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AusGamers Games
Homefront
Homefront

PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Kaos Studios Official Site: http://www.homefront-game.com
Publisher: THQ Classification: MA15+
Release Date:
17th March 2011
Homefront Review
Review By @ 03:40pm 18/03/11
PC
It wasn’t so long ago that EA made promises of a grittier and more realistic Medal of Honor reboot that sounded rather enticing on paper. Of course, what was pitched and what was released turned out to be two completely different things (check out my review here). So when THQ started talking about very similar things with Homefront, I allowed myself to be drawn into the belief that a dark and believable real-world first-person shooter could be achievable.

I’m a sucker for any game with a strong narrative, and Homefront has this in spades. Right from the opening cut-scene that gets you up to speed on what’s been going on in the world between now and Homefront’s 2027 setting, the storyline had me hook, line and sinker.

As you may well be aware, John Milius —- the writer responsible for films such as Apocalypse Now, Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn -— penned the script for Homefront, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Red Dawn film. America has been occupied by the North Korean People’s Army (NPA), its own military force is scattered, civilians live in refugee conditions under the constant threat of NPA aggression and the American Resistance wages a guerrilla war on the occupying force.




You take on the role of Robert Jacobs, a former pilot who has attracted the interest of both the NPA and American Resistance. Dragged from his dilapidated accommodation by none-too-friendly NPA troops, Jacobs is tossed into a bus and slowly driven through a war-torn American suburb. Civilians are being rounded up, families are separated and you’ll witness more than one cold-hearted execution before your bus trip ends. The gritty aspects of Homefront are what Kaos Studios consistently gets right throughout the course of the game.

I don’t recall ever playing a game that has left my jaw dropped for extended periods of time due to the sheer horrific nature of in-game events. Without spoiling the plot for you, Homefront does a fantastic job of exploring the darker side of human nature, the repercussions of a resistance movement in a country occupied by a brutal invading force and that fertile grey area between what we traditionally understand to be the ‘goodies versus baddies’ story. When Homefront gets it right -- which it does at many key points of the campaign -- it gets it really right with some amazing cinematic moments, resulting in genuinely engaging immersion.

But within this strength lies some of the game’s biggest problems.

Because Homefront achieves such lofty heights of game immersion, it’s a rude shock whenever you’re dragged out of it, and this happens far too often with a multitude of problems across the board. First and foremost is the game’s emphasis on realism and the features that are at odds with this. Sprinting doesn’t feel much faster than your brisk walking speed and yet it’s offered in unlimited amounts; it would have been infinitely better and more realistic to have a faster sprint mechanic with limited stamina.

The AI is atrocious; friendlies more-so than enemies. I wasn’t even 10 minutes into the game before one of my resistance liberators was standing out in the open firing a seemingly never-ending clip into the cover of an NPA soldier who, understandably, wasn’t keen to pop his head out. Friendlies often get in the way of where you’re aiming, which isn’t that much of a problem when you can’t hurt them but can shoot enemies through them; of course, this does dint the whole realism factor. Enemy AI generally suck, running at you in straight lines with occasional moments of using cover, but they were particularly deadly with grenades which they throw with pinpoint accuracy. For the record, I played through the bulk of the campaign on hard difficulty (second highest) and, with the exception of a few sections, it felt like a cakewalk.




Speaking of those few difficult sections, they were made artificially harder by a distinct feeling that the game was cheating. Cover is, apparently, sometimes a lie as you can seemingly be shot through it (even though you can’t do the same in return), while sporadic random deaths occur. One moment you’ll be taking more bullets than Ned Kelly and still surviving, and the next a single shot will take you out. These ‘cheating sections’ were also the ones that tended to use the old trick of throwing unlimited respawning enemies at you until certain objectives were completed. And sometimes this relied on you having to wait for AI teammates to get to certain positions, or you standing on the perfect spot that activates the next part of the level before being able to progress.

