Xbox 360
3 stars
Amazon
32.03
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
3 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
3 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
3.5 Stars
Replay Factor
3.5 Stars

Homefront

Street Date:
March 15th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Chad Goodmurphy
Review Date:1
October 4th, 2011
Game Release Year:
2011
Platform:
Xbox 360
Publisher:
THQ
Developer:
Kaos Studios
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)

Introduction

In the year 2027, the United States of America is faced with an invasive threat. The Greater Korean Republic and its armed forces have taken control of the once productive country, after some years of hardship due to economic downturn. Major cities have fallen to the occupying forces, with no hope in sight other than small bands of civilian resistance fighters: yourself included. There’s a chance to make a difference if you’re up to the task. Fight for your country and hopefully it’ll return to its former glory. Best of all; you have the chance to be free!

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Such is the premise of Homefront – a first-person shooter from developer Kaos Studios and publisher THQ. A game that brings the bullet-ridden battlegrounds to American soil, with tons of shock value and grisly imagery included. Its plot is written by Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn writer, John Milius, who isn’t afraid of creating fear with the use of oppression and violence. Thinking about the game’s events occurring in real life is hard to imagine, evoking feelings of fear and worry.

Gamers play the role of a former pilot named Jacobs, who is one of the lucky ones. Shortly after being kidnapped from his crummy apartment in Montrose, Colorado, he’s transported to a concentration camp via a school bus. The world around him is coming to its knees, as a new regime is in control with no sympathy, empathy or moral fiber. It’s looking like he’ll join the ranks of doomed and destitute American civilians who have possibly lived through the last free day of their lives. That is until a few survivors strategically crash into his transport bus in an attempt at a daring rescue.

Upon surviving the crash, Jacobs is quickly enlisted into the resistance’s ranks, tasked with aiding in their attempt at restoring America The Free. The first step being what the game’s campaign objective is focused on: helping his new allies capture and safely transport a convoy of fuel trucks. They’re needed in San Francisco, where they could be the difference in an attempted movement to re-take the city and its valuable Golden Gate Bridge.

Despite featuring a scary and interesting premise full of shock value, Homefront is a pretty generic shooter. It’s complex enough to entertain those who love the genre, but happens to be nothing new or unique in terms of game mechanics, elements or structure. Not to mention the fact that it’s brutally brief, lasting only three to four hours on lower difficulties. Playing on hard adds quite a bit of time to the experience, however, as its can be quite challenging.

The aforementioned campaign is spread out over seven separate missions, which include traditional gunplay, sneaking around and some helicopter piloting (the main reason why Jacobs was rescued in the first place). There is a good amount of variety within, but none of the levels, objectives or set pieces happens to be particularly memorable or exceptional. Homefront never really steps outside of its comfort zone and ends up playing a lot like all of its competitors. You run, shoot, use cover to heal and then shoot some more. Or, you fly a helicopter and rain explosions and bullets down from above.

In addition to being brief and generic, Homefront is also quite frustrating – especially on its toughest difficulty level. For some unknown reason, some enemies can shoot you through cover and, with every single one of them blessed with near-perfect aim. While playing on a difficulty, which is curt on its health allotment and damage allowance, that issue makes things very difficult. Plus, there are a lot of other glitches that unfortunately mar the experience. Most of the problems were exclusive to the cheap guerilla difficulty option and did not present themselves on easy.

Expanding its storyline are quite a few hidden newspapers, which tell a story dating back quite a few years. They’re spread all over the game world and can be challenging to find. It’s great that the development team decided to expand their fiction in this route, but it’s confusing as to why they chose to randomize them. Current and older newspaper clippings are discoverable in a fashion that is less than coherent, making it hard to follow the backstory when the papers aren’t in chronological order.

The one thing that will annoy some gamers more than anything is the fact that Jacobs is always lead through environments, told what he should be doing and where he should be located. It’s fine to give the player some hints to aid them, but there’s no need for constant complaining from allies who rush ahead and wait. The collectibles are included for a reason and it’s no fun looking for them when you’re constantly being bickered at to hurry up and move through a gate or doorway into the map’s next area.

Those considering a purchase of Homefront should not do so for its campaign. Your money would be better spent elsewhere. The only reason to consider spending your hard earned cash to add this title to your collection is its multiplayer. This competitive and global component is actually pretty decent, allowing for some interesting and relatively addicting large-scale warfare. Though there are obvious elements that were borrowed from other titles, such as Battlefield and Kaos’ past outing, Frontlines: Fuel of War – an underappreciated title.

