on Normal in four hours. I accumulated 14 out of 48 Trophies. Homefront is also available for Xbox 360 and PC.