Homefront - PS3 Review
Announced back in May 2009 Homefront is THQ's foray into the quite crowded First Person Shooter market. With titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops amassing sales of around 20 million, getting a game right can capture a massive audience and virtually guarantee the financial security of a company. So this is Kaos Studios latest title after their moderately well received Frontlines: Fuels of War, but this time the game is hitting PS3. One of the most exciting aspects of this release for us is that the story has been written by John Milius (who wrote Apocalypse Now, Conan the Barbarian and - most appropriately - Red Dawn). So what's it about then...
|Homefront's set pieces are impressive.|
The year is 2027. The world as we know it is unraveling after fifteen years of economic meltdown and widespread global conflict over dwindling natural resources. A once proud America has fallen, her infrastructure shattered and military in disarray. The USA is powerless to resist the ever expanding occupation of a savage, nuclear armed Greater Korean Republic.
After playing through this game the one thing that really stands out is the storyline and the setting created by Kaos Studios. If you've ever seen John Milius' 1984 movie Red Dawn then you will have some idea how this game feels in terms of setting. The opening scene on the busy is grippingly haunting as you drive past civilians being herded like cattle before seeing a mother and father executed before their young child. It really sets the tone of the game perfectly, and this continues throughout.
|Death is all around in Homefront.|
After joining the resistance this game moves into a fairly typical FPS as you push from one objective to the next, killing all the enemies along the way and pushing the story forward. It must be said though that there really are some great set pieces here and plenty of unexpected surprises.
There are some diversions from the normal FPS action though. A sniper mission is included and provides a few thrills with a much slower pace, but increased tension, while a later mission sees you taking control of a helicopter to take out convoy escorts before providing cover to the tankers. Finally during the main missions you will find point when you can direct missile fire from a heavy vehicle towards enemy positions. They are all great diversions from the unrelenting shooter sections and help keep the game fresh.
Unfortunately while there are aspects of the single player campaign that we loved including the storyline and game mechanics, there are a couple of disappointments too. By far our biggest complaint is the length of the single player campaign which we completed in around 5 hours - and we got stuck in a couple of places for a bit and were looking around for the collectable documents. Too us, thatís far too short for any full-priced game, no matter the quality. It was also mildly annoying having to follow your squad mates around, and then wait for them to open doors or pathways to the next area.
|Characers are quite interesting in Homefront.|
In fact, it could be said that some of the design decisions in this game are plain bizarre. The opening video has a great big notification to "PRESS X TO SKIP" - it's not in the corner, or near the bottom of the screen but in big bold text about a quarter of the way up. Sooo distracting. Then you have the strange things like needing press square to jump down a manhole, or pressing square to lie in a pit full of slaughtered civilians. For the latter one, why not walk in there, and then hit the button to go prone? Sure, it's nitpicking, but also points to the lack of polish.
I won't even mention the intel documents which offer pages of text about the years leading up to the games events (actually, I will). Two things - why not have them look like the newspapers you pick up and include images to make it a little more interesting than the plain text that is provided and two, why is it these items are always so out of the way it forces you explore boring areas of the map to get them. On my first play through of the game I picked up 11 of the 61 items, the second time through I found over half by going to areas of the maps that had no interest other than picking up the items. How about at least putting some obstacles like Claymores or Tripwires to make it a little more interesting?
While the single player game is certainly shorter then we expect from a game that costs over $100 - and let's face it Australians still getting ripped off by all games companies compared to American and Asian pricing for the same games (that's an argument for another day) the multiplayer really is a savior for this title. Supporting up to 32 -players online this really is a technical accomplishment and THQ have gone all-out to provide local servers for the franchise - with servers in Australia based in Sydney and Melbourne.
|I don't recall snow in the PS3 version? A PC screenshot then perhaps...|
In terms of game modes Homefront includes Ground Control (which sees your team trying to capture and hold three positions), Team Deathmatch, and Skirmish which switches between the two. These are all pretty standard fare. When you reach level 7 you unlock Battle Commander modes of these game types which offers a twist with a commander on the field directing targets. This is certainly a new and pretty interesting twist on normal online FPS modes and we're quite happy to spend considerable time here - when we get a match with enough people in it! During battles too you will earn points according to you performance which you can spend on entering the battlefield with a vehicle, or using one of two items in your "Purchase Slot" which may include UAV's, Flak Jackets, Cluster Bombs, RPG launcers among others. It's a great system that rewards strong performances.