Battles take place on large-scale maps, which allow for safe and properly calculated respawn points. To prevent yourself from having to revisit the reanimation department, it’s important to be smart about what you do and where you go. It’s possible to play Homefront like a run and gun shooter, but it’s more than that, employing a lot of strategy. A lot of that ties into its battle points system, which allows each individual team member to spend their experience points on new weapons, vehicles or armor as a reward.

In addition to a typical team deathmatch mode, Homefront also contains a second multiplayer game type known as ground commander. This mode is very similar to the location capturing mechanics that the Battlefield series is well known for. Teams battle it out to be the ones who earn the most points, gained for time spent holding two of the three random objective points. It’s fun and engaging, despite being formulaic, and sticks out for the fact that there are no loading screens between its three rounds.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

As one would expect given its America in crisis premise, Homefront is a realistic shooter, which employs an art style that tries to convey that tone. Other than some science fiction (or futuristic, if you will) elements, it looks a lot like the everyday locations its storyline visits. Closed in areas such as a box store are mixed with large, open locations, which allow for a decent amount of exploration. Though, the game’s largest mission map is limited in its travels because players are led on a stealth-based path from point A to point B.

It would be fair to say that Homefront is a good-looking game, though it’s impossible to say that it looks great. There are too many inconsistencies and a few flaws that take away from the visual presentation side of this project. Many elements look better from afar than they do in close-up range, with some even disappearing into oblivion when the player’s viewpoint comes close. The texture work and character model designs are both pretty good, though there are some issues with the former, with some edge textures occasionally reducing themselves to beads of Christmas light blue.

Adding newspapers into the equation is a smart way to help expand the story. However, their design and legible mechanics take players out of the experience they’re meant to illuminate. This is done in two ways: the first being that the glowing pieces of paper reduce the amount of realism found in its presentation. The other problem is how selecting one takes the screen from relative realism and high-definition output, to a black screen with ugly white text. Surely there could have been a better way to pull that off.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Sound is one of the more prominent and impressive aspects of Homefront. The strongest element in this department is the game’s eerie original score, which makes good use of haunting piano work. Its selected musical pieces really fit the game well, adding emphasis to its highs and lows. Not only is its sound quality quite good, but the score really hit a chord with me as I watched some ugly scenes unfold on American soil.

Homefront has a lot of weapons up its sleeve, including tons of vehicular deathtraps. Its sound effects represent this variety well, with a good amount of oomph and realistic flair. Explosions, bullets and motorized contraptions all combine to create a pretty impressive effects soundtrack that sounds pretty good with the volume turned up. Though, unlike the title’s score, its sound effects are not memorable or anything new. It sounds like what it is: a wartime first-person shooter. Though, that is pulled off pretty well.

The voice cast also does a pretty good job of conveying the extreme amounts of panic, emotion and rage that would realistically be inside of their characters. Due to this, Homefront’s voiceover work is a bit better than what we find in the average first-person shooter. It’s nice to hear because the game’s relatively well-written script is used properly with a pretty good cast of voices.

Replay Factor

The single player campaign is unfortunately too generic and brief to really incite any interest in a second run through. Only those who love achievements and trophies will feel the need to go back through, in order to unlock the ones they’ve missed. The bread and butter of this game is not found in its solo offerings. Multiplayer is where that lies, delivering an experience that will keep you coming back for quite a while.

Final Thoughts

Kaos Studios strived to create a unique, shocking and engrossing experience with Homefront’s campaign. However, their goal was only partially met. The final product is too generic and is unfortunately affected by far too many bugs. Spending your hard earned money on this release just for single player content, isn't a good idea. It's too bad, considering how great its created premise is.

Thankfully, Homefront's multiplayer steps up and carries the quality torch, though it isn’t as inspired or as different as it could have been. Those who really enjoy online warfare should give this one a shot, although its design is not for everyone. There's an emphasis on using in-game experience point currency to better yourself, and more of a team focus than you'll find in Call of Duty. In the end, it really depends on whether you like that type of multiplayer. Very competitive gamers, who thrive with more of a team focus, should enjoy themselves.

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Versus

Motion Controls

  • No

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Amazon
32.03
In Stock. Buy Now»