XI
you are not logged in
Review

Review: Homefront

Korea mode.

A lot of people have been unsure about Homefront. It’s understandable, really – it’s a new IP, so it’s a far cry from the reliable (though still somehow debatable) quality of other, already established franchises.

The game, which is developed by Kaos Studios, the guys behind Frontlines: Fuel of War, is set in 2027 in a future where Kim Jong-il dies and Kim Jong-un takes his place. He unites North Korea and South Korea (and gets a Nobel Peace Prize for it), then effectively starts a war against most of the world. Japan surrenders after the Koreans destroy one of their nuclear facilities, the price of oil sky-rockets due to a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and America withdraw their troops from Korea, Japan and other places to try to handle instability at home. Eventually, the KPA (Korean People’s Army) occupies America.

This all happens a decade before the game even starts, so as you can tell, the background storyline here is incredibly well realised – as well it should be, coming from the writer/director of Red Dawn (who was also a co-writer on Apocalypse Now). All the backstory is gathered in newspaper form throughout the game – in total, there are 61 to collect littered around the levels (and we found less than 10 on our first playthrough).

It’s an easy way of providing a lot of back story without ramming it down your throat, with only what you need to know to understand what’s happening presented to you in well put together cut-scenes on starting the campaign (behind which the game loads, the cut-scenes can be skipped once it’s done loading). This style of storytelling is replicated in what amounts to a pirate radio broadcast between levels, from the ‘voice of freedom’, updating the public as to what is happening and what needs to be done.


Iconic imagery and a few shocking set pieces help make Homefront stand out.
Whilst the back-story is excellent, setting the scene perfectly, the actual in-game storyline – i.e, what’s happening whilst you’re playing, is considerably more forgettable, we don’t even remember any specifics, just what we were actually doing. This isn’t helped by the fact that your character doesn’t say a single word throughout the whole game, which made it hard for us to identify with him.

Still, the game starts with what is one of the strongest opening scenes I’ve seen – you wake in a run down flat to a knock at the door. When you go to answer it, a few KPA soldiers burst through the door, pin you against a wall, deliver a short speech asking why you are not serving your country, then hit you.

The next scene involves you being in a bus, through the window of which you see some pretty horrible acts, such as a couple being pulled apart and people being shot and beaten for fun by the KPA. Chief amongst these and most chilling; a small child’s parents being killed in front of him by the KPA, and whilst the child screams and runs over to the bodies, the two KPA soldiers just wander off, uncaring. These scenes are genuinely shocking and, thanks in no small part to some utterly excellent animation, they perfectly illustrate the world in which the game is set.

The actual setting for the game, which is mostly in suburban America (a place called Montrose in Colorado), is a relatively fresh setting for a war FPS, and enables some genuinely cringe-worthy areas that make you almost not want to think what happened here. An example would be early in the game (the first chapter, in fact), when you’re asked to get into a tree house in a back garden to provide covering fire. There are childrens’ drawings pinned to the wall of the tree house, and a teddy bear on the floor, covered in blood.

From this your bus is taken out by the Resistance and you discover that you and the other prisoners in the bus were pilots, being rounded up because they’re in short supply. After this and a lot of being chased, you end up in a Resistance camp, where there are two sleeping children that are so wonderfully animated I feel they escaped the so-called uncanny valley, with the only thing that pulled me out of our amazement being that the animations did loop after a little while. The rest of the game’s animation is also pretty good, but not quite approaching the opening sequence or the sleeping children.

The game is generally nicely textured, with everything from walls to character models looking nice enough, though things can look a little blurry when you’re right up against them. It’s not quite Mass Effect 2, but it does the job well enough. Unfortunately, though, this is let down by some of the worst aliasing we’ve ever seen, everything more than a few feet away has noticeably jagged edges and anything further still looks like they were made in Minecraft. A fence from 10 metres is a horrible, jagged sight. At least it’s all shown at a completely solid framerate, though, as we didn’t see anything slowing down whatsoever throughout the whole of the campaign or the multiplayer we’ve played.

Guns both look and sound solid and beefy, our favourite weaponry being the sniper rifles and the grenade. They both have slightly unrealistic effects that nonetheless give you the ever-sought-after ‘oooh’ feeling as a grenade sends 4 enemies flying through the air, or a sniper shot slams an enemy back into the wall behind them. The voice acting is excellent all the way through the game, all of which is accompanied by a good soundtrack that fits most situations perfectly.

