Format: PS3 (tested), Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Kaos Studios
Being American in the year 2027 isn’t recommended, at least according to the future predictions of Homefont, THQ’s future imperfect FPS. It postulates that a chain of events will come into play world-wide, which will leave the US crippled, not just in terms of fuel, power and infrastructure but even in terms of unity as Texas declares its independence and martial law is declared following heightened civil unrest.
Bad times about to be made worse when an invigorated North Korea, fresh from the conquest of South Korea and Japan, seizes the initiative by launching an orbital EMP attack on an unsuspecting US, so follows the Korean invasion and soon the wholesale occupation of the once great nation.
This storyline is introduced by a quite brilliant newsreel which plays at Homefront’s inception, bringing up to speed on world events, information further supplemented by newspaper pick-ups dotted around the war torn landscape.
The game proper begins in an on-rails scene reminiscent of the quite rightly legendary Half-Life Black Mesa tram sequence. We watch through the eyes of Robert Jacobs, as we’re led on to a military bus by some rather intimidating Korean military police.
Directing Jacobs’ vision to the window unveils crowds of American refugees being sorted on to various transports at gun point. A few yards later and he’s witness to even more gruesome scenes as Korean forces beat and execute their captives in scenes which draw parallels to something from the Holocaust. Surely if ever a game is going to cause the more paranoid individuals to sour against another nation this is it.
Back on the bus, things are about to get interesting as the squealing of tyres precedes Jacobs’ liberation, soon free of the bus with a gun in hand he’s running for his life with members of the US resistance, Korean troops in hot pursuit.
What follows is a fairly decent FPS which rattles along at a fair old lick, without ever really thrilling or shining in any given scenario. Take the fish in a barrel style shooting sections, in which a set number of hostiles must be picked off before the story progresses (prompting that all-important autosave) for example.
Enemy forces, even on hard difficulty, will rarely attempt to outflank, or out think the player, content instead to rely on their preternatural aim, abundance of numbers and grenades – which go off with such a force you’d better run the second the pretty useless ‘grenade naearby’ icon flips on to your HUD.
That isn’t to say they won’t overwhelm you, they will, particularly given their propensity to attack kamikaze style. To stem the tide are your posse of resistance fighters, Connor and Rianna at their fore. As the story moves apace both will utter their share of ‘oh, the humanity,’ type lines. Alas the dialogue, particularly in Connor’s case is wide of the intended mark, ‘I thought I could small Koren barbecue,’ being the extent of his sympathy at the site of burning soldiers.
The shooting and diving into cover is broken up by the usual side-missions, manning a cannon on a moving truck, utilising satellites to bombard encroaching enemies, targeting humvees for the benefit of rocket launching vehicles. Nothing you’ve not seen elsewhere, while the visuals too only detract, rarely has the Unreal Engine 3 been used to such lacklustre effect.
Multiplayer puts on a good show at least, as dedicated servers, drivable vehicles, decent balancing and a well implemented upgrade system via spending of BP (battle points) make this the equal of Battlefield, MAG, Black Ops, etc. Quite whether Homefront can garner the audience its multiplayer deserves however is another point entirely; a shame as with just a little more daring the shooter on show here could have matched the ambition of its nicely manufactured storyline.