Regardless of their intentions to make you feel like some kind of inexperienced civilian forced into combat with seemingly insurmountable opposition, they sure don’t waste any time turning you into the typical video game action hero that does all the work while your allies stand in cover and take pot shots at nothing. In between skirmishes, though, your role irritatingly reverts to that of the incompetent newbie; your freedom fighter buddies treat you like the untrustworthy outsider, not even allowing you to open doors or climb ladders before they do! There are many instances like that where your compatriots make a point of holding your hand, which will annoy the crap out of you. Combined with the stretches of down-time wherein you’re restricted to a very slow walking pace, it makes for a disjointed and underwhelming experience.
The action itself is mostly enjoyable, but far from realistic in both premise and execution. The only thing separating it from the usual Call of Duty
-esque fare is Goliath, the rugged radio-controlled ATV with a missile launcher and machinegun mounted on its back. After it busts through a wall like the Kool-Aid man, it mows down infantry with bullets and tread while you mark missile targets with a nifty targeting scope. After a while, it becomes more of a companion than the people you travel with, kind of like a trusty war hound that always comes through in a pinch. Flying the heavily-armed scout helicopter was great fun, too, even though it handled smoother than a UFO and was nigh on indestructible. (Really, you could smash it into the ground or against buildings and take no damage.) I also quite liked the sniping segments, even though they were few and far between.
One of the more annoying aspects of Homefront
has to be the shoddy ballistics. Nowadays, destructible environments are becoming the norm, so when bullets are stopped cold by flimsy materials, that’s a problem. Seriously, you can’t even shoot through a wooden fence that is literally paper thin (since it’s a sprite, not a model), yet there are some concrete barriers that can be blown apart by explosions or enough machinegun fire. I thought for a second to call this lack of bullet penetration “old school,” but you can’t even call it that, since games like Counter-Strike
let you shoot through stuff. It just seems like something incredibly basic to overlook in an FPS; maybe I don’t need to be able to blow holes in the side of a building, but if I know an enemy is hiding behind a picket fence, I had better be able to shoot him!
If the Homefront
campaign wasn’t so pathetically short-lived, I might actually have had time to wonder why I was still playing. That it doesn’t drag on and on is probably a good thing, but any game that has you losing the desire to keep going has other problems … As it is, there’s very little story progression to speak of, with each of the seven missions representing one step in an operation your new-found guerilla buddies have planned to help out the remnants of the U.S. Army. There are a few shallow and contrived elements thrown in there as an attempt to inject some degree of emotional investment, but they fail miserably. Since the whole affair seems so rushed, things happening that you’re supposed to care about probably won’t bother you at all. Otherwise, a handful of dramatic scenes and set-pieces are the only truly interesting things about Homefront
and give some meaning to the otherwise generic gameplay.
Another place Kaos failed to deliver on a promise was with the characters. If I recall, they tried extra hard to talk up the four main characters as being a driving force in the Homefront
campaign, but they turned out to be nothing more than B-action movie stereotypes. (Skip ahead to the next page if you want to avoid some story-related details, even though I don’t think not knowing makes it any better.)
You spend the most time with Connor, the hot-headed renegade that endlessly spouts profanity as he rushes headlong into battle and hunts Koreans for sport. He always gets his allies (you) in trouble by unnecessarily drawing attention to them, but he sacrifices himself at the end in a “surprise” display of selflessness. There’s also Rianna, the ethnic chick who has the tough exterior necessary to hang with the boys, but she still gets all sentimental over friendly losses and excessive violence against enemies alike. She’s always the wet blanket, spouting such original and brilliant lines as, “I didn’t sign up for this!” Boone is the tough but fair leader that would do anything to protect his flock of sheep and is the voice of reason capable of holding the resistance together. He takes the player under his wing, explaining what we’re fighting for, but is executed shortly thereafter in order to make you angry or something… Hopper, the token mixed-race character, gets harassed by people on both sides of the fight because he’s Korean-American. He’s also the nerdy engineer type that carries the backpack and has to repeat himself using simpler terms because no one understands when he’s speaking in techno-babble. Of course, he prefers to avoid combat because it’s not his forte