The North Koreans are coming! Run out, grab your rifle, down a bottle of suspension of disbelief and get ready to take the fight to the forces occupying your homeland! This is your home, soldier! And home is where the war is!
THQ brings the war to your front room both figuratively and literally in the action-packed, near future, first person shooter Homefront. The game takes place in the not-so-distant future where the United States, on the verge of economic collapse, is invaded by the forces of the Greater Korean Republic; North Korea has just successfully annexed most of Asia and
launches a devastating EMP attack on our land. You are Robert Jacobs, an ex-Marine Corps helicopter pilot, rescued by American resistance fighters from being sent to a Korean prison after refusing to be drafted into the local Korean occupation forces.
The story behind Homefront is exceptionally well written and gripping. This isn’t a shooter game that glorifies war, but rather humanizes what it really is: Dirty, gritty, and brutal. The game introduces you to the humanity of war right off the bat with public executions happening right in front of you as you’re being carted off by the KPA. One couple was gunned down in front of their young child with the guards leaving him there to cry over his dead parents.
But it’s not just the story that really draws you into this world; it’s everything. THQ and Kaos Studios have really worked hard in the details. Each destination you’re taken to looks so very real with entire subdivisions utterly ravaged by war and a long occupation. The people are broken, downtrodden, starving husks of what was once a great society. This realism is bolstered by mostly exceptional voice-acting.
When you’re in combat, you’ll find yourself dealing with a fairly capable AI both offensively and defensively. The enemy AI works pretty hard at trying to keep you pinned into a single location and is very adept at placing frags at your feet. Oftentimes you’ll find yourself safely boxed in, only to see a grenade icon flashing right where you are, forcing you to run out into the open between areas of cover and taking a few bullets in the process. However, your AI buddies will usually do a pretty good job of covering your back while you’re attempting to route yourself behind the enemy line to take them out. The only annoyance you’ll experience at times is when you’re in situations where your AI is pinned down and you need to help them. They’ll let you know what you need to do, over, and over, and over again. This can get pretty aggravating if you yourself are taking fire. Imagine, bullets flying at you without reprieve…and your team mates yelling at you “Get over here! Help!”, and you have to work your way up slowly along the lines to get into position without being gunned down.
As far as multiplayer is concerned, Homefront doesn’t really innovate so much as enhance what many other shooters have brought to the table in recent years. The multiplayer game feels and plays very much like the latest Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops franchise games. However there are a couple of twists. First, the ability to load a map with a total of 32 players does make the game feel a bit more intense, and you find that there are fewer gaps where you have time to catch a breather. Every time you feel like you have a moment’s respite, don’t be fooled. That’s just someone sighting you in for a good, clean headshot. These maps might be absolutely enormous, but having twice as many players as the norm makes it feel very cramped at times. Also, while you may think that there might be lag because you’re carrying that many players in the match, in actuality there were very few instances of this from what I experienced.
Another addition is with the in-game currency system. Not only can you purchase different weapons and attachments for those weapons, but you can also purchase vehicles such as tanks and helicopters to use as well. This can add a new dynamic to a given level as you never know what equipment or artillery will be showing up to pound you into the ground. This will force gamers to change their tactics on the fly. Although I’m sure we’ll be hearing more chatter over the mic about noobs, hackers, and whatever else they decide to call us while we’re pinning the enemy down with 50mm shells. However don’t be fooled as dropping in your nifty new tank isn’t a onetime cost; it’s actually a per use cost. So spend wisely.
Fair warning, THQ has gone by the way of EA and put a download code in the new retail boxes of the game. Without this code, you are essentially capped at level 5 in the multiplayer matchmaking. If you pick up the game used, you can of course pay 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live for a Battle Code, but you’re still dishing out a few extra dollars to get the complete multiplayer experience.
While the concept of another country invading the United States and driving the military back to the east side of the Mississippi is at the very least, laughable, Homefront manages to hit…well, home. Between the dramatic story, the constant action, and solid game play, this is a game to definitely have in your collection.