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Platform

Playstation 3

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

THQ

 

Developer

Kaos Studios

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

March 15, 2011

 

 

- A few interesting set pieces
- Detailed timeline and history
- Decent multiplayer

 

 

- Inept, unlikeable AI
- Low-grade graphics
- Frustrating difficulty, tenacious enemies

 

 

Review: Homefront (360)

Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops (PS3)

Review: Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty (PS3)

 

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Homefront

Score: 4.5 / 10

 

homefront          homefront

 

In a previous review, I wrote about a time when mascot games flooded the gaming market, with every publisher that took sides in the great Nintendo/Sega war of the early 90’s scrambling to out-mascot one another and cater to the current media gimmick.

Though technology has improved and competitors have changed, the mascot gimmick still remains today, only this time instead of cuddly animals collecting

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- Playstation 3 Game Reviews

- Shooter Game Reviews

- Games Published by THQ

treasure, it’s faceless soldiers massacring a capital’s worth of enemies. We now live in an era where First Person Shooters dominate the gaming market, with each and every publisher trying to outdo one another while still sticking close to their guns (pun not intended) on what is socially accepted as a quality FPS game. In short, everyone is trying to be like Call of Duty while also trying to overthrow it.
 

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This is why, for a time, Homefront inspired hope among gamers hoping for a new FPS that broke from the norm; the ad campaigns that showcased the aesthetics of America being invaded by North Korea followed by the name-dropping of famed writer/director John Milius certainly garnered some attention, but it also set everyone’s hopes high. To that end, publisher THQ may have succeeded in drawing in attention for Homefront but perhaps they should have spent more of that ad money on polishing the actual game.

Homefront opens up with a timeline movie showcasing the rise of North Korea’s army into a regime powerful enough to overthrow most of America. It’s a plausible enough scenario (as long as you’re thinking in Hollywood logic), but it’s hard to become invested in the footage when you have a giant “Press X To Skip” message plastered on the middle of the screen with no way to remove it. It’s a sign of things to come.

The actual game takes place in the year 2027 in Colorado, which has been entirely occupied by the Korean People’s Army. Players assume the role of Robert Jacobs, a former Marine pilot who is saved from imprisonment by the American Resistance, a small group of rebels who require Jacobs’ piloting skills to deliver fuel to their cohorts in San Francisco to aid in the war to take back America from the “Norks."

If you’ve heard the meme “Ramirez, do everything!” in regards to Modern Warfare 2, you’ll receive numerous flashbacks while Jacobs is constantly ordered to take out a platoon of enemies, blow up a tank, control a modified dune buggy, and take out enemy snipers…and that’s just the first few levels. While the game would admittedly be boring if you were just another grunt, you quickly start to feel like the only soldier pulling his weight, especially when every enemy has his sights squarely at you, often ignoring your AI companions completely.

 

homefront          homefront


The AI companions are especially useless and often hinder you more than help by blocking your shots or inadvertently nudging you out of cover. It also doesn’t help that they never stop barking orders at you, even while you’re in the process of doing them, as well as the fact that nearly all of them are incredibly unlikeable from a story perspective (group leader Connor tells a frightened woman to keep her infant baby quiet in the middle of a firefight).

When the NPCs aren’t beating you over the head with it, the imagery of Homefront does have its moments; imagery meant to “anger” American citizens are played out throughout the game, such as a football field serving as a ditch for executed citizens, or a small child crying frantically as both of his parents are shot in the middle of the street. The most inspired campaign involves attacking a shopping center serving as a Korean base with white phosphorus, the resulting carnage of burnt soldiers horrifying your AI companions while also stating its necessity in the war.

These moments would have a more profound impact of the visuals weren’t so low-grade; while it’s been argued several times that graphics don’t matter, in a game that has dedicated its ad-space to depicting a modern-day setting overrun by modern-day fears, it most certainly does. There is an ugliness that’s prevalent in the game, and it has nothing to do with the dilapidated buildings or corpses. Textures constantly pop out, dead enemies turn into wacky waving inflatable tube men, and characters are constantly clashing with every background they’re standing on like a bad blue-screen movie. There are a few decent set pieces, particularly the final battle atop the Golden Gate Bridge, but then you also have shootouts occurring in blatantly sponsored locales; you lose a bit of dramatic effect when Connor yells at you to eliminate the enemies stationed inside a Hooters.

The gameplay itself follows the same model of every FPS released in the last decade, particularly a certain billion-dollar franchise owned by Activision. You’ll breach a door down in slow motion, you’ll man an attack helicopter while tracking enemies with night vision, you’ll take out tanks with an RPG…the list of plagiarized gameplay elements is shameless, but it also works for the most part. The real issue is the stuff that’s missing, especially the inability to toss back grenades thrown by your feet (it doesn’t help that the Norks also have perfect accuracy, no matter where you’re hiding), or a much weaker health bar. Perhaps it’s adding a touch of realism that your character can’t take many hits, but with every single enemy gunning after you, often from places you wouldn’t think to look, the frustration factor far exceeds the hardcore factor.

If there’s one saving grace in Homefront, it’s the multiplayer mode. Once again taking a page from Call of Duty with its use of killstreaks and weapon upgrades upon ranking up, and taking a page from Battlefield with its inclusion of controllable tanks and vehicles. Unfortunately, as of this writing, any community that had a passing interest in the multiplayer seems to be steadily dwindling and may ultimately move back to more popular games.

Homefront is an ambitious title with a solid idea, but lacked the courage to distance itself from the (media established) king of First Person Shooters. Had Kaos Studios instead focused on telling its tale of an oppressed America, focusing on aesthetics and solitude as seen in titles like Metro 2033 (a solid, often overlooked game ironically from the same publisher), it may have earned a place among the overstuffed FPS market. Instead, it is doomed to fall into obscurity while Activision’s cash cow continues to keep its dominance in history.

 

- Jorge Fernandez

(March 30, 2011)

 

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