Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Homefront

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Rating: 5.0/5 (4 votes cast)

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            THQ’s Homefront has now made its way to market, setting the pace for socio-political awareness in videogames. That is its greatest feature, undoubtedly, arguing for a maturity in the industry that goes beyond violence and adult depiction of the human anatomy, but there’s more to Homefront than a political agenda. Featuring both an aggressively paced single-player campaign and compelling multiplayer mode, Homefront stands as a testament to the invention of the developers at Kaos Studios.

            Homefront is set in a near future America in 2027 when a nuclear-armed Korean People’s Army invades the US. Written by John Milius, who co-wrote the groundbreaking Apocalypse Now and its Electronic Theatre Imagespiritual successor, Red Dawn, the game introduces a timeline beyond the present that shows the unfortunate downfall of the US, while Korea grows from strength-to-strength under the control of Kim Jong-Il’s ruthless son, Kim Jong-un. With this turn of the tide, the Greater Korean Republic takes over all US states west of the Mississippi river.

            The game begins as our protagonist, Robert Jacobs, a former Marine helicopter pilot, is woken in his make-shift house and forced onto a bus taking him to a re-education camp after failing to answer draft orders from the occupation forces. A horrific journey follows, demonstrating the violent nature of the occupation and the cruelty endured by the US public. However, Jacobs’s trip is cut short when his bus is ambushed by American Resistance fighters, and the player is thrown into the middle of a warzone as they attempt to make their way to safety.

            Homefront progresses in the manner for much of the game: story exposition is swiftly followed by a hectic battle, before more plot is delivered to the player. Lessons have been learnt from some of the best in the field – there’s a distinct feeling of Half-Life 2 throughout many of the city scenes – and despite Homefront’s entirely linear nature,Electronic Theatre Image the player does get the feeling that they are fighting for the protection of others. Videogames are often designed to make the player feel like a hero, but few do it wth the background of such a worthy cause.

            Unfortunately, the gameplay itself isn’t as well presented as the backdrop for all the action. Homefront’s single-player game is just as progressive as it is regressive, offering a few new ideas but failing to break of the shackles presented by the Call of Duty franchise. The application of drones and vehicular combat is welcome, but never exercised as well as it could be. By-and-large, the campaign feels like a training ground for the multiplayer component of the game in the same way as Frontlines: Fuels of War, simply with a well written story attached. As the single-player game stands, it’s a disappointing successor to underappreciated Frontlines: Fuels of War, a summation which in itself perhaps provides a reason for Kaos Studios’ decision to relate closer to Activision’s seemingly unstoppable war machine than their own previous groundbreaking work.

            Thankfully the multiplayer gameplay fares far better than the single-player campaign. In the same fashion as the single-player game design, Homefront’s multiplayer builds upon the already strong foundations laid by Kaos Studio’s previous works and adds all the presently expected features and ranking systems.Electronic Theatre Image Presenting a series of customisable class types, players earn Battle Points (BP) in-game for kills, assists, base captures and other aggressive/defensive manoeuvres which can then be used to purchase bonuses such as additional armour, more powerful weaponry, drones and vehicles. Choosing the right class with the right combination of additional equipment is just as important as choosing the right vehicle for the current terrain type, of which there is plenty of variety.

            With matches of up to thirty-two players available, the maps are unsurprisingly expansive, but it’s the variety in the tactical options that really set Homefront ahead of the pack. Team-based combat with a game such as this will always be more absorbing than a high speed free-for-all, but that Homefront offers gameplay modes designed to perfectly harmonise with the available class types is a stunning piece of creativity. Every aspect of the multiplayer gameplay fits perfectly: whatever game mode, there’ll be a favourite class type; whatever map, there’ll be a favourite tactical opportunity; however organised the enemy is, there’ll be a way to break their lines.

            With regards to the visual quality, Homefront’s technical strength doesn’t lie in that of its immediate presentation. There are arguably superior titles that were released several months earlier: instead it’s a game in whichElectronic Theatre Image the suggestion is far greater than the textures, polygon count or any other direct sign of graphical prowess. The visual depiction of the occupation can be quite horrific at times – equally in the opening sequence as later in the game – especially for those who invest in the game as much as they would a film.

            Given the market position of Homefront, the final product that is actually presented feels somewhat confusing. The game’s grand socio-political backdrop, which has been the focal point of its marketing, is essentially just that – a backdrop – and the game itself would function more-or-less the same without it. The single-player is a short and easily ignorable affair which brushes too close to Call of Duty for comfort, while the multiplayer is one of the finest online experiences currently available on videogame consoles. A mixed bag to say the least, but one in which the redeeming qualities are obvious, and the decision as to whether gamers wish to purchase the game or not relies solely on what they wish for from their First-Person Shooter console gaming. 

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