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There's a moment in the opening minutes of
Homefront's single-player campaign that pushed me very close to just
putting down the controller. The fact this moment comes on the heels of
brain matter being splattered on the window my character was sitting
behind, which elicited a simple "ewww!" from me, should speak
for the brutality of the situation.
It's 2027 and a unified and expanding Korea has taken over the United
States after a carefully timed EMP strike. The general population is
doing its best to scrape by under a brutal Korean occupation. And, on a
more personal scale, a kid is screaming on a street corner as his
parents are gunned
down in front of him... It's a situation the developers have pegged as
"speculative fiction" based on some "What if...?" scenarios developed
from "some friends in Washington." And it should come as no
surprise that John Milius, of Red Dawn fame, was involved in the story
Red Dawn is some speculative fiction (in movie form) in its own right;
it explores what might have happened if the Soviet Union invaded the
Homefront doesn't feel so speculative when a few of the flashpoints that kick
off the events of the game have actually happened, which is likely part
of the reason why the opening bus ride hit home for me. I'm the jumpy
The opening level, basically a tutorial, shows how people have been
trying to survive among the regular round-ups of resistance fighters
and civilians to be sent off to work camps, or worse. There are wind
turbines on every house, rain water is being collected in big tanks, and
everything seems held together with bailing wire and sheet metal. Houses
stand empty, stores derelict, gas stations sit unused, just waiting to
be blown up in a spectacular conflagration. There's a lot of story
being told in the environment, in the same way Valve managed with the
Left 4 Dead and Half-Life 2.
Some of this story telling I only picked-up during my second play
through thanks to some pretty intense firefights with the enemy. The
same can be said with the on-going dialogue between the two characters
that freed me from enemy hands. There's a distinct feeling of place and
something much larger going on. And by designing the experience along a
linear path, the developers have the opportunity to really flesh out the
The basic mechanics of actually playing Homefront feel very familiar.
It's not unkind to say to that Homefront feels a lot like Modern Warfare
2 when it comes to lining up shots and running from cover to cover to
flank an enemy target and even grabbing weapons off the ground.
There's a real feeling of pressure, even in the opening level; you are
out-manned and out-gunned. There were many times that a series of enemy
soldiers would close in for an ambush or smash through a fence with an
APC. Close to the end of the area, the enemy soldiers careen into a
neighbourhood, gun down all the unarmed civilians, then pour bullets
into the house you're holed up in. Stay in one spot too long and the
enemy can draw an easy bead on you. And they keep coming, so dodging
from spot to spot is the only solid option.
To highlight the bleak picture painted by Homefront, during a
presentation by one of the development team it was stated that "there's
no helicopter at the end of the level." There's no extraction point per
se, maybe just less horrific outcomes at the end of a given level.
At the concluding battle, a ground-based attack drone becomes available.
After some quick targeting and punishing rocket attacks, the playing
field levels off a little but then a couple of bombers fly over the
horizon and things go blam-o. It's unclear if those planes were on my
side, bombing the Korean forces or if it was the Korean air force
levelling everything in the neighbourhood just to be sure they took me
out. Either way, that marked the end of the first level.
So, yeah, no helicopter to get me the hell out of there.
The best thing I can say about Homefront is that playing the first level
got me very interested in exploring the rest of the game, even if I
expect to come across some more gut-churning moments that will make me
want to listen to ABBA for a spiritual uplift.
Homefront is scheduled to hit until March 2011, with a full complement
of multiplayer options alongside the single-player mode.