The extremely linear approach to level design works well for this kind of storytelling, but is hampered by invisible walls, sticky corners and ugly backdrop textures that you definitely shouldn’t zoom in on. I ran the game on full settings without any frame rate issues and enjoyed fast level loading times, but although Homefront is pretty in parts, it’s far from the best-looking game; particularly on PC.

This is countered somewhat by the solid sound design. Voice acting is believable and engaging, while firearms and explosions pack the right amount of aural punch to make you feel as though you’re in the midst of a battle. And with the exception of a few Call of Duty-esque tracks, the soundtrack fits particularly well.

The vehicular sections are very meh and feel tacked on, with the helicopter mission the worst of the bunch; flight controls are tacky and even smashing into a mountain a couple of times didn’t seem to affect my chopper. Physics and clipping fails are an all-too-common occurrence throughout the campaign, and considering we beat it in under six hours (and this could easily be halved on lower difficulty levels), this is a noticeable detraction.




In terms of its single-player component, Homefront is difficult to rate. Despite the abundance of technical issues and design decisions that tarnish immersion, the compelling narrative and effective gritty tone have to be experienced firsthand. That being said, with no strong reason to return to the campaign after it’s over (unless you want to hunt for not-so-well-hidden newspapers scattered around the game world), a short campaign length and the reality that those gobsmacking moments won’t smack gobs more than once, it’s difficult to recommend purchasing this game for single-player alone.

Then there’s the multiplayer side of things.

Having had the opportunity to test drive Homefront’s multiplayer component twice before its official launch (once on preview code and once on retail code), I was hopeful for this as a serious first-person shooter contender. It was clear that it had taken inspiration from Call of Duty and Bad Company 2, but had its own unique spin on things, too. Both pre-launch play-throughs though, were on Xbox 360, which isn’t just a bad place to try out a first-person shooter (they’re still best on PC), it was also a fairly ugly multiplayer game.

On PC, it looks a lot better, but as with my criticisms of the campaign visuals, it’s not going to win any awards; it looks just good enough for it to not be a major deterrent. In saying that, there are some distracting animations at play here. Whether it’s the none-too-smooth movements of troops while running or switching stances, or the fact that certain vehicles float over the ground, technical issues are noticeable in every round.

And that’s without even taking into account more pressing technical flaws. Put simply, the whole friends system did not work for me. I was playing online with a friend, but that lovely promise of a "Friends" tab in the server browser was rendered useless for both of us as it refused to detect when either of us was in a game. Couple this with the rather annoying tendency for the game to crash when you try to refresh the server list, and Homefront is in dire need of a patch before it’s really playable. Once connected, though -- thanks to dedicated Australian servers -- the whole experience was incredibly stable, with low pings, excellent hit registry and weapons that kill refreshingly fast.




Technically, there are two core play modes in Homefront multiplayer -- Ground Control and Team Deathmatch -- with the option to play either of these modes with the Battle Commander Feature active. The problem is that Ground Control is infinitely more popular than Team Deathmatch and, unless you want to play on an overseas server, you’ll find it difficult to get into Team Deathmatch; and I couldn’t even find a local populated Battle Commander server for either play mode at all.

The unique Battle Commander feature, which I did test out in my preview sessions, attempts to offer individual incentives while simultaneously levelling the playing field. If you’re on a kill streak, your AI Commander will give you challenges that let you reap buff rewards; alternatively, the enemy AI Commander will start assigning players to hunt you down for their own rewards. This worked really well in the preview sessions but, since there were no populated servers to test it on, I can’t comment on it for the review.

While Team Deathmatch may be self-explanatory, Ground Control is essentially the Conquest mode of Bad Company 2. While your team doesn’t start with vehicles, you will earn Battle Points (BP) by getting kills and completing objectives that can be spent on temporary upgrades such as armour, radar sweeps or rocket launchers, or hoarded and used to purchase vehicles such as Humvees, tanks and helicopters when you respawn. This works well in theory, but quickly turns a team-based game into a selfish shooter as it’s easier to lie prone in a bush and pick off enemies than it is to attack points and risk getting killed by snipers, ground vehicles or attack helicopters. Vehicles and snipers are also ridiculously overpowered.