The campaign took us between 5 and 6 hours to complete on our first play through, making it the regular length for an FPS in these crazy modern times, though we did expect a little more when the credits began to roll. The campaign is full of thrilling moments (an example being the Resistance saving you from the bus mentioned earlier – the bus flips and the bodies bounce around inside quite realistically), many of which left us with that adrenal surge we got from the original Modern Warfare all those years ago.

As noted in our MP hands-on earlier in the week, the game handles and plays excellently, quick, but short of Call of Duty’s twitch-shooting; heavy, but lighter than Killzone. Various ideas are taken from a few places and rendered unrecognisable by both combinations with other ideas and unique ideas from Kaos themselves. The same holds true for single player, with the player often being thrown around due to explosions, plans that go wrong and ambushes that make things go a little awry. All this really reinforces that idea that you’re part of a resistance that is massively outnumbered and out-gunned, and are only being held together by a few people.

This isn’t Black Ops’ military, it’s civilians fighting a military occupation and things are liable to not go exactly to plan.


Multiplayer is evolutionary.
We’ve already covered most of the multiplayer in our MP hands-on through the link above, so we’ll just expand on that here and you can read the full story through there. Our favourite part of multiplayer was Battle Commander, the system that points out enemies with killstreaks and your nemesis (i.e, that guy who keeps killing you). It turns out that this section of the game is only available after level 7, at which point you unlock Battle Commander versions of the three modes.

This did, however, give us the opportunity to find out how fun the online is without the Battle Commander adding more variety. It’s still a great game, Battle Points still seperate it substantially from the rest of the market and the large maps still manage to be packed with tense, enjoyable action. Still, we missed the Battle Commander system and, now we’ve unlocked them, won’t be going back.

The game ships with 7 maps that are all large (easily dwarfing any Black Ops map, though probably not quite as big as the bigger Bad Company 2 maps), and what seems to be a large amount of perks – uh, I mean, abilities, and they seem quite varied – we heard someone talking about an ability that ejects you from a vehicle when it explodes, for example. You are given 6 default classes when you start multiplayer, each of which you can change everything about once you unlock the relevant unlocks (which is done by levelling up, as you might expect).

At the moment, however, the servers are taking a bit of a hammering. THQ and Kaos underestimated the sales considerably (which is understandable), so the servers are having a little trouble. However, they’re working on putting up more servers and already it’s easier to get into a game than it was the other day. Once you’re in one, the experience is lag-free and smooth, which is more than can be said for Black Ops, even this long after release. If you do have trouble getting into either the 32 player Ground Control playlist or the 24 player Team Deathmatch playlist, you can get into the skirmish playlist (16 players and a rotation of Ground Control and TDM) without any trouble as they run on peer to peer code instead of dedicated servers.

To be honest, we think full Homefront multiplayer (meaning with Battle Commander) could at least contribute to the next evolution in multiplayer FPS, if not embody it itself. The killstreak system is too brilliant to not catch on anywhere, and we’ll be severely disappointed if it doesn’t. We have a feeling I’ll be playing Homefront online for a long time.

Pros

  • Solid, smooth and fluid gameplay.
  • Excellent, detailed back-story coupled with disturbing imagery making an engaging game world.
  • Not always to plan missions and set-pieces highlighting the struggle behind the war.
  • Excellently acted throughout.
  • Revolutionary multiplayer ideas.

Cons

  • Lots of aliasing.
  • The actual plot is a tiny bit weak after such a rich back-story.
  • A couple of multiplayer launch hitches.

All together, Homefront was a huge surprise. Whilst we went into it hopefully, we didn’t quite expect such excellent gameplay in such a detailed world, and we certainly didn’t expect to find revolutionary multiplayer concepts. We know a lot of people have been unsure about jumping into the game for various reasons, such as the mixed reviews and reports of a short campaign, but the latter is untrue and the former puzzles me. The only real problem we found was the aliasing, and we can see past that to see a richly realised game world, tight, smooth gameplay and a multiplayer mode with its own unique innovations that will hopefully catch on elsewhere.

Score: 8/10

104 Comments
  1. webby_15-0
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    ive bin looking forward to this game for ages now, but after hearing it’s such a short story i dont see the point paying out 40 quid for a few hours, im not gonna use the multiplayer either because of low broadband usage. a shame.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:06.
    • Amphlett
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      £40 for a few hours of entertainment? Sounds like a bargain when I compare it to a mate of mine who spent £40 for 10 minutes of entertainment at Spearmint Rhino in Tottenham Court Road.

      Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:36.
      • Foxhound_Solid
        Is a smart cookie.
        Since: Dec 2009

        Mate of yours….LOL!

        Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 16:30.
      • SpikeyMikey23
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        can’t beat a good grind from some strange!

        Comment posted on 21/03/2011 at 10:11.
  2. R4U Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Was waiting for a thorough review for this game and shock-horror I found it on TSA ;) Must say I like the look of the game, though I’m mainly only interested in the SP portion so I may hold fire until it gets a bit cheaper. As long as the narrative is good it will get a look from me :)

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:07.
    • Burgess_101
      Member
      Since: May 2009

      good call i think ill rent it , MP side of any game doesnt interest me much so a bit of single player till crysis comes through the post should keep me occupied :)

      Comment posted on 19/03/2011 at 10:47.
  3. Moakesice
    Member
    Since: Jan 2009

    Got my copy sat on my desk at work waiting till i get home and stick it in the black box of dreams!

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:10.
    • Amphlett
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Just re-read your comment and presume you’re talking about the PS3 and not making filthy remarks. ;-)

      Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:39.
      • Moakesice
        Member
        Since: Jan 2009

        lol, thats not the 1st time ive heard that today! >:-D

        Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 15:46.
    • Moakesice
      Member
      Since: Jan 2009

      Theres always one isnt there, lol

      Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:41.
      • dirtyhabit
        Member
        Since: Forever

        Oi! Shut it fanboy! :-D

        Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 15:41.
      • Moakesice
        Member
        Since: Jan 2009

        lol, thats not the 1st time ive heard that today! >:-D *this was suppose to go here not above, sorry*

        Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 15:47.
  4. kjkg
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Great review. Made me tempted to pick it up. It’s just a shame it’s taking a hammering from other sites that don’t actually bother playing the game before reviewing.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:12.
  5. Bilbo_bobbins
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    great review thanks.

    Since it got the same score as KZ3 do you guys think the MP is actually better with Homefront? This is based on the current problems with KZ3 online at the moment?

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:13.
  6. Smallville2106
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    Thanks for the review. After reading decided I will get this. Will wait for the price to dip a bit first though as mainly interested in the single player.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:18.
  7. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Cracking review. Enjoyed it. I can see why its a good game but itll be at the back of my gaming purchases…

    Will get it later on.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:21.
  8. philbert8
    The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
    Since: Sep 2010

    Play it on a half decent PC = no aliasing issues, so a PC title for me. We shouldn’t really be seeing this kind of problem with this gen of consoles though, especially as I’m starting to enjoy playing games more and more on my comfy sofa compared to my PC desk.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:25.
  9. MrSpeedyGonzales
    Member
    Since: Jun 2010

    Was watching my flatmate play this yesterday. He seemed to enjoy it but I could help thinking that it looked like an early PS2 game! Unreal Engine needs be put to bed once and for all.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:26.
  10. JesseDeya
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Hmm, I had all but given up on this game in what is a saturated market right now but if TSA think it’s worth 8/10, and more importantly, think the gameplay and multiplayer make up for average graphics then I might just have to give it a chance.

    Graphics aren’t the be all and end all sometimes, BFBC1/2 had some pretty average jaggies but the gameplay more than makes up for it. Still, I wish every dev would consider using the PS3 Cell to employ some of that morphological anti-aliasing (MLAA) as used to such good effect in GoWIII and Saboteur and lately Killzone 3. The PS3 is perfect for it (splits the load over 5 SPUs) and it comes a very low overhead.

    I honestly think Devs are scared to make one console version of their game significantly ‘better’ than the other for fear of losing support. Such a shame when you just KNOW the PS3 version could have used MLAA in this game.

    Questions for Gamoc:

    What system did you review this on?
    How was the sound (compared to say BFBC2)?
    Assuming those screenies are media kit shots from the PC version?
    Are their definitely dedicated servers, if so, do you know which locations they are supporting (ie: Europe, US, Asia, etc)?

    I notice the first patch is out already.

    Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:29.
    • Gamoc
      Member
      Since: Forever

      My MP hands-on last week was on the 360 and the review code was PS3. They looked pretty much exactly the same as far as I remember, I noticed the aliasing on the 360 too (mentioned in the hands-on write up).

      The sound was good and punchy, but I’d still give it to Bad Company 2.

      They must be shots from the PC version, yes.

      There are dedicated servers, yes, only the 16 player matches use peer to peer.

      Comment posted on 18/03/2011 at 14:44.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Latest Comments