Sunday, 3 April 2011

REVIEW: Homefront

I would hazard a guess and say that this has had a lot of money thrown into it's marketing because I swear I can't get away from a poster or advert somewhere for this recently. But is it time for it to go home?

The main focus of this game was that it's post-apocalyptic future is based on a history that's happening right now and isn't outside the realms of possibility, it's in fact a real threat. America's economy is collapsing and North Korea are starting to get more and more ballsy with their weapons. It's revolutionary storyline even mimics what is going on in Libya and the Ivory Coast but when it comes down to it, can it incite enough emotion to engage the audience? By bringing the war to people's front yard, writer John Milius who co-wrote Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn, clearly hopes to do something different with a bloated FPS genre. However, didn't we see war-torn America in Modern Warfare? So if you're going to copy something, why you would think you can do it better than the most popular franchise on Earth is beyond me. But it's worth a try I guess ...

The game opens out in familiar territory - you're pummelled into a bus and you watch the horrors of war going on outside the window. Much like that intro bit on Modern Warfare remember? Okay, I'll stop comparing - but it's hard to do. Soon you're part of the resistance trying to win back America from the hands of the Koreans one step at a time. Plot wise, I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was quite engaging but I felt like each plot point was stretched out to involve the gameplay and really, it felt like an entertaining short story rather than a fleshed out game. 'Short' being the key word here as I must have completed the game in about 4 hours, maybe even quicker. What I played was good, but it felt like old hat. The AI was actually quite impressive, no longer waiting for people to pop up, they seemed to move around and try and second guess you a bit. The gameplay was quite smooth, almost too smooth that it felt unrealistic, throwing grenades for example held no weight and if someone was far from the explosion they would be thrown off their feet the same as if it went off right by them. Controls are the same as any FPS and there's a bit of helicopter action, a bit of gunner action and all that thrown in for good measure. It ticks every box needed for an FPS - so what's the issue?

The main issue is that it feels dated. Had this game been released a couple of years ago, and made a bit longer, I would have enjoyed it but the graphics felt a little old, the gameplay was just going through the motions and it seemed heavy on plot but light on character. This would have been mainly because you're running from one mission to another and there's not much reflection being had - everyone seems so bloody caught up in everything they don't have time to just let out their feelings. It's a shame since a lot of emotional scenes occur within the film, parents being shot in front of their children, Americans fighting each other and torturing Koreans, mass graves, self-sacrifice and all sorts but yet it doesn't seem to have the gloss to keep up. Video games are unfortunately one of the few mediums where money, in theory, is very important to what makes a game good. You will literally see every dollar spent on the screen - it's not to say you can't make a simple, inexpensive game and it not be a success but these days the bar is so high that unless you've got a major studio behind you, you run the risk of being left behind.

Homefront is a game that has it all in the right places but can't deliver like Call of Duty can. It feels like it's little brother that has made a good effort but can't reach the heady heights. But then it's not that I have anything really bad to say about it, just there's nothing that stands out as being very good. Sure, fighting on normal American soil is cool, sure the action can be pretty good and the story quite engrossing but it's instantly forgettable. The multiplayer was surprisingly fun with large maps and large teams with standard necessary game modes but you couldn't help but think you'd rather be playing something else.

It was the moment I completed the game, opened my disk tray and inserted Crysis 2 when I realised how far behind the times Homefront is. Great effort guys and worth a weekend's playing, but nothing to write home about.

Rating: 6/10

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