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Game: Homefront
Developers: Kaos Studios, Digital Extremes
Publisher: THQ
Year: March 2011
Reviewed: December 2012
Platform: PC
Genre: First person shooter/Action
Author: [VaLkyR]Assassin

I didn't edit the title screen. Honest.
I didn't edit the title screen. Honest.

It was a busy week for me regarding games, and after finishing my Splinter Cell: Conviction review, I headed straight into Homefront, a Call of Duty style game set in a future where the North Korean dictatorship unified Korea, took over Japan, then took on the USA. The game starts off explaining all this in the very first cut-scene, showing a collection of real life news reels merged with some made up.

You find yourself in a war-torn USA, with the US Army no longer one single cohesive attacking force, and with the country split up into occupied lands and those belonging to the local resistance that hope to take back the USA. It is an interesting concept, and one that I’ve not come across in a game yet, so, with its game-play said to be like Call of Duty, I thought I’d give it a go and find my own conclusions.

Make no mistake though, after playing the game for just under 5 hours, I’ve come to the conclusion that it IS just a Call of Duty rip-off, albeit a decent enough attempt, and with a different setting. The game length being short is one similarity, the auto-saving checkpoints another, and the general weapons you get to use as well are very similar. It even has missions where you pick out targets from the sky for bombing, so no changes there then! The game pretty much might as well be called Call of Homefront, and the only differing thing, apart from the setting, is the lack of fan-base behind the game.

Forced eating is common in the future.
Forced eating is common in the future.

I have to say, I did enjoy the game, it was action-packed, and fun to play for the most part, although sometimes I got killed a little too many times and had to redo some bits until I figured out why I was getting killed – namely some exploding containers I was standing near. I was a little worried about leaving the game at first, seeing as how it has a checkpoint save system, so I thought I’d carry on as long as I could today, but I ended up finishing it before I got the chance to quit! The ending is kind of on a cliff-hanger, leaving plenty of options for continuing the series, but it also felt like there was so much more that there was to do. No doubt if a second game comes along, that will play much the same as this and will be decent enough, but I’d rather that games content was just added to this, to make it a bit longer game, because it’s not much longer than your average action film.

Where Call of Duty is able to give you plenty of multiplayer action once you’ve finished the ridiculously short campaign it includes, this game can’t quite do that, because the community is so small that just 24 servers could be found when I logged on. I remember Unreal Tournament having at least several times that number several years after it had been out!

Action wise, and plot/story wise, the game is decent, and at various points you’ll be able to pick up old newspaper cuttings, with these providing some background to the story, detailing events leading up to the occupation. There is one slightly strange plot hole, when you leave a back garden of a house in full sun to go through some tunnels, and literally a minute later at the other end of the tunnels, with no cut-scene in-between to account for any time gap, it is dusk.

The whole of the USA is in ruins, but at least wheely bins survive!
The whole of the USA is in ruins, but at least wheely bins survive!

Another portion of the game forces you to be a sniper, and you have to be completely quiet and stay down to avoid being detected. The problem with this sequence is that it is on rails effectively, as you are led from one ‘safe’ position to another by one of the group members you are with, and so long as you correctly pick off the pre-selected targets, you can get through that whole section without breaking a sweat. It was nice to include a level like that, and that it wasn’t too hard, but this was too much the other way, as there was no real challenge in you truly sneaking around yourself and choosing what to do, and as a result there was no real tension to it. At the time, I wasn’t too bothered about this, but on reflection, I feel it was an opportunity missed.

A lot of game-play involves sending in a semi-automated vehicle which you have to defend while it reloads a volley of rockets that you control yourself. It isn’t completely defenceless, though, as it has a .50 calibre machine gun and it can dodge a lot of enemy fire itself.

