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Homefront 360 but pushes the scope of a first person shooter to its limits. Although wanting to deliver something more grownup, but this dalliance is soon submerged as its high impact pace and inventive gameplay sets the real tone.
I think I have shooting-fatigue. There are just so many games vying for my attention it can be hard to get excited about the next new title that washes up on videogame store shelves.
Homefront knows this though and tries particularly hard to stand out. Happily for me, multiplayer is a big part of this equation. In fact it seems to be one of the main focuses of the release, with the single player campaign being a short, if intense, experience.
I enjoyed Bad Company 2 as well as Frontlines: Fuel Of War and felt quickly at home in a play-style that seems to draw on both those reference points. What had me most excited about the multiplayer though was the in-game reward system -- something Homefront calls Battle Points.
These Battle Points are earned and spent within a multiplayer game. A little like Modern Warfare's Perks system but you can also upgrade your own performance as well as call on a far wider range of tactical plays.
Homefront cleverly incentivises completing particular objectives in multiplayer games in a way that balances the tendency for experts to simply camp and snipe. But as well as this it also legitimises much more varied gameplay in all the multiplayer modes.
Homefront cleverly incentivises completing particular objectives in multiplayer games.
One minute you will be guiding a flying drone to survey the surrounding area, and the next calling in an air strike. While marksmanship and skill are still rewarded with kill streaks that bump up your Battle Points, these are now only one of a number of ways you can progress.
Breadth joins this novelty in the form of turf wars missions, skirmish modes and a nice mission generator. For a multiplayer fanatic like me it's almost perfect.
The only downsides are a lack of local split screen mode or local co-operative play (although you can setup a system link with one player on each 360). Although playing games on the same couch is currently out of fashion, it's till how I most often play multiplayer games.
The single player is more what you'd expect from this kind of game. It's largely derivative, but very well done. It tells the story of the rise of a United Korea, the slow fall from grace of a fuel-strapped US and the final EMP blasts that cripple US defences. As you can tell it is hardly subtle.
It readily, perhaps too readily, throws in domestic scenes to underline the absence of normal life in its vision of the future. The Korean enemy is seen slaughtering innocents just outside your window, with particularly poignant scenes picked out in more detail. The shooting of two terrified parents in front of their children was effective (if disturbing) at the time, but on reflection felt like an all too easy way to demonise the enemy.
But of course that is how these games work, and on that basis Homefront pulls all the right punches. The foil to all this violence and obscenity is an arsenal of weapons that offer genuine tactical advantages if used correctly. Each gun offers a unique weight, range, kickback, capacity and reload time - I soon learnt to tell what I was firing (and what was shooting me) from the audio alone.
There is a sad mix of fear, hope and panic about the place.
This setup is all for the action which, rather than the story, is what really drives the game forward. Amongst the usual morass of warfare, there are moments that punctuate the killing. One I found quite moving actually was where you land in a Resistance hideout and are sharply thrust back into quasi-everyday life.
There is a sad mix of fear, hope and panic about the place as the various inhabitants eek out an existence. What moved me most was the welcome they offer. In the midst of the almost comical war zone this became an emotive moment of humanity that stayed with me for the rest of the game.
If only Homefront could have trusted itself (and its audience) a little more, and delivered more of this textured content it could have been a very special game. As it stands though, it lays on the narration and audience-guidance much too thick to allow any player space to reflect for long. It reminded me of The Hills Have Eyes, that seemed to stop the action every few minutes to re-iterate what was happening -- "Thanks, but I already knew that".
I wasn't expecting Homefront to wheedle its way into my multiplayer affections.
All this results in a campaign that is, as I've said, short and intense. Not outstaying its welcome shows real restraint, and happily leaves room to spend more time on the excellent multiplayer modes.
I wasn't expecting Homefront to wheedle its way into my multiplayer affections. However, it's brief and succinct single player experience and a host of modes and fresh ideas have made it one of my favourite first person shooting games.
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