Review by GamingJock
So much potential gone to waste with generic, uninspired gameplay
When I first heard of Homefront a few months back, I was inexplicably drawn to the game by the sheer ridiculousness of the plot. North Korea unifying the peninsula peacefully, conquering Japan, and then invading the continental United States... is this real life? However, after playing through the singleplayer campaign, I realized that Homefront's story may be its strongest suit after all.
The live action intro to the game immediately immersed me into the bleak future of Homefront, with its mockumentary style and surprisingly good production values. Similarly, throughout the game, intel can be found that adds back story to how North Korea rose to power, and the simultaneous decline of the United States economy and military. The writing is excellent, and times sounds like the latest technothriler out on the shelves. While the immersion can be strong, at certain points the game rips you out of it with heavy handed attempts at what some professional reviews called "emotional scenes". Such as when two Korean soldiers executed a woman and then calmly walked away in opposite directions from one another as they ignored the shrieking of the woman's toddler. This elicited nothing from me but sighs and eye-rolling. Call me callous, but scenes like this just seem so forced.
Moving on to gameplay, this is where Homefront began its nose dive for me. Homefront makes absolutely no strides in FPS gameplay, with every mechanic being ripped from other titles. It's all here: regenerating health with the screen smeared with bloody jelly, the "X" on the crosshairs indicating you hit your target, invincible NPC allies tossing one-liners, giant immersion-destroying objective icons littering the screen, etc etc. As I played I got the feeling I had seen it all before, except that the bad guys received a palette swap from Russian uniforms to Korean ones and new voiceovers. Now, some gamers might think that originality does not matter so long as the gameplay is solid. In some ways, Homefront is a totally serviceable shooter. However, there are some nuances that drove me insane. For example, the Korean enemies often have pinpoint accuracy and can hit you through tiny cracks in cover you didn't even know were there. You heal very quickly, so the gameplay is often a tedious process of shooting a bunch of guys from cover, running 20 feet, getting lit up by several suddenly appearing enemies, finding cover for 2-3 seconds, and then killing them. Now repeat this 1000 times and throw in some vehicle sections.
At the time of writing this review I have not spent more than a few hours with multiplayer, mostly because I was bored with it. It's adequate, but at the same time there's little that keeps me wanting to come back. I'm not the type of gamer who is drawn in by the Skinner Box of achievements and unlockable guns - the gameplay has to be the deciding factor. Although a few of the maps were fun to play on, I found the multiplayer lacking any standout features that made me want to keep playing.
Homefront feels like a game with lost potential. The buildup to the campaign and the intel easter eggs paint a game world that could have been exploited by the developers in so many better ways. In fact, this game would have been great as a sandbox-style game with an open world that could be liberated as the player saw fit. In addition, the whole concept of a resistance movement on American soil has tons of potential for interesting gameplay... and yet instead I felt I was playing yet another generic, military-themed shooter, the only difference being I fighting in a suburban house in Anytown, USA instead of some backwater third-world nation.
While I did go on a somewhat satisfying rollercoaster cinematic experience for 5 hours, I feel completely done with Homefront already. There is little to bring me back to it, which is disappointing because I just spent $50 on it (at least I got Metro 2033 for free with the Steam bundle!). If you have a console, I recommend renting it for the campaign, but obviously this is not an option for PC gamers.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Homefront (US, 03/15/11)
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