Homefront sports a Modern Warfare-like approach to weapon unlocks, whereby you earn persistent experience (separate to Battle Points) that lets you rise through the ranks and acquire new tools. This has the unfortunate downside of rewarding players who’ve already logged in serious hours at the expense of newcomers. The more powerful sniper rifle, for instance, can kill in one shot; and considering you don’t have to lead your opponents a whole lot or take into account bullet drop, it makes sniping all too easy and far too attractive an option for earning serious experience/Battle Points. It’s not long before a side dominated by the opposing "team sniper" has to also contend with tanks and helicopters that have been bought as a result of easily earned Battle Points.




The flipside of this is that even if your team is getting dominated, you can still save your precious BP and spend it on a vehicle that gives your side some breathing space. It happened several times when I was playing, where the tide of battle would turn thanks to the timely spawning of a friendly tank or chopper. The problem with ground vehicles though, is the lack of any sort of destructible environment. This means that you’re forced to travel only where the designers have dictated a vehicle should fit, which means your tank will be stopped by a wooden fence if the gap isn’t wide enough to pass through.

Helicopters are pretty cool, but the much-touted PC-exclusive control difficulty levels -- Rookie, Veteran and Ace -- are really not that much to write home about. Ace does take some getting used to and offers increased mobility but, as with the single-player helicopter level, the way that choppers handle across the board feel way too arcadey.

All things considered, Homefront’s multiplayer is disappointing. What could have been a third contender for the attention of gamers choosing between the dichotomy of Black Ops and Bad Company 2, is instead, a compelling reason to return to one or the other. The maps are diverse (and for the most part, well designed), and the new features are interesting; but it lacks the necessary polish that attracts a loyal following, and by the time they fix the bugs they may have lost their all-important shot at player retention.

The real tragedy of Homefront is that it’s not a terrible game. While my score may suggest otherwise, the campaign really should be played for the core things it does right and the multiplayer has enough potential to reward patient players. Unfortunately, there are too many glaring flaws with the game -- both technical and in terms of design -- that drag it back from the heights that it was clearly aiming for.
WHAT WE LIKED
Fantastic narrative
Some jaw-dropping grittiness
Some epic cinematic moments
Fantastic immersion in parts
Some great multiplayer ideas...
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE
...but poorly executed
Immersion-destroying bugs
Dated graphics
Short campaign
Confused design in regards to realism
Server browser woes
MORE...
WE GAVE IT:
5.8
OUT OF 10
AusGamers
Latest Comments
Pirroh
Posted 04:24pm 18/3/11
5.8? Ouch.
Bah
Posted 04:24pm 18/3/11
I kind of had a feeling this would get a low score, it always bugs me that games get glowing previews for months leading up to the release of the game, then bam its a pile of shit.

How does ausgamers justify the previews it was giving it, did you not see this coming when looking at the game earlier, did the devs really bamboozle you, or is it just the unwritten rule of previews that you never diss a game no matter how bad it looks?
Enska
Posted 04:25pm 18/3/11
Yeah my bro picked this one up and took it back to EB this morning as it was fucking terrible.
ravn0s
Posted 04:30pm 18/3/11
from reviews ive read you should only buy if you want to play mp since sp is shit and only last 4-5hrs.
Dan
Posted 04:38pm 18/3/11
How does ausgamers justify the previews it was giving it, did you not see this coming when looking at the game earlier
Honestly, the multitude of previews we were screened were all very impressive and left us all cautiously optimistic after each showing. But of course they're always going to show you what they think are the strongest sections of the game and never tell you something like it only being 5 hours long. You also have to give the benefit of the doubt that most bugs you encounter during a preview screening are going to be rectified by launch day.
greazy
Posted 04:46pm 18/3/11
I kind of had a feeling this would get a low score, it always bugs me that games get glowing previews for months leading up to the release of the game, then bam its a pile of shit.

