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Homefront Review

danielrbischoff By:
PLAYERS 1- 32 
DEVELOPER Kaos Studios 
M Contains Blood, Strong Language, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Teaching your kids how to save has never been easier!

When I was younger, I couldn't spend my allowance fast enough. Whether it was Ninja-Armor Batman calling out to me in Target or snacks at the corner store, money burned holes in my pockets. Call of Duty's CoD Points are no different. I'm more likely to gamble that digital currency away than I am to spend it on actual weapon upgrades. That's why Homefront's Battle Points surprised me so much. THQ's shooter takes a lot of chances and multiplayer's Battle Points are just the tip of the iceberg.

click to enlargeEasily the biggest risk developer Kaos Studios took with the game was developing it in the first place. The dense first-person shooter market does not welcome newcomers. That's why a near-future plot involving a Korean invasion on American soil got penned by big-time Hollywood writer John Milius, the mind behind Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn. While the communist-war-thriller might work with him on the big screen, it's a little out of place in a video game. As dense as the plot is, it's not communicated well enough through the gameplay.

Homefront's opening sequence sets the stage for the next 15 years of possible history. When Kim Jong Il's son takes over and unites North and South Korea, the United States enters a deep economic decline. After an EMP blast destroys the infrastructure in America and the Korean Pacific Alliance invades the West Coast, America's allies abandon it. Wow, what happened America? You used to be cool.

As interesting as the whole concept sounds, Homefront has to fight pretty hard to keep the player invested throughout its very short campaign. Characters like Hopper and Rianna were invented with some level of creativity and occasionally certain issues in the world put them in awkward positions. Hopper is a Korean-born American and obviously isn't trusted by some of the born-and-bred Americans in the campaign. Rianna doesn't want to kill unnecessarily, but her morals get called into question when her loved ones are murdered in retaliation by Korean forces. Life sucks in Homefront's America.

click to enlargeWhile it is admirable to make an attempt at character development in a shooter, these segments are far too brief to be of any worth. Homefront's campaign strings the player along with exciting set pieces and plenty of gun and vehicle play, but ultimately falls flat.

Thankfully, Kaos Studios balanced their time on the campaign with plenty of multiplayer development. You could make the argument that Homefront is a Call of Duty killer. It's not that Homefront completely rips off Call of Duty or Battlefield. Instead, the game walks a fine line between the two biggest franchises in the market. The Battlefield series probably had more influence on Homefront's overall design than Call of Duty, but it's the way Homefront draws on the strengths of both games that makes a difference.

Easily the best element in Homefront is the way Battle Points (BP) empowers players of any skill level. No matter what you're doing in any given multiplayer match, you'll earn BP. Of course, dying a whole bunch won't line your pockets with cash, but you're helping someone out there earn BP. Whether you're using a radio controlled 'copter to mark targets on your team's HUD or consistently head-shotting advancing enemies, BP is easy to rack up. Then you'll have to make the decision I always struggled with as a child.

click to enlargeYou can save up your BP and spawn powerful vehicles after your next death or you can buy smaller rewards while you're running around as infantry. As a mechanic, BP deftly maneuvers around the rush to vehicles in Battlefield games and the way novice players will never earn a decent killstreak in Call of Duty.

Homefront also does away with player-hosts and the lag issues that surround those matchmaking systems. THQ is hosting dedicated servers for every version of the game. That means the largest game types over Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network reach up to 32 players. While those matches can get huge, they never feel like chaos. The largest games always focus on Ground Control which pits two teams against each other with three control points up for grabs. Once one team has held a majority for long enough, the points move and teams advance or fall back. The best of three rounds wins.

Smaller matches mix Team Death Match in with Ground Control. As lean as those choices may seem, you never really stray from those game types in shooters anyway. Other small mechanical differences make the shooting different enough to feel unique to Homefront. There's little to no recoil when firing your gun and snipers don't have to hold their breath to keep a steady aim. Homefront also takes a swipe at crafting dynamic objectives during matches as well.

click to enlargeThe Battle Commander is an AI overlord that marks enemies, vehicles, or drones that are doing exceptionally well on the entire team's HUD. If you've hit a long killstreak, a BP bounty is placed on your head and teams are made aware of your location. The same goes for vehicles and drones who have successfully marked your team. This player-centered balancing makes the top players known and challenges them while also helping weaker players team up and find some success on the field.

Taken by itself, Homefront's campaign is just plain disappointing. A promising concept ultimately falls flat in the fast-paced, "I don't have time for reading" first-person shooter genre. Once you've accomplished all of the objectives in single-player, the game just "ends". Someone obviously wanted to leave room for a sequel. That person is saved by Homefront's well-designed multiplayer. Despite a seeming lack of modes, Homefront is just as addictive as Call of Duty and as varied as Battlefield. Most importantly, you'll have fun fragging too.
B+ Revolution report card
  • Call of Duty and Battlefield made a baby
  • Battlepoints are fun to earn, save, and spend
  • Vehicles and Infantry play well
  • Campaign has great set pieces
  • ... and a great set up...
  • but it's way too short...
  • and certain story elements don't hit hard enough.

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