Some game-play involves using turrets of moving vehicles in a few on-rails sections of the game, while at another time the game puts you in control of a helicopter allowing you to fly and gun at the same time, at least giving some challenge, as it is down to you to dodge incoming fire. There is also a section where you are simply picking out targets from the air to launch missiles at, and this felt exactly the same as when I first encountered this kind of mission in Call of Duty 4.

Even before the closure of schools, literacy wasn't good
Even before the closure of schools, literacy wasn't good

Considering the scope of the game, and the fact it is basically the American suburbs in ruins, there is still enough variation in locations to keep the game from getting too dull to look at, with the final part of the game having a famous landmark for a setting too. Most of the time you’ll find yourself crawling through ruined houses and streets though. Regarding the environments themselves, textures are of a decent quality, and I had little to fault in the graphics throughout the game, with shadowing and animations neither looking poor nor being anything to shout about.

The game developers do try and emphasise the bleak setting a little too strongly at times, with one scene involving you hiding under a pit of rotting bodies. Another scene has your allies using something called white phosphorus, which looks similar in effect to a napalm strike, and has people running around burning to death. The start of the game even has scenes where civilians are mercilessly murdered by the occupying forces, with one bit showing a child crying uncontrollably and running to the bodies of his dead parents after they are shot in front of him. While I wasn’t personally offended by those scenes, it does remind me of when the second Call of Duty Modern Warfare hit the headlines a couple of years back when it had a scene involving the killing of civilians. Does a game really have to use scenes like this when it is supposed to be there to provide entertainment and an escape from reality?


Conclusions

Oh joy, in-game adverts!
Oh joy, in-game adverts!

Had I paid full price for this game when it first came out, I’d be pretty disappointed with the lack of content. I thought Splinter Cell: Conviction was short at seven and a half hours, but this is another 3 hours less than that, and to me, that’s just too short. I only paid £5 for the game, but it still barely works out at £1 per hour. What is annoying, though, is that the game is so huge, at 9Gb. That’s a lot for space for a short game to take up, and even more annoying, when I installed it on Steam, I ended up having to download a 6Gb update for it! The whole updating process on my admittedly slow connection took longer than the time I played the game!

If Homefront was the same length as my previous reviewed game, I’d have scored it nearly the same, as the quality of action is quite close, apart from being a little harder and more frustrating. As it is significantly shorter than an already short game though, I’m going to have to mark it down a lot. Especially so, as the multiplayer will offer only limited enjoyment on the small number of servers that are still available.



I'm sensing a theme here
I'm sensing a theme here

It is for this reason I’m bringing in a new penalty system to my reviews, and I’ve updated my previous review to reflect it. Basically, if a game lasts less than 10 hours, then whatever quality that content is, I’ll knock half a star off the arbitrary score I put at the end of the review. If the game can’t even manage 5 hours playtime for the single player portion, especially so when the focus is realistically only going to be the single player action, then I’ll dock a whole star off the score I’d give for the general quality of the game.

In summary, the action is decent, and if you’ve ever enjoyed the single player part of the more recent Call of Duty games, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this, as it tries pretty damned hard to be just like Call of Duty. The setting and background plot are a bit different, and add some value too. The fact is, though, that it doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before in the first person shooter genre, and if you are going to take on an established game like Call of Duty and beat it, then just simply copying it won’t do.

Game Plusses:
+ Great action and flow
+ Unusual setting
+ Graphics are decent, textures crisp
+ No filler content as such

Game Minuses:
- Game can sometimes be a little too hard, even on easy
- Very short single player, less than 5 hours, so gets a - 1 star penalty.
- Multiplayer seems virtually dead after just a short time.

In general, the quality of the game means I would award it around 4 stars. What it does, is usually done well enough to provide non-stop entertainment. The problem is, it’s just too short. Under 5 hours is a joke, and so I’ll invoke a 1 star penalty because you’re not getting good value for money for this game as it’s over before it’s even started.


Arbitrary Final Score: 3 stars

If you like this, you might also like: Call of Duty, Medal of Honour

Is Homefront worth paying homage to? Let us know in the forum!