Wednesday, March 23

In case you haven't played it: Homefront Review (PS3)

Homefront is supposed to provide a chilling glimpse of a future where North Korea expands upon the rise to power of Kim Jong Il's son, Kim Jong Un.  The new leader unifies North and South Korea before expanding to Eastern Asia and eventually, the economically-decimated United States of America. As Robert Jacobs, a former pilot, you are escorted thoughout Montrose, Colorado by a resistance movement that is attempting to procure supplies for the US Army. You'll encounter plenty of atrocities along your journey, instigated both by the Korean invaders and the lawless survivors scattered across the state. The game also (apparently) features a multiplayer suite that can support up to thrity-two players. I could connect to no more than a hand full of matches, after several attempts and over two hours spent in lobbies.

The Good
Freedom - When you do manage to sink your teeth into Homefront's multiplayer component, you'll find an interesting new approach to the usual Team Deathmatch and Domination (dubbed Ground Control) matches found in recent Call of Duty titles. The addition of vehicles and drones being the most notable difference, however there is also an in-game economy which provides added depth and in some cases, bemusement. To clarify the latter assesssment, you customize classes (once again, a la COD). Within these classes you can assign weapons and equipment to purchase slots. Once you've earned enough Battle Points (through kills and achieving objectives), you can then purchase the goodies you assigned to afformentioned slots. The real-world logistics of this would be baffling to say the least. I can just imagine a commanding officer saying something like "Don't forget your pack soldier, and don't dare use the rocket launcher until you've killed at least four Koreans. You've got to earn the right to use everything you're given in this army!"

Outside of the box - The maps I managed to play on were all huge. You always spawn close to the action (sometimes a little too close), so you never spend too much time in transit. The maps here were built for large-scale warfare, and if you love sniping or vehicular combat (and most importantly, if you can find a match): Homefront is the game for you. 

Stable - I'm struggling to think of any more purely redeeming features that I found in this title. I guess the single player campaign was technically sound in that it never froze and load times were acceptable. That's about it.

The Bad
Dumbass friends - Your AI-controlled companions are not only prone to getting in your way, they're also terrible shots. Sometimes they would obstruct my path at critical times, particularly when I was seeking cover and just about to die. What was worse than the sub-normal intelligence of my compatriots was the near suicidal tendencies of the enemy. Even as my comrades advanced into strategic positions, the Korean threat was concerned only with my demise. They would rush at me, or at the very least focus fire on my position with little regard for the other enemies in their midst.

Lack of ceremony - Pretty much every FPS released in the past five years has employed the bloody screen technique to indicate the level of damage a player takes: Homefront is no different in this respect. What bugs me about this game though, is that it fails to adequately pace the action. Even if you take sufficient damage to be near death, you'll recover in no less than three seconds. What this means is that you can breeze through most sections of the campaign on the default difficulty without much hassle. Sure you'll still die a few times, but save for the penultimate stage - which features the most reality-defying vehicle sequence in videgame history - you'll rarely encounter anything that you could diagnose as a challenge.

Ugly ahead of its time - 2011 has so far seen the release of some truly visually-spectacular games. Homefront is not one of them. The visuals are beyond dated: with washed-out, blocky textures and awkward looking character models. The environments often look as though they are held behind a soft veneer, and if you focus on details (say for instance, with a scoped rifle), the rough edges really start to show. The only positive observation that I can impart about the game's visuals is that the frame-rate holds up immaculately. Same can be said for the multiplayer as well. Solid frame rate, but that shouldn't really be considered an achievement given the horrid nature of the visuals in general.

Off key - Everything in Homefront sounds off. Whether it's the melee attack that sounds like a toddler clashing pots together, or the guns that sounds as though they've been fired from under a mass of towels: the game's sound design misses every note. The score while competent, fails to rise above action movie mediocrity; if anything it becomes grating after a while.

The Ugly
Premature end - Homefront's single player campaign clocks in at about three and a half hours (four maximum). That's ridiculously short, even by modern FPS campaign standards. As glad as I was for the experience to end, the final mission feels like the perfect precursor to a more significant victory; but it never goes there. I felt as though I achieved less than nothing playing through Homefront's sub-par campaign.

Schlock horror - What's worse than the insufficient campaign length is that most of the experience is hopelessly derivative. Despite the presence of Korean flags, the game isn't entirely disimilar to the invasion segment from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Sure the enemy may be better established in this instance, but either way it feels like heavily trodden ground. Everything about this game resembles action/war movie cliche. Including the use of mass graves - something so horrible in concept that it should never appear overly familiar - is dealt with in a contrived manner, reminding me of a scence from the hapless action flick, Behind Enemy Lines. The HUD is almost identical to that found in a Call of Duty title, even down to the crosshairs for the underbarrel grenade launcher. Homefront is a soulless duplicate of the genre's top dog.

On hold - I've read plenty of Homefront's redeeming multiplayer suite however, I have so far been unable to engage with it for a significant amount of time. To be entirely honest I've only been able to connect to about five matches after two hours spent waiting in lobbies. The matches were reasonably enjoyable, and hint at some promise hidden behind a myriad of logistical issues. By that I mean, matches for the Team Deathmatch and Ground Control playlists can only begin once you have sixteen players in a lobby. In one instance I waited for over thirty minutes to hit the required quota of players as the lobby swayed between ten to fifteen players. Funnily enough, while the maps are quite large, I would think they would be just as playable with as little as eight to twelve players; particularly when you consider that players can employ vehicles and drones that can traverse the maps at a respectable pace. You can of course join the Skirmish playlist which has a sixteen player limit, and this allowed me to log some game time. Nevertheless, I've spent about two hours waiting with an hour fighting. To make matters worse, I've endured several system freezes while trying to connect to multiplayer lobbies (six at last count). This is nothing less than unacceptable.

The Verdict
4.0/10 - While technically playable (the single player campaign, that is), Homefront lacks a single thread of originality. The marketing material being circulated for this game may lead you to believe that you'll be encountering an imaginative tale, or at least something unfamiliar in terms of art direction: any such assertion will lead you to disappointment. The multiplayer segment while promising needs several logistical changes in order to become playable. It is entirely deplorable that one can spend about twice more time in a lobby then you will actually playing the game. I would strongly suggest that you avoid the Playstation 3 version of this game. If you're interested in the multiplayer portion, then I would recommend that you perhaps look at the PC or 360 releases (I can't vouch for numbers, but I would imagine that they would have to be better than that currently playing on the PS3).


  1. I have heard from several different sources that the connection for MP is actually extremely good. Even on a two bar, it has better connection than COD (unless you are host of course).

    But other than that, I still haven't been able to get into a game. Which blows.

  2. Try the Skirmish Playlist, Sambo. That is your best bet. When I did manage to get a match, the action was fun, fast and hectic; with no noticable signs of lag.

    Once you get in a match it's all good. But then again, I wouldn't have given it such a lambasting if that weren't a huge issue.

  3. Very true. I think I will wait until the servers are actually fixed, and if they patch so that you don't need a full lobby to start a game.