It's quite clear that Kaos Studios have spent a considerable amount of time building their online modes, and in particular the leveling up system which offers a wide range of customisation from the guns, to the attachments, camouflage, to the secondary weapons, explosives, and increased abilities (such as faster aiming, reduced recoil, longer drone battery, increased explosives damage and so on). These upgrades are unlocked according to the XP earned and the level you are on.
|Scanning civilians for weapons.|
While we've had a great time playing the multiplayer modes in Homefront, even here the game falls a little short in terms of the number of maps, and the number of game modes on offer. Is it that hard to add in a Deathmatch/Free-For-All mode? Sure, perhaps the developers would rather the game remain team focused, but gamers don't mind a little diversion occasionally. Ultimately the four online modes here aren't enough if you want to compete with other titles (and yes, we're still looking at a certain Activision franchise as the benchmark).
Unfortunately Homefront struggles graphically when compared to many other PS3 titles from both first and third party developers. While Kaos Studios are using a modified version of Unreal Engine 3, and there really is some great lighting including the implementation of HDR, this isn't a great looking game overall. Despite the brilliant war-torn look of the city we have plenty of issues. First of all the games resolution is shockingly low and without any anti-aliasing implemented at all on the PS3 version the jaggies are everywhere. Furthermore the texturing looks pretty average in places, while character models look like early generation PS3 games - a little low polygon and lacking crispness.
|Kaos Studios have captured the feeling of a oppressed people perfectly in Homefront.|
On the plus side Homefront generally holds a pretty solid frame rate albeit with some light screen tearing. That's critical for a FPS so Kaos Studios have almost nailed that. They have also got the look and feel of an occupied country absolutely perfect with some haunting images from the very opening moments when riding on the bus.
While graphics are only a small component of any games development it's clear that Kaos Studios is well behind the leaders including Guerrilla Games, Crytek as well as Infinity Ward and Treyarch who also use a lower resolution, but the graphics look much more polished.
Sonically Homefront is fairly impressive with plenty of use of surround sound channels making the battlefield come alive. Gunfire and explosions sound magnificent however it's when a fighter jet roars overhead or a helicopter gunship moves around you firing rockets that the surround sound channels really come into play giving you a great sense of direction. Dialogue, which contains quite a few profanities, is fairly well written and moderately well delivered with plenty of chatter when running around the battlefields. Overall, this game is pretty impressive sonically.
|Battlefields are quite busy...|
THQ have been promoting Homefront everywhere, and there are high hopes that this could become a long-running franchise. As a FPS fan I did enjoy the game overall. The single player campaign, while short, has a great storyline while the multiplayer could keep you playing for quite a while. It's certainly not the best shooter on the market, but those looking for another FPS to keep your itchy trigger fingers occupied may want to check this out.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||The actual level design and detail is impressive, but the low resolution hurts the overall look significantly.||69%|
|SOUND||Voice acting is passable, but it's the battle sounds that impress the most.||82%|
|GAMEPLAY||This is a pretty decent FPS, with the online modes containing plenty of customisation.||85%|
|VALUE||5 hours to complete the campaign is criminally short, fortunately the multiplayer will last much longer. Still...||66%|
|OVERALL||If the multiplayer hadn't been so impressive this would have been one to miss. If you enjoy online FPS's then you'd do well to check out Homefront. Plenty of room for improvement for the (almost inevitable) sequel.||77%|