Developer: Kaos Studios
by: Jim "txshurricane" McClaughlin
This might be a presumptuous statement to make, so take it as you will: there seems to be two main groups of first-person shooter fans. On one hand are the gamers that are tired of shooting games cloning each other, and yearn for something original. On the other are the gamers that are satisfied with a game that controls well and excites the eyes and ears, if only for a brief time. Homefront dances the line between these groups.
Its single player campaign consists of about four hours of gameplay interspersed with skippable cutscenes. Pacing is just right, including three turret sequences, a stealth/sniper scene, and two appearances of the target designator, which gives orders to the AI-controlled combat vehicle “Goliath”.
The plot is as cheesy as you’d expect, but has many outstanding moments as the studio’s attention to visual detail and the excellent voice cast complement the script more than it deserves. These moments do allow enough suspension of reality to fully enjoy the atmosphere of the campaign; but they’re fragile.
Controls are tight - if not overly familiar - and graphically the game stands on its own. Detail, detail, detail seems to have been Kaos’ mantra - from the blood splatter strategically placed on a bus window in the intro to the tertiary characters that briefly appear later in the story, paying close attention will pay off in small ways. Listen for several distinct film-inspired nods, including the brilliant idea to insert the “Wilhelm scream” from time to time.
What plot cheese was left to mold is completely redeemed for me by way of “Goliath”. Easily the most interesting silent AI character since Dogmeat in Fallout 3, Goliath is a key element to your escape on more than one occasion. Goliath’s AI managed to create a slightly new scenario each time I replayed any of those segments, and it seemed to change strategy each time the enemy deployed or spawned differently. Losing Goliath will result in failure, but more importantly: you want “him” to survive.
An unsurprising ending sets the stage for the multiplayer more than for a true sequel; versus modes forgo rebels for soldiers and serves as the story’s epilogue. The controls take a minute detour here - the layout remains true to the campaign’s style, but movement speed slogs a bit. While a familiar progressive unlock system and “perks” are sure to draw sneers, Kaos went the extra mile and added the ability to load out vehicles as well, which you can purchase during battle and spawn in.
Each positive action in multiplayer grants you Battle Points, which you can spend on vehicles, any of several UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), airstrikes, and even high explosives - like an RPG launcher. Once a pre-determined number of a certain vehicle are on the map at one time, a hold is put on new spawns of that vehicle type until one is destroyed. I never felt that the maps were overcrowded, and because of the Battle Points system I never had to worry about “vehicle-stealing”, which so many other war games encounter.
Two versions of each multiplayer mode exist: the classic versions, and a Battle Commander variation of each. The Battle Commander is an AI function that creates objectives on the fly; enemy players with high scores will be quickly tagged and assigned to players on your team, throwing a wrench into the advantage differences. It makes for a more interesting battle and serves to frustrate any griefers or cheaters, as obscenely high kill counts will get you slapped with a hefty bounty.
I’ve gotten some funny looks when I’ve said, “I really like Homefront.” The honest truth is that I paid full price for it, and I really do like it. But in all fairness, it’s right up my alley - both politically and in games taste. For objectivity’s sake I’d recommend trying before buying at full retail...but since the price has dropped once already and will again, I can heartily advise picking this game up once it hits your preferred bargain price.