If I’m going to stick with a new FPS, you’ve gotta get me hooked right from the beginning. Grab my attention and give me a reason to plug away at every random baddie who pops up and wants to lodge a bullet between my eyes. Kaos Studios’ Homefront does this, but only during its Call of Duty-esque, heavily stylized introduction, during its schlocky moments of “shocking” violence as a child watches his parents massacred before his eyes, and its initial setup. And as I took up arms and followed some freedom fighters to a temporary safety, that interest dwindled. And dwindled. And dwindled until I was ready to move on, as is often the case with modern shooters that attempt to imitate the greats.
And it’s a shame. It’s an interesting premise, to say the least. Homefront is about war coming here, to us, the United States. Rather than aliens or machines, we’re fighting an army of fellow human soldiers: the Koreans. The Greater Korean Republic is now preying on America following a sharp economic decline and a combination of other factors and the only thing keeping our country afloat is a small band of resistance fighters determined to overtake the invading Koreans and set things right again – well, at least as “right” as they can be. And the exposition to lead players into this obviously dystopian future in 2027 is nothing short of fantastic. As cheesy as the senseless violence was (and I say cheesy because it’s typical revenge-inciting violence, designed explicity to have us “hate” the Koreans) and as bland as familiar landscapes look rendered in a video game right down to the White Castle, Homefront attempts to cover ground that we usually do not even scratch the surface of. There are obviously ideas here that need time and care to be nurtured and a story that could have been taken so much further.
And that’s when you start shooting, where everything unravels. You finally see Homefront for what it is: another mindless FPS where story and heart takes a backseat to uninspired shootouts spread across pseudo-patriotic backdrops culminating in a take-back of the Golden Gate Bridge, or what’s left of it. Polish is abandoned for more enemies to drop (with three headshots to some, I might add) and constant reminders that Koreans are the bad guys, they must die. And with product placement more rampant than a Jonas Akerlund music video, it’s painfully obvious which way Kaos Studios wanted to take what could have been a poignant look at war with a more personal agenda. Instead, we’re braving the countryside to make sure our Hooters restaurants are safe. Classy.
NPCs are the key to traveling without a hitch – if they’ve not caught up to your location, you’ll need to wait for them before you can open a door or advance. The personalities of your brethren are dead in the water and what began as an intriguing, stage-setting tragedy ends up as just another trudge-on-til-you-make-progress shooter with little to keep you engaged. As previously stated, if you want me to play your FPS, keep me entertained. And with its recycled war story antics, get to cover, rinse, and repeat gameplay, Homefront failed to do so.
I did find the game redeemed itself partially with some very formidable multiplayer, especially with perks in the form of Battle Points, which can be spent in the heat of a firefight to buy new armor, tanks, you name it. Along with the standard XP leveling system, Battle Points make it worth your while to engage in match after match even when your friends have moved on, which they may, but if you like anything about Homefront, you’ll want to take note of the slight tweaks it’s made to what is now the standard online shooter system.
Unfortunately, Homefront failed to deliver on its many promises – it didn’t give me a real reason to care about my characters, the war, or anything that went on, really, other than in the first few moments of the game. It’s a mindless shooter, through and through, with recycled suburban environments we’ve seen before sprinkled with a variety of familiar brands (is that supposed to make it feel more American?) and NPCs that bog us down. It excels in offering a unique twist on multiplayer however, be ever so slight. If you’re looking for the next big shooter, Homefront likely isn’t what you’re looking for. If you just want to shoot people in the head, then by all means, purchase away – just don’t be expecting anything game-changing here, especially when it comes to making you care about the people you live or die beside.