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Review: Homefront – home is where the fun is?

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on March 27, 2011

Game: Homefront

Platform: XBox 360
Publisher: THQ, 2011
Developer: Kaos Studios
ESRB: M
Genre: FPS
Setting: speculative fiction
Players: 1/32 (offline / online)


Introduction

When I consider all the games that will be published this year and especially the shooter games, then actually 2011 is a great time for fans of the Xbox 360 and for all those who still look for their holy grail of shooters. I know, because that’s my personal quest this year (to use a bit of RPG language). So many big names and so many not-so-big-names are competing for the shooter crown this year that I think the chance to find this sort of a holy grail in the genre can’t get any better. I mean, there has to be one or more real hit when you read the 2011 titles like Gears of War 3, Bulletstorm, Brink, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Section 8: Prejudice, Earth Defense Force: Armageddon, Battlefield 3, Call of Duty Black Ops, Crysis 2, Halo: Reach, Medal of Honor, Warhammer 40K: Space Marine and many many more.I don’t know why 2011 is such a shooter-heavy year, but it is – and I like it.

The US under Korean occupation

So, as an Xbox 360 guy, I am prepared to play some great games this year and as a wargamer, shooters are part of my hobby and I was – and still am – really looking forward to playing some hopefully good or even outstanding shooter games.

I played CoD: Black Ops, which was extremely disappointing as a single player experience (I loved the SP campaigns of MW 1 and MW 2, but Treyarch simply can’t create convincing campaigns, the campaign in World at War wasn’t that much fun, either. This time, though, they just packed in as many enemies as possible, in as tight corridors as possible, turned off the AI completely and said ‘go, shoot everything that moves or that just stands dumb around and have… ehh… ‘fun’), but which is probably the best CoD multiplayer so far. It’s interesting that a game can be as shitty and as great all at the same time, but unfortunately if you are not an online gaming competition guy, you don’t get much for your money. Anyway, this is not about BLOPS, but the SP/MP dichotomy reminds me a bit of Homefront.

I also played Bulletstorm, which is a great game, in the SP campaign and the MP coop mode, it’s completely over the top in what it does, and it does it all damn well. It’s extremely fun to play, it’s that simple. But BS is not a game I play as a wargamer and so I was still waiting for a game that would give me a certain military setting and a bit more sim-like combat than the usual military arcade shooter fun. And so things got interesting when I first heard about Homefront.

Homefront is a game done by the folks who did Frontlines: Fuel of War, which I did not play (except for the demo). I don’t remember why that game wasn’t on my to-play-list, but when it returned to my radar, noone was playing it anymore, so it was pointless to start playing it online. That’s a general problem with online shooters (except for the really big names in the field) – if you come too late to the party, everybody else has already moved on to the next battlefield and the online area is a wasteland.

The Homefront launch was supported by a big public relations campaign or one might say propaganda machine. Ads everywhere, Microsoft made a special deal with THQ that DLC will come out for the 360 first, the developers hyped their own game over the top at any given opprtunity, they got more than one nomination and you got the impression it’s the best thing you could play on any system, new features, new setting, ‘we will make everything better than everybody else’, ‘we can compete with the Big Ones’, ‘yes, we CAN beat CoD‘, a game that will get you really into emotion and so on. They sounded really convincing and from what I could watch (all the trailers and interviews and movies and stuff) and read, everything looked actually damn fine. They had experience with online shooters as well and said they will bring 32 player together which is a rare thing on consoles (Frontlines even had 50 something on the Xbox 360) and that convinced me to preorder it. I also read the novel (which is quite enjoyable) and watched the movie Red Dawn (which is downright trash and not enjoyable), so I was prepared with a background story and ready for a great game and excited when the game eventually arrived from the UK.

This is just to tell you that I wanted to like this game, I really wanted to like it and I was open for what the developers would show me as a new emotional, immersive shooter experience. They said they wanted to establish their own universe, their own big shooter franchise with Homefront and there were even early talks about sequels and all, so after reading the novel I was prepared to be part of the Resistance and get it going… and so I put the game into my console and started the campaign. Here’s what I found in this great new shooter, fasten your seatbelt, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is going to be a helluva rough ride and a crash landing, enjoy your drinks while you can.

Story or what’s all the hype about?

Well, you may call it story or plot or whatever you like, but so far it’s a matter of fact that shooters seldom introduce you to stellar storytelling. Usually you get some short hints why you are the one killing everybody in sight over the next hours and that you have to do it, either because you are a cool guy, or you belong to a band of cool guys, or at least some cool guy has to be rescued by you, stuff like that. You listen to it, you read it, while thinking ‘jeez, stop it already and let’s go on with it, I have been playing these games for years now, it’s just shoot and don’t get shot, so let’s do this.’

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