The time has finally come. My chance to play my second most anticipated first-person shooter of 2011! No offence intended to THQ, but Duke Nukem Forever had to take the cake. Although when you’re as FPS nuts as I am I really have to say second place is a stunning accomplishment. Homefront comes out later this month, March 18th to be precise, but I got to have a hands-on first impression early with a full retail copy in London – and it was quite an experience.

For those who haven’t been following Homefront, and for shame on you for not doing so, the plot involves a futuristic setting of the year 2027 where North Korea have invaded the United States of America. The idea being that it mirrors not only the current rising of North Korea (the game even sneakily drops a reference that their leader is Kim Jong-un) but also the economic crisis that’s plaguing the US of A. The plot, weirdly for a first person shooter, was what brought my attention to Homefront in the beginning. It sounds like an excellent premise for a game worthy of a full length novel, which combined with a damn fine marketing campaign had me chomping at the bit to get my hands on it.

The best part, which I didn’t realise until I overheard the guy sitting next to me mention at the event, is that it turns out that the plot and script of the game was written by John Milius – the same man who wrote such epic movies as Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn! You know what this means? It means for the second time this week I get to deliver my favourite war cry of all time – WOLVERINES!

Like a moth to a flame…

With a free beer at my side (thanks again, THQ), and controller in hand, it was finally time to play this beauty. We were all invited there to get our hands on the multiplayer, however, luckily for me we were all running off the full retail version of the game so I leapt at the opportunity to play some of the single player campaign. I had two hours there so I figured that breaking it evenly with a 50/50 split of time would be the most professional thing to do in that situation – cough. HOWEVER, these are only first impressions. I want to stress that because: a) I hate having to judge a game based on only one hour of gameplay on each mode, and b) Because the full official review of the game is coming here on Ready Up on March 18th! Be sure to check out my full, complete and comprehensive review then (which shall not be swayed by free alcohol!).

The campaign started off quite well with a long set piece which consisted of you waking up bleary-eyed and having your door kicked in and being abducted for being a royal pain in the arse of the Koreans in events which apparently took place before the game began. You’re thrown onto a beaten and battered jail bus and given a friendly tour of the local streets which are filed with citizens being assaulted, arrested and shot in all directions. It was quite a long introduction sequence but for me quite effective. Too many games try and start off with a massive bang to try and slap you awake before you are even given a chance to press a button so it was nice to find a game which had a little bit of patience and pacing woven into the beginning of it.

Of course, naturally, you find yourself freed from your captive special coach and re-join your rebel friends to help fight off the invasion and the gameplay actually kicks off. From the escape onwards, though, it slowed down a bit for me, I’m pretty certain I watched more doors get kicked down than I shot enemies, most of the exposition had to be tied in using your AI comrades’ voices as you progressed through the first couple of encounters.

It wasn’t a bad way to deliver plot and back-story; in fact I much prefered it to a bland and uninteresting cutscene where I can do nothing. It just really angered me when I reached what felt like the twentieth unkickable door which I had to stop and wait at. You see, the AI needed to tell you some of the (rather well written) information to really give the game some scope and depth, but when I’m stuck helplessly jumping at a door waiting for them to finish talking twenty metres behind me only so they can then come and kick it down for me, I can’t help but feel that there is something slightly wrong with the design choices. It eased up after the first 30 minutes or so, and hopefully doesn’t return later on, but it was mildly jarring to have such great writing put across with such annoying methods.

Other than that gripe, though, the campaign was pretty spot on. The plot, or at least the first hour of it, had me gripped and the graphics and game physics were fantastic. Grenades were a tad tricky to get the hang of – I was still stuck in Black Ops mode – but once you’ve blown yourself up enough times from a deflected grenade which you just bounced off a window pane it makes it all the more rewarding when you master the technique. There are some terrific plot points, which I’m not allowed to discuss in detail yet, and overall the campaign looks to be delivering everything a FPS fan could want for a single player experience. Plus, the writer… is just… WOLVERINES!

HOWEVER, both time and word count is beginning to run short so I believe it’s time for me to convert my multiplayer experience into words. To start off, a lot of people on the internet – who likely haven’t played Homefront yet – have been accusing it of being a Call of Duty rip-off in every sense. This is FALSE. Yes of course they’ve taken some influences from Call of Duty, after watching Activision bathing in their own money while using a $100 bill to use as a post-it on the fridge to remind themselves to buy milk, but who can blame them? The important thing is that they’ve used Call of Duty’s successes to enhance their own. Vehicles are better implemented than Call of Duty 3, the ranking system is much more level than Modern Warfare, and some of the ‘killstreak’ rewards are far more fun than the ones in Black Ops!

I don’t see this as a Call of Duty killer; I’d have to be an idiot to make such a claim, but it definitely brings enough to the table to happily coincide with it. As I said above, the vehicles are brilliant fun in Homefront’s multiplayer and the best part is that if you choose to spend your ‘XP’ points on them – you appear straight into them upon spawning. No tank-jacking, no faffing around trying to beat your team-mate to the punch, you’re just in it and ready to kick some enemy ass! Plus, the RPG’s are far less of a hazard for vehicles than they are in Black Ops – I was actually able to remain in my hard and painfully earned helicopter for more than 0.5 of a nanosecond!

The killstreaks were where I found some serious love for the multiplayer, though. Yes, yes, we all know that Call of Duty did it first – Homefront is well aware of this, so they seemed to try and go for slightly more ballsy fun with the whole idea! Airstrikes, Hellfire Missiles, and my personal favourite, the RC TANK were far more enjoyable and satisfying to fire off into the enemy strongholds than I had expected. I mean, imagine this: The RC Car from Black Ops… only a tank, and instead of blowing up, it has a mini-machine gun attached and it keeps going until you’re destroyed or you run out of battery – it’s borderline genius I tell you!

It was a really magnificent experience. I was shocked. I did not expect to get as hooked on it as I did. They almost had to physically remove me from my seat so that some guy from ‘Zoo’ could have his shot at doing nowhere near as well as me at multiplayer. I think my biggest reason for the surprise was that before heading into the game I was expecting a bog standard multiplayer but with an excellent singleplayer narrative and I ended up having my cake as well as eating it. Not to mention that…

ARGH! I want to say so much more about this but I’m afraid I must shut my mouth and retract my fingers because I am not permitted to say or type anymore until the review. I’m afraid my time here is now up, my friends. I tried to fight on your behalf but I am but a mere man and they are our mighty awesome game producing overlords and I must obey. However, should you still be on the fence or want to full run down then tune in (what is it when you refer to a website? Refresh? Load?) to Ready Up on March 18th at midnight for the full unedited, un-embargoed, 100% complete run down of THQ’s epic Homefront.







One response to “Homefront”

  1. gume avatar

    Great post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Many thanks!

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