Developer: Kaos Studios
Release Date: 3/15/2011
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First-person shooters are trying to get smarter, but being the most criticized genre in the game industry is not easy. Homefront tries to deter this but delivering a sickeningly surreal atmosphere never really delivered in an FPS before. The writer of Red Dawn creates a too-close-for-comfort storyline where North Korea tries to take over the world in 2027. The beginning cut scene set this up in a scary way with live-action footage (both real and made up) of how North Korea allied with the south, and then made friends with our enemies. They used an EMP satellite to knock out our defenses and that’s where the game begins.
You play as Robert Jacobs in Montrose, Colorado. You start out in a wrecked home and the Norks (as they’re called in the game) take you as a prisoner and stick you in a bus. As you’re driving down the road you see the horrors that the Koreans are doing. This is where it really starts to hit home because this is America and the game is so detailed that it looks like it, and not just some bland everyday country. You see people getting lined up and shot, and this is the part where you really feel the atmosphere. A child has to watch as his mother and father are executed. They tell him to look away and it’s OK and then you hear blood-curdling screams from the child as the Koreans walk away. It’s heart-wrenching and it’s like this throughout most of the game.
Yes, I said most of the game. After you get halfway through it kind of forgets it’s atmosphere (mainly when you get to San Francisco for the main fight), but the first half really gets to you. I’ve never hated an enemy more in a shooter than in Homefront, and thanks to the detailed world you feel like you are a nobody trying to fight something you can’t beat. That’s also another great part of Homefront it takes you along and makes you feel like you accomplished something only to tear you down and make you feel helpless again. Other than the incredible atmosphere it’s a standard shooter for sure.
You have standard military weapons, but they feel good to shoot and have a good punch and weight to them. There are a lot of them and you have to use them in a strategic way and use them where they best fit. I love shooters that do this so it doesn’t just feel like a rail shooter. The AI is also good at hiding and trying to draw you out of cover with grenades so there’s quite a challenge here. Thanks to constantly changing environments and a mix-up of vehicle shooting you never feel bored.
Some sections have you shooting from a mounted machine gun on a vehicle, some have you controlling a Humvee type vehicle, and towards the end of the game, you get to fly a kick ass helicopter than you can fully control. There are some stealth sections, but they feel dated because you just follow the NPCs around scripted paths so you can’t really get caught, but they are tense thanks to the atmosphere of the game. There are some sniper sections as well, but overall, it all gets super intense and the climax is grand thanks to the huge battle on the Golden Gate bridge at the end.
And then it ends just like that. Obviously, it’s open for a sequel but I hate abrupt endings and the campaign is fairly short with only about 4-6 hours to the finish. Homefront could have added some new elements to the genre, but there’s nothing exciting here gameplay wise and it loses steam towards the end. The game looks fantastic even though it uses the Unreal 3 Engine, but the game is highly detailed and that’s what sells it. The multiplayer is a standard affair but isn’t nearly as exciting as the single player, so after awhile you just move on. For people into atmospheric shooters, Homefront sets the bar, but only for a while.