The year is 2027 and the USA has fallen to the world’s new superpower, the Greater Korean Republic, which has already annexed its way across Asia. Homefront is nothing if not controversial, even casting Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s son and likely heir in real life, as the leader of the nation that crushes America under its jackboot. Needless to say, the US of A isn’t quite completely crushed…
Resistance isn’t futile
Resistance fighters are holed up in enclaves, waging a guerilla war against the occupying Korean army across the country. You player as one of these freedom fighters in a bleak first-person shooter where the brutal opening cut-scenes very much set the dark tone for the game. The Korean troops are cruel and savage; the subjugated American civilians want no truck with the resistance in case it brings trouble to their doors. Life is generally pretty harsh.
The resulting game explodes out of the gate with breathless running and gunning action. It’s a bit of a battlefield in itself, the better elements being subjected to the artillery blasts of clumsier design decisions. While Homefront’s plot is quite tense and the action always hotly paced, the veil of that tension is torn away with an unfortunate regularity.
A prime example of this is something as basic as the in-game speech. There are huge pauses in the dialogue which are, quite frankly, bizarre. Not to mention the fact that they deflate the atmosphere somewhat. Sometimes the speech gets buggy, with several characters talking simultaneously or a line of dialogue remaining unfinished – particularly handy if it happens to be an instruction to the player on what to do next.
On occasion, the AI-controlled allies fighting alongside us in the single-player campaign got stuck, lurking around the back of an area instead of moving to their next pre-determined staging point. We saw one chap fall to the floor prone in the open, right in front of about ten enemy troops, facing a solid minute or two of withering fire. After we’d finally taken them all out, he simply stood up and ran off – mysteriously, all that gunfire didn’t kill him. But it did kick seven shades of merry whatnot out of the game’s sense of realism.
Still, much of the time Homefront remains pacey, and it throws a decent variety of tasks at the player. There are sniping and stealth missions, frantic timed sections, big guns to man – even a helicopter to fly later in the campaign. But again, some flaws emerge to spoil the fun. The stealth mission is far from believable, the enemy troops being so unobservant that they’re unlikely to see you (bar a spot of impromptu morris dancing while firing your rifle into the air). Flying the chopper is fun, admittedly – although the controls are a bit of a pig to get used to.
The frame rate jitters we experienced probably didn’t help our flying skills, mind. Even when we turned the visual details down low – and eventually seriously low, the action was still quite jerky. Inexplicably so, as the graphics still chugged even though there wasn’t any explosive action going off.
Single-player is too short
Add to that the fact that the campaign maps are very channelled and linear, with the missions numbering just seven, and the single player element of Homefront isn’t an enticing prospect. It’s over in around five or six hours at best, and it’s unlikely you’ll have much of an urge to play again.
Fortunately, Homefront’s multiplayer proves far better. There are two standard modes of play – team deathmatch and objective capture – the latter of which places a solid emphasis on good teamwork. Some spice is added with a battlefield commander option, essentially an AI chief-of-staff who rewards high-achieving players with various bonuses. Furthermore, experience points are awarded for scoring kills and securing objectives, and these can also be used to unlock goodies and indeed spawn vehicles.
It’s not particularly easy to save up enough to spawn a tank or helicopter, which means you’ve got to think about when it’s best to strategically introduce a heavyweight piece of hardware. A correct decision can help take Checkpoint Charlie back at a vital juncture in a match, and turn the tide of the battle. While nothing here is hugely original, the thoughtful implementation of these measures beefs up the online game with a satisfying dose of tactics.
But multiplayer still has issues…
Not all is smooth fragging in the multiplayer territory, however. There are some issues of balance, certainly – though that’s to be expected with a new game. Some guns are favoured over others, and there’s a handicapping system with objective placement that can seem rather unfair at times, particularly when sides are very equally matched. Still, a good team will always win out, and these sorts of issue can be tweaked on an ongoing basis.
Slightly more worrying are the technical hitches we encountered attempting to join multiplayer servers. On some nights of online battling, we had no problems at all. Yet during other multiplayer sessions, we experienced multiple drops from servers, and the game even locked up totally. These are pitfalls which need to be sorted – and quickly.
- Smartly implemented multiplayer, but still requires polishing.
- Single-player campaign is too short and glitchy.
Homefront is very much the military shooter equivalent of a packet of liquorice allsorts - a very mixed bag. The single-player game present a gritty and engaging premise on one hand, but one that's dogged by issues and overly short. The multiplayer side of the game is much better, with plenty of promise and some thoughtful implementation - although we still encountered numerous problems with it.