How does ausgamers justify the previews it was giving it, did you not see this coming when looking at the game earlier, did the devs really bamboozle you, or is it just the unwritten rule of previews that you never diss a game no matter how bad it looks?
Probably steve/trog/dan are better qualified to answer this than me but I remember reading one of the Penny Arcade guys explaining it this way: when you're previewing the game you're told that there are known bugs that will be fixed or the graphics are being improved but the version you have isn't the latest etc etc. So in other words you're went to look past a lot of the problems because the game is still in production. Also sometimes all you get to play is a well made 2 minute demo (which realistically shouldn't allow you to right a whole preview on the game).

I think it would be better if when previewing the game you assume is the finished product and you list all the problems.
Enska
Posted 04:53pm 18/3/11
That would probably mean the end of previews.
I can't see a dev wanting them to happen if that was the way previews were to be looked at.
Ickus
Posted 04:58pm 18/3/11
Bah.. I was hoping this was going to be worth play :( ... back to DA2 and eve for me.
maRtz
Posted 04:58pm 18/3/11
from reviews ive read you should only buy if you want to play mp since sp is shit and only last 4-5hrs.


make that 3hrs
Mordecai
Posted 05:06pm 18/3/11
I heard you can beat it in 2.
nachosjustice
Posted 05:50pm 18/3/11
I've also heard you can beat it in two hours, but I imagine you'd be doing quite the speed run to achieve that.

I also previewed the game (as I mentioned in the review) and was pretty optimistic based on what I'd seen (only played multi, though).
DeadlyButters
Posted 05:53pm 18/3/11
somehow i just knew that this game would be a disappointment.
Bah
Posted 05:54pm 18/3/11
That would probably mean the end of previews.
Well what use are previews if it is just going to be "journalists" paraphrasing the content in trailers which i can watch myself?

Honestly, the multitude of previews we were screened were all very impressive
Fair enough.
Enska
Posted 05:56pm 18/3/11
I wasn't for or against them, I'm just saying that they obviously wouldn't be keen on previewing a game if it was to be prematurely reviewed.
Bah
Posted 06:04pm 18/3/11
Well as it stands now they are "prematurely reviewed", it's just that the review scores are 9+.
There has to be some middle ground, maybe it's confirmation bias but it seemed like homefront was getting a huge amount of positive preview coverage on ausgamers, without anything negative at all being said.
I can accept dans explanation because i didn't see what he saw and (AG isnt plastered with homefront banners so i have no reason to doubt what he says), but then there may be a case for thinking about what they aren't showing you in their previews.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 06:12pm 18/3/11
The problem here is covering the games industry, regardless, is still relatively in the hands of deva and publishers - they have the keys to the house; they're the estate agents, so to speak, and so show us the house at times on on terms that are suitable to their end-game. When we buy it and move in, we learn the neighborhood is dangerous or noisy or full of crackwhores.

The thing is, all the positive stuff Nate wrote in his review is the stuff we saw; I also brought up concerns about the games in my previews, or pointed out that the verdict was still out on certain areas we hadn't yet seen.
Fixah
Posted 06:17pm 18/3/11
Not having read the review, I saw a couple of gameplay videos of this, and while i thought the concept of seeing America invaded is interesting, original and refreshing, the gameplay itself looked uninspiring and clunky. Oh well, maybe next time.
Dan
Posted 06:29pm 18/3/11
I can accept dans explanation because i didn't see what he saw and (AG isnt plastered with homefront banners so i have no reason to doubt what he says), but then there may be a case for thinking about what they aren't showing you in their previews.
Oh there absolutely is a case for that (thinking what they aren't showing you), but as I said, you really need to give the benefit of the doubt that what they aren't showing you is going to be up to the same standard as what they are.

If you have to speculate about something, it's only fair to the developers of the game to be cautiously positive about it and not baselessly negative just for the sake of it.

The developer's track record can also have bearing on that. If it's someone that keeps pumping out shit hot games, like Valve or blizzard, you can excercise a little less caution, or if it's something like the next Call of Duty, you can say things like: "well they still haven't told us what server model they're going to be using for the game, so if they still don't have dedicated servers again most of this praise of the gameplay will be for nought". But in the case of Kaos, they're a reasonbly unproven studio with only Frontlines (which wasn't a bad first effort) as a point of reference.

