Monday, 28 March 2011

Gaming Reviews: Homefront

THQ/Kaos Studios
Available Now - £39.99 (PC) & £49.99 (Xbox 360 – version tested, PS3)
Review by Rob Wade

The year is 2027. The world as we know it is unraveling after fifteen years of economic meltdown and widespread global conflict over dwindling natural resources. A once proud America has fallen, her infrastructure shattered and military in disarray. Crippled by a devastating EMP strike, the USA is powerless to resist the ever expanding occupation of a savage, nuclear armed Greater Korean Republic.
Join the Resistance, stand united and fight for freedom against an overwhelming military force in Homefront's gripping single player campaign penned by John Milius (Apocalypse Now, Red Dawn). Stand alongside a cast of memorable characters as an emotional plot unfolds in this terrifyingly plausible near-future world...

And plausible it most certainly is. I would go as far as to say that Homefront delivers the best story of any first-person shooter that I have ever played, certainly in recent years without doubt. It’s especially refreshing considering Call of Duty: Black Ops and its really over the top machismo-filled US-friendly bollocks. True, Homefront is similarly patriotic of course (after all, it deals with efforts to take back the United States from a Korean occupation), but it’s not laid on anywhere near as thick as in COD.

The game presents as a first-person shooter in the same vein as its inevitable comparison game, with the occasional vehicle-based section and plays in much the same way as COD. However, most of the game is spent behind cover, as at times it is pretty challenging even on the easier difficulty settings (incidentally, I roll with “Normal” as standard, in case you think I’m the type to go for “Very Easy” straightaway), which can be frustrating at times. In this regard, there’s my first small niggle with the game: the grenade indicator in single-player doesn’t seem to give you any indication as to whether you’re near enough to a grenade to die. Half the time, I would just get ‘winded’ (that thing in games where your screen goes a bit red and you’re about to die – I can’t think of another term for it), and half the time they’d be scraping me off the tarmac. In multiplayer, by contrast, the grenade indicator glows red when you’re right next to it.

The only real complaint I really have with the single player component of the game is that it’s really *really* short, at around 5 to 7 hours of gameplay across 7 chapters. As a game package overall, it’s not so bad when weighed around the multiplayer (which I’ll get to), but if you’re a gamer who doesn’t do the whole playing online thing, then this game is pretty much a rental at best. It’s a shame as well, because the game is really strong in the single-player, with a great mix of guns and some decent melee combat. What’s nice as well is that all the guns come with some sort of scope variant, giving you a chance to see exactly which ones you like and don’t like for when you get to multiplayer.

As the multiplayer goes, I come into this one from the point of view of someone who doesn’t really do much in the way of gaming online with strangers. Sure, I’ll jump into a game of Borderlands with a friend or work colleague, or I’ll join a group of friends partying up on Halo Reach, but ultimately when I go online I otherwise have the headset in the muted position. Not so much because I don’t enjoy chatting to most people, but for the small percentage of people who either:

Shout and scream like a fucking ten year old child (compounded even further when they actually *are* a ten year old kid) or
Take it really seriously and pretentiously and start dishing out orders as if they’re fucking Rambo. Look, dickhead, you play on a TV the same as me, and I’m willing to bet that you’re better than me because you know nothing of female contact. Grow up.

Anyway, maybe it was one of those early adopter things, but I had a great time with this game online. The game is divided initially into three main modes (with other game modes and all sorts of unlocks available as you progress through the ranking system) and plays similarly to other games of the same ilk, but with a few additional modes to make it more interesting.

Team Deathmatch is your standard blast-em-up fare, with one side of up to 12 players taking the role of the KPA and one side playing the US Army. Ground Control is up to 32, and sees you vying for control of territories across the map, with points being given the longer that soldiers stay in the areas. Battle Commander, though, is the game’s strongest idea, with both capture points and targets of interest, be they players who have killed a large number of people, or simply vehicles that are causing lots of bother. It’s a really well done, dynamic mode that adds an extra layer of depth to an already solid multiplayer mode.

As I said before, the range of guns in single-player is great, and you get a decent choice of guns as you progress as well, with options for scopes and stuff like that. What makes Homefront cool is the addition of these things called Battle Points. You get a certain number for a kill (130 points to be precise), with bonus points awarded for things like revenge kills and streaks.

You can spend those in-game only (although you do gain experience points as well, which counts towards the level increases), but they can be used to purchase upgrades for your character (flak jackets and rocket launchers for example) which can only be kept until killed. That can make for some frustrating incidents, where you get killed a second after spending the points, but still. Also of note is the fact that you can spend large amounts to spawn in a vehicle instead of on foot, which is pretty nifty.
In technical standpoints, however, Homefront is a mixed bag. The levels are absolutely enormous, which is brilliant, but at the same time the game sometimes gets a little sluggish on the bigger matches. That, or 14 out of 24 players in all my games had a bad internet connection, which would be conceivable if that many people on average were with Virgin Media and all based in Brighton. Otherwise, it seems a little suss.

This one’s a genuine challenge, but here goes. If you’re into the single-player element of the game ONLY, then this game should be considered as a rental, and you can knock two points off my review score. If, however, you’re after both a single AND multiplayer experience, then you are unlikely to see many better examples done this year. Definitely worth picking up if you like both aspects.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Rough around the edges. Probably the only bit of the game that could be better, really. Aside from the campaign length.
Sound/Music: Great music, and satisfying bullet and explosion noises. Voice acting is pretty good as well, which makes a nice change.
Gameplay: First-person shooter of the highest quality gameplay-wise. Just don’t expect it to last you a long time. A little buggy, but good.
Lasting Appeal: If you don’t play multiplayer, this will not last you long, unless you’re into playing a number of difficulty levels one after the other. Otherwise, not really worth it at the RRP.
Summary: A really strong game, let down by a short single-player campaign. It’s a shame, as otherwise the game does more for me than Call of Duty ever has. On the whole, a really strong game and hopefully the beginning of a really strong franchise. 8/10


THQ on Friday announced that Homefront has already sold-through an estimated more than one million units across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific markets, on shipments of 2.4 million units to date.

In addition, according to UK Chart Track’s March 21st weekly report, Homefront’s reported first weekend sell-through ranked the game as #1 for the week, as well as the best-selling week-one new console release in 2011 in the UK.

“We are very pleased with strong worldwide shipments and sell-through for Homefront, and we continue to fulfill new retail orders for the game across the globe,” said Brian Farrell, THQ President and CEO. “Homefront is clearly resonating with gamers and we are certainly pleased with our initial sales results.”


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Complete with romance, heartbreak, martial arts, cannibalism, and an army of shambling corpses, Dreadfully Ever After brings the story of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to a thrilling conclusion.

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