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Homefront, with its gripping premise and well-orchestrated battles, is all about ambiance and emotion. This is a great starting point for a new series, and if Kaos Studios can fix some of the minor issues, Homefront could potentially topple its well-established competition.
- Highly emotional and exciting battles
- Terrific depiction of a war-torn America
- The multiplayer battle points system makes for epic competition
- The A.I. creates in-game frustration
- Multiplayer could use additional modes
- Graphics are fairly muted and quickly become bland
Free speech is arguably the most highly protected right in the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court recently upheld this right, voting in favor of the controversial Kansas-based Westboro church’s hateful picketing at soldiers’ funerals. President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush have been equated to Hitler, and folk singers like Bob Dylan have penned songs protesting both racism and McCarthyism. Americans are proud of this right and generally use it with great respect. Protection of free speech extends to the video games we play, as well. There is no doubt that Homefront’s depiction of a not-so-distant future unified-Korean invasion of the United States is enough to raise eyebrows around the world. With reports indicating that the invading force was originally supposed to be the Chinese, and further reports indicating that Japanese versions of the game were changed to essentially eliminate any mention of North Korea, it’s clear that the bulk of Homefront’s hype comes from its controversies. But as an American reviewing the game, Homefront felt like just another first-person shooter, albeit with a close-to-home story.
Homefront is as much about the Korean aggressors as it is about a global economic meltdown. The game starts in 2027. A terrific intro, cut with real-life footage of actual press conferences and fake gas price protest videos, sets the stage for a changing world. These modern-day problems eventually lead to a worldwide struggle. The game is obviously a work of fiction, but nearly all the events that happen before you actually start to play the game are feasible. In 2012, after Kim Jong-Il dies, his son Kim Jong-un takes over North Korea. The following year he unifies the Korean peninsula, leading the U.S. to withdraw troops from South Korea. General Motors declares bankruptcy (again), and gas prices skyrocket to $20 a gallon because of a war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In the years prior to the Korean People’s Army invasion of the U.S., both Canada and Mexico close their boarders to Americans. All of these events are extremely implausible, but not impossible.
This could very well start a new sub-genre in the first-person shooter market. There are plenty of games that focus on World War II or take place on distant alien planets. We even had a game centered on the Afghanistan War, but using real-life global problems to set the stage for a near-future war works wonders in Homefront. The game is not so much about the story as it is about what a war in America would look and feel like. I can’t emphasize enough that this is a work of implausible fiction, and in no moment of the game did I think these made-up events that led to the start of the game would (or could) cause such drastic problems.
Kaos Studios did a remarkable job of thrusting players headfirst into the setting. Modern fast food restaurants, landmarks, and products are used to remind players that you are fighting this war at home (if you're from the U.S.). Stale colors of burned-out buildings and pale landscape tones brilliantly represent a war-torn country, though they also makes everything look a bit dull and repetitive. Battles are largely guerrilla warfare style, fought in urban jungles or on rural farms. The game doesn’t do a great job of differentiating the contrasting settings, and while the overall ambiance is terrific, it all becomes a bit bland.
That’s not to say that the action is not exciting; in fact, the pacing is terrific. Homefront’s single-player campaign is relatively short (although it’s comparable to other first-person shooters with five to eight hours on the normal difficulty setting). Kaos Studios did a great job of making those hours intense and emotionally taxing. At one moment you’ll escape a Korean school bus transport, and the next you’ll seize a helicopter from a crazy cult of American rebels. There ... (continued on next page)