On the other hand, the Digital Extremes team (who worked exclusively on the PC aspects of the game) have proven themselves capable before and were headed by Frank DeLise of Desert Combat fame, so we had some point of reference to expect something good.

My advice for anyone reading previews is to just try and keep that in mind. That publishers are usually showing us the best parts of the game they've created so far (and fair enough), so unless they're super-duper eager, final judgement on buy or not by, should really be kept until a decent array of reviews come out.

Anyway, enough about previews. I'd genuinely like to hear about other's experiences with the game over the coming weeks. Especially in regards to the longer-term multiplayer functionality.
Eorl
Posted 06:27pm 18/3/11
So it's Duty Calls extended version?
Sanguinicus
Posted 08:08pm 18/3/11
I *HATE* being led on only to learn a game is fucking balls. Is this even worth my time now?
WetWired
Posted 08:23pm 18/3/11
wow, I didn't really pay attention to this one but I thought the premise sounded interesting and it could be a decent SP fare that I might pick up when it's a bit cheaper...but from that it sounds like SP isn't even the main focus, what a waste of time, sounds like either the SP or MP was tacked on, just do one or the other ffs, stop wasting your and our time trying to excel at both.
yamahabandit
Posted 08:31pm 18/3/11
If you like COD games buy this because it is.....CODFront.....nuff said....

If you like or play Bad Company 2 and where hoping for a diversion as I was while waiting for BF3, you'll find the single player is entertaining, but the multiplayer is just MW2/ BlackOps reskinned with some new vehicles but essentially identical gameplay.

Graphics nice.. are you serious... its just a console port pure & simple. Graphics are at best 2008 standard. Character models lack realism, weapon sounds are average. Surround sound doesnt work. Server browser is buggy, connection issues seem to be fixed as of todays patch, but after 4 hrs of multi (I keep trying it thinking I may like it) its just COD. Right down to the in-game interface & scoring screens with class choosing & weapon selection/ upgrade paths. The respawn mechanic is so lame, maps are narrow.

Im really glad this game was gifted to me & I didnt have to pay for it, because I would be raging right now.

Back to waiting for BF3.
MARLINBLADE
Posted 10:36pm 18/3/11
Even tho it's a COD "clone" i still bought it because it's "not" COD and to hell with IW i'd rather waste my money on this "clone" than have them partake in any of my hard earned... Boycott of Black ops complete... i hope they take notice now lol

Hey i actually really enjoy the MP, but man graphics are so 2005...
IVY_MiKe
Posted 10:55pm 18/3/11
Excellent Review is excellent... I only wish I'd read this BEFORE my bro generously gifted me a copy via Steam (paying full price for two copies...)

His wallet is... 'where the WAR CASUALTY is'
nachosjustice
Posted 11:01pm 18/3/11
@ yamahabandit - I don't think the graphics were that bad. Multi was noticeably blander than single player, but it wasn't overly terrible; not going to win any awards for its visuals (as I said in the review), but certainly not the worst thing I've seen.
DeadlyDav0
Posted 11:28pm 18/3/11
Well explained review IMO. Thanks.
Enska
Posted 01:04am 19/3/11
Marlinblade, Infinity Ward didn't make black ops, Treyarch did.
kirkoswald
Posted 01:49pm 19/3/11
lol a wooden fence can stop your tank...... FAIL
MARLINBLADE
Posted 07:10am 21/3/11
Enska, fair call my bad, but you get where i'm going with my comment tho... COD franchise as a whole can lick my balls till they start supporting the PC community
Running_With_Scissors
Posted 09:48am 22/3/11
I just cancelled my order
fryzeegunner
Posted 03:00pm 28/3/11
Got mine finally. It's Unplayable, the game crashes on launch of the .exe or launch through steam. Cool game bro.
Sc00bs
Posted 03:23pm 28/3/11
this feels exactly like cod :/ is that the new model for fps games these days? get a cod game and copy the fuck out of every aspect of it ....
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