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Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Kaos Studios
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 1 - 2 (Local); 2 - 32 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Homefront is not an especially pretty game. The graphics are jaggy and it looks more like a game that would have come out a few years ago. Some of the anatomy of the characters you'll interact with looks a little disturbing. For instance, Rianna, the female resistance fighter you'll work with most often, has a strangely ripped torso made to make her look super fit, but instead, it just looks "off." Since this game takes place in an alternate future where North Korea has essentially taken over America and you are fighting to regain your freedom, it's nice that a number of familiar businesses and products were interspersed in the game. Tiger Direct is featured prominently and you even fight a level taking place out front and inside of one. You'll also see Hooters and be called upon to decimate it when hostiles are lurking inside. I also saw Nos and Monster energy drink vending machines and there's even a White Castle and Lumber Liquidators from time to time. Sometimes, it felt a bit like in-game advertising, but I appreciate the developers trying to create a mood and make the player feel like they were actually in a war-torn version of America. Having recently driven cross-country from Louisiana to Los Angeles, I can say that the Western areas you'll sometimes venture into look right. There's one level where you are traveling with a convoy from Utah to California and the landscapes I saw in the game looked very much like what I had recently seen, so they definitely nailed the environments, even if they weren't the most beautiful I've seen.

The voice work is well done, but Connor, one of your compadres in the resistance, is really annoying. He's just rude, curses for the fun of