Homefront review (Xbox 360)

coolbeans | 1003d ago | User review
Reviewing: Homefront
Home is Where the War is.
It should come as no surprise to see another publisher pushing to create the next must-have FPS, set pieces and all. Where THQ and developer Kaos Studios promise a new FPS experience is in the premise and critically-acclaimed writing talent behind the scenes. Even for the most seasoned FPS veterans, the idea of a fictional future where Korea invades, and then later cripples the USA is certainly one to peak the interests of many gamers. With their only previous game being Frontline: Fuels of War, many are right to question whether or not Kaos Studios is up to the task of dethroning-or even standing shoulder to shoulder-with other near-future military shooters.

In the beginning of the year 2012, Kim Jong-Il dies. About a year after that, Kim Jong-un, the new leader of North Korea and Kim Jong-Il's son, unifies North and South Korea to create the Greater Korean Republic (GKR). As the GKR grow stronger year after years-thanks to an annexing frenzy across Eastern Asia, the US grows weaker and weaker-thanks in large part to economic recession and a gallon of gas costing twenty dollars. The events eventually lead to the GKR launching a satellite with EMP capabilities that cripples the US' electronic grid. Upon successfully making landfall on the West Coast, the GKR soon overwhelms US forces, leaving the entire nation to either bow down to the wishes of their attacker or join the resistance. As Robert Jacobs, you take on the role of an ex-helicopter pilot who's been freed by the resistance to join the fight.

While a great suspension of disbelief is required to stick with the story, credit is to be given in running with this premise so fervently. Throughout the majority of your journey in a Colorado suburban area, you're instantly greeted by both the clashing ideals of US citizens and bleak oppression cast by the Korean occupiers. Moments such as a tense bus scene show that Homefront's aim isn't towards having the next moment be of Michael Bay caliber, but instead have more intense moments revolve around the brutality of war. Supplementing those moments with a fleshed out timeline of scattered newspapers throughout the game show the true attention to detail in making this experience feel as believable as possible. The two main drawbacks towards the overall story would be the scant length of the entire campaign and the bland dialogue. It seems John Mulius, screenwriter for the likes 'Hunt for Red October' and 'Red Dawn', didn't need to go far outside his comfort zone in writing what is essentially a story that can be completed in a faster time than watching 'Red October' on TV.

Homefront's visual design in creating a near-dystopian America is driven home quite often throughout the game. Resistance fighters crawling through abandoned White Castles and jumping over toppled Full Throttle vending machines adds volumes to the narrative and concept. While the artistic aims at making a grimy America are appreciated, it's tough not to notice that everything looks dated. Ranging from explosive effects to character models, the game isn't up there with the rest of the shooter crowd. To make the situation even worse, expect to be greeted with constant texture pop-in and latency issues.

Unfortunately, Homefront's core audio elements almost fall as flat as its visual design. While the technical sides revolving around gun sounds, explosions, etc. are great, aspects such as the soundtrack and voice acting take away from that immersive effect. There's also a profusion of audio anomalies to encounter throughout the campaign. After going back to play the campaign twice, I constantly needed to perk my ears during certain conversations because your squad's voices would sometimes drop to inaudible levels. In the end, it would come as no surprise to see Homefront receive a few nominations in audio design were it not for falling short in everything else that isn't action oriented.

Despite the promises of guerrilla warfare like Half Life 2, Homefront's action rarely deviates from the expected formula. When it does, it can actually feel like you're the better equipped team. This double-edged sword works as a disadvantage to the immersive effect but an advantage to the overall fun factor. The formulaic approach to shooting everyone against you varies with a few emotional scenes, stealth sections, and taking the command of the 'Goliath'. This remote-controlled APC is essentially a six-wheeled, agile rocket launcher on wheels. Throughout certain portions of the campaign, Jacobs commands Goliath to destroy enemy armor while the team head towards their next objective. Although these sections can offer what little eye candy the game has, the immersion level is hindered just by the fact that it's nearly impenetrable yet the 'peasant' resistance fighters seem to have the only one in stock. While the secret weapon trope isn't in itself a problem, it's just a unequivocal reminder that even the gameplay variants are simply aiming and shooting.

The aimed approach of guerrilla warfare does pay off well when you have a gun in your hand. The controls, although typical, feel as responsive as you'd expect. Past the controls comes a litany of anomalies that come as a disservice to the gameplay. Questionable design choices like health that regenerates almost instantly (even on hard), friendly AI incongruities, zero recoil effect and a terrible amount of hand holding drag the gameplay down to being uninspired and unpolished. Overall, Homefront's gameplay isn't necessarily bad, just whole fully mediocre after the good and bad have been weighed.

Despite taking a back seat in the promotional push for Homefront, the online fares incredibly well for its nuanced ‘killstreak’ formula and huge maps. Homefront's MP modes range from 24 player counts on Team Deathmatch and 32 on Ground Control, both offering Battle Commander variants (to be explained more in detail). While there's not many modes to choose from, the inclusion of vehicles: humvees, tanks, and helicopters, encourage experimentation in both combat and passive abilities that are found in the armory.

The two nuanced features to the online mode are titled 'Battle Points' and 'Battle Commander'. Battle points are an in-match currency (resets after each match) that allows a player to purchase weapons, gear and vehicles for a certain amount. Players earn points by taking objectives, getting kills, or getting assists and are forced to choose between many small purchases such as weapons versus larger, higher cost items like helicopters and tanks. Battle Commander a mode variant that essentially places bounties on opposing players that are getting impressive killstreaks. The more kills that opposing player gets, the higher the bounty is set. With each star comes more players from the opposing team offered the bounty, until 5 stars (maximum level) offers the bounty to everyone on the friendly team. Overall, these two wrinkles offer an FPS experience that feels rewarding and different enough to warrant this game to be the new home for some FPS fans.

Homefront is reminiscent of the beginning of 'A Tale of Two Cities': It has some of the best of offerings for online gamers (for 2011), and the worst of offerings in FPS campaigns (for 2011). Despite having a very interesting premise and backstory, the campaign feels half-hearted thanks to the incredibly short length and unappealing design in so many different aspects. In the end, it's just another case of an FPS delivering a worthwhile online portion with a campaign feeling like an afterthought. It has more pieces you'll enjoy than hate, but it's essentially a mediocre start for the Homefront series.

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Ups
Strangely interesting plot/premise
Great online experience
Downs
Bad visual design (technical)
Annoying dialouge
3-hour campaign (on default difficulty)
Score
2.5
Graphics On top of lacking much panache, Homefront suffers from frequent frame rate issues.
6.0
Sound Technical design around the combat aspects is oftentimes remarkable; however, bland dialouge, average soundtrack, and some audio anomilies make the overall sound design to be just above average.
5.0
Gameplay Explosive cinematic moments countervail the underpolished design that rear their head every so often to make for a gameplay formula that's typical...and nothing more.
5.0
Fun factor Fun factor meets dead center between atrocious and phenominal because the SP and MP portions feel like polar opposites of each other in quality.
8.0
Online It may pay homage to the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty more often than it should, but the few fresh ideas in Homefront make it feel like something entirely new.
5.7
Overall (out of 10 / not an average)
coolbeans  +   1003d ago
Hope everyone enjoyed the review. I'm glad I pushed this review out before Christmas since it could be on some gamer's wishlist.

My personal view on who to buy this for:

Gamer with no online connection: Don't buy...unless you want to show that cousin what you really think of him/her :P.

Gamer who's the type that goes straight to online: This is certainly a game for him/her.

In light of TOR releasing soon, I guess I'll review KOTOR 1,2, and then TOR whenever I feel like I've played enough. Maybe a few other games if I'm bored.
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xX-StolenSoul-Xx  +   1002d ago
we better hope the story of homefront does not happen now lol Kim john il really died today
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Hufandpuf  +   1002d ago
Great review! I've only played the demo, but I liked what they did with the online portion. However, I don't see myself delving into the SP that much. Out of the two game modes TDM and the capture the flag one (I forgot what it was called) I hated the TDM, but loved the objective based modes. They were more akin to the Battlefield series. The only downside were the graphics but everything else was solid.
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coolbeans  +   1002d ago
Yeah, the SP is where the healthy majority of the complaints come from. I would've given Homefront's online a bit of higher had it delivered a few different modes and...maybe..1 or 2 more maps (although the shipped ones are good). Ugh..that visual design is something you can't escape, whether it be SP and MP.

There's some weird glitches I've noticed on the MP side that I first noticed on the roof of a Hooters (forget nap name). When I shot out my 2 Hellfire missiles and went back to controlling my character, all of the A/C units were gone but then materialized (think Star Trek teleporting). Once you notice this, you simply can't unnotice it.
xX-StolenSoul-Xx  +   1002d ago
I enjoyed the game for awhile but to me it seemed like the game was not to sure about its identity. Having way to many similarities with Cod and Battlefield. Sure to some it may sound like a good thing and it really is but the controls were pretty slow, the graphics were bad, and the story was wayy to short.
TheDivine  +   1002d ago
I really liked this game alot. The franchise has massive potential and could be the next big shooter if all goes well. The singleplayer was fantastic up until the abrupt crap ending. I also thought they couldve went much deeper into the story and emotions of war and bieng an occupied country. Their were parts which conveyed this well but i think overall it was a missed opportunity.

The multiplayer was fantastic. It kept everything good about cod, the fast slick gameplay but added in vehicles and bigger maps. The player count is perfect and the battle points is an awesome take on killstreaks/reward.

The only downside to this game for me is campaign length, graphics couldve been better, and story (atmoshere was great). If they want to compete with the big boys though they need bots, a survival mode, a co-op campaign or something like spec ops, and more people playing lol. I really liked this game but it was a little rough around the edges and unpolished at points. To me its around a 7.5-8 but i cant knock you it was a well written review with valid points. Good work.
CynicalVision  +   1001d ago
Suddenly this game has become popular again due to the events in North Korea.
coolbeans  +   1001d ago
I caught whispers of how he was doing before the media picked it up and figured now would be the right time for a review ;).
CynicalVision  +   1000d ago
2.5 for graphics? It's not THAT bad.
coolbeans  +   1000d ago
It's not about it looking bad but more about the inconsistency. Overall, the game does look dated and just average when everything's said and done. I found the scale to be good in the open areas and I personally thought the artstyle was surprisingly meticulous; however, the flaws in details was something I couldn't ignore: poor explosions, below-average textures, etc .

In the end, the pro's and con's would've given it a 5 or 6 had it not been for the game being plauged with technical anomilies. To explain:

- On the SP side, I was constantly running into framerate issues and texture pop-in.

- Once you initially notice it, you'll never stop seeing objects-any object is up for grabs apparently: buildings, pieces of cover, walls-that keep on materializing in front of you as if it were homage to Twilight Princess. If others can confirm this problem to see if it's solely my system with that problem please do so.

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Homefront

Average Score 7.0 Reviews(241)
Release Dates
PC Release Dates
JP Q1 2011
AU 10 March 2011
US 15 March 2011
EU 15 March 2011
PS3 Release Dates
JP Q1 2011
AU 10 March 2011
US 15 March 2011
EU 18 March 2011
Xbox 360 Release Dates
JP Q1 2011
AU 10 March 2011
US 15 March 2011
EU 18 March 2011