Homefront can best be summed up by its opening (which is nice, because that means you don’t have to play much of the game). You’re kidnapped and tossed aboard a bus, at which point you get to witness the ugly carnage of Korea’s invasion right in front of your face. Or maybe “in your face” is the more apt term, as the game immediately balks at the notion of subtlety. Senseless shootings. Dead bodies cluttering the streets. Parents brutally murdered as their child cries in terror. And this all happens within the first five minutes or so. It’s loud, it’s upsetting, and yet—somewhat shockingly— it’s incredibly difficult to care about.
Homefront’s many problems are splotchy boils on the face of some fairly interesting ideas. The game’s basic premise, of course, is that North and South Korea have united to—among other things—invade North America, but the circumstances leading up to it are downright laughable. Still though, during the rare moments when the game takes a chill pill and stops screaming spittle in your face, it’s capable of displaying some pretty striking imagery. Ramshackle refugee hideouts, especially, create an almost believable counterpoint to the game’s otherwise comical ludicrousness. Environments in general have a very beaten, broken, lived-in feel to them, oftentimes whipping up a multicourse feast for the eyes.
And here are our pals: her, that guy, and, uh, him.
Problem is, actually being in those environments isn’t all that enjoyable. We’re not going to beat around the bush: Homefront is Call of Duty, but often even blander and more vapid. Generally, levels see you running between barely disguised infinite spawn points, playing hide-and-go-headshot with your faceless foes, and then waiting for your burly commander to tell you what you’re allowed to do next. And believe us, the extent to which Homefront goes to make you feel like you don’t matter is nearly infuriating. You can’t climb ladders without this man’s permission. Seriously.
Speaking of your burly leader man, that’s the other reason Homefront falls on its face: characters. More to the point, it has none. Just war-shooter archetypes doing exactly what you’d expect. The effect, then, is that it’s very difficult to care. Sure, you’re fighting to save America, but there’s more to compelling emotional investment than plastering every open space with billowing U.S. flags. Moreoever, the game harps on and on about how the mean ol’ Korean boogeymen dehumanize Americans, yet treats the Koreans like inhuman murder machines in the process. Pot, meet kettle.
Multiplayer, fortunately, fares much better and even manages to bring the genre forward a couple small steps. Battle Points, for instance, offset XP-based shooters’ “long-timers have the best stuff” mentality by providing a mid-match currency for you to earn and spend. Also, racking up kills actually puts an XP bounty on your head, which makes dealing with Captain FPS Demigod a bit more interesting for all involved.
Setpieces like these really are impressive. Shame there aren’t more of them.
Beyond that, however, it’s fairly unremarkable, which is also a pretty nice summary of the game as a whole. It has its little glimmers of intrigue, but by and large, it’s just another sheep in the herd trailing behind Call of Duty. Yes, you could certainly do worse than Homefront, but you could also do much, much better. $48, www.homefront-game.com, ESRB: M
Interesting concept; a few well-constructed environments; decent multiplayer.
HOME ALONE 3
Poorly paced linearity; no interesting characters; bland levels and shooting.