Game Over Online ~ Homefront

GameOver Game Reviews - Homefront (c) THQ, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Homefront (c) THQ
System Requirements Xbox 360
Overall Rating 40%
Date Published Monday, March 21st, 2011 at 06:11 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

Homefront plays like it was made by somebody who doesn't understand the human concept of "fun." Everything about it is off somehow, from the weapons to the character design to the levels to the single-player campaign's plot, like it was rushed to market as quickly as possible before anyone could have second thoughts. It's fundamentally flawed in pretty much every way you could care to name, and is in no way worth your money.

The single-player campaign is probably getting the most attention, and rightly so. At E3 in 2009, a buddy of mine got a booth tour and saw Homefront early in its development. He later walked up to me, laughing, about the idea of a game that is built around the idea of North Korea invading the United States, and which takes the concept completely seriously. I could only laugh right along with him, as it sounds a lot like the plot of the old Peter Sellers comedy The Mouse That Roared.

North Korea has a population of fifteen million and 14.9 million of them are boiling rocks for soup. Making them into some kind of globe-spanning supervillain comes off as strangely desperate, like you need somebody realistic to hate and Kim Jong-Il jumped the queue. While North Korea does do more than their share of saber-rattling, it is difficult to perceive the country as anything other than a noisy distraction, like the kid in the corner of the classroom who acts out so you'll pay attention to him.

Homefront posits a scenario where, by 2027, North Korea has not only reunited with South Korea, but has become the leader of a coalition of Asian nations. This coalition force is able to annex Japan, than move on to occupy Hawaii. At the beginning of the game, they have invaded the United States starting at San Francisco, and have maintained control of the country as far inland as Colorado.

Picking holes in the plot of this game is kind of like fly-fishing with C4. It's easy, it's fun, anyone can do it, and the more of it you do, the more stuff comes up. The European Union has apparently vaporized entirely, a Korean-speaking occupying force is able to maintain control in an area that conservatively contains four times as many people with ten times as many guns as they could possibly have in their army, South Korea agreed to reunify with the North despite there being absolutely nothing of value in that agreement for them, a Korean dictator with dreams of empire deciding to invade a nation 5600 miles away despite his home territory being well-known for its complete lack of resources... I could go on for hours here. I have gone on for hours.

The only way Homefront's plot makes any sense whatsoever is if Kim Jong-Un, Jong-Il's successor, has learned forbidden secrets of mind control from his secret alien masters, and even then I would have some very real doubts. The final stage of Homefront would have to be set in Jong-Un's mad-scientist lair, hidden inside a skull-shaped mountain just outside of Pyongyang, as you find the documents that lay out in painstaking detail the plans he's drawn up, the deals he's brokered, and the dark sacrifices he's made to ancient forbidden powers. You would need to defeat his eight robot masters, seizing a weapon from each one before you can storm into his skull-shaped lair. The last boss of the game could be Jong-Un, half Shoggoth and half cybernetic demon, firing chainguns and hellfire at you as he screams in long-forgotten languages of darkness, and it would still be easier to believe than this crap.

The only reason this matters is because Kaos and THQ have sworn up and down to anyone who would listen that this is a believable near-future scenario with realistic causes and outcomes. They are hilariously mistaken, but the entire thing is simply an excuse to have an under-funded, desperate resistance movement, fighting against a foreign occupying force in the ruins of what was once urban America. It's a dark survivalist fantasy straight out of American militias' wildest dreams, and the only thing it's lacking is some guy in full military-surplus camo, waving an AR-15 as he watches Koreans invading San Francisco, laughing like a crazy person through his giant backwoods beard and screaming at the top of his lungs that he was right. Homefront is the single largest work of Red Dawn fanfiction that's possible without chiseling something into a mountain.

You take on the role of Robert Jacobs, a former helicopter pilot who's abducted from his home in Colorado by Korean forces, and who's almost immediately drafted into a cell of the U.S. Resistance. Jacobs has no voice and no will of his own; every stage of the game consists of somebody telling you point-blank what to do about once every five minutes, and Jacobs immediately leaping to comply. The game is horrifyingly scripted to the point of the player feeling like a complete afterthought, and in the event it takes you longer than thirty seconds to figure out what to do, the nearest NPC will scream at you until you accomplish that goal. You always have a couple of AI-controlled buddies, who couldn't so much as tie their own damned shoes without your help; go ahead and count the occasions when they're pinned down, tied up, lying wounded on the floor, or otherwise indisposed, and can only scream impotently at you until you do whatever's required to advance the script.

Jacobs's larger problem is that he's made from spun sugar and children's dreams. For an FPS protagonist, Jacobs is insanely fragile and incredibly clumsy. One good burst of rifle fire from enemy Koreans - delivered with perfect accuracy from two hundred yards, of course; your weapons fight your control like an angry horse, whereas theirs apparently fire heat-seeking warheads chambered for 7.62mm - will drop Jacobs in his tracks, which makes Homefront a cover-based shooter by default. Then you encounter the problem that your AI buddies are using up all the good cover, or Jacobs isn't backpedaling because some quirk of the level's geometry has got him stuck behind an invisible inch-high wall. Then Jacobs dies, taking another irreplaceable and beautiful moment of your life with him.

That fragility and awkward footing carries over into the multiplayer game, which is pretty much the only reason to play Homefront. It's exactly as reminiscent of the Battlefield games as you might think it would be, except it's very difficult to find a game of it online, and when you do, glitches and dropped connections are more common than they should be.

Homefront's multiplayer modes and robust promotion-based system all boil down to one simple thing: if you're not a sniper, you're doing it wrong. The other team is, as with all online shooters, comprised largely of fourteen-year-old cyborgs on a taurine drip who've been playing de_dust since the moment of conception. This is not Homefront's fault, obviously, but it does beg the question of why you would then make a game where death is this cheap.

It is difficult to say anything good about Homefront. It's a half-baked idea crammed into a half-baked game, and while I'll freely admit that a quasi-realistic military-style first-person shooter with a heavy focus on the multiplayer mode is not exactly my cup of tea, I've played enough of them at this point that I feel confident in saying when one has gone horribly, horribly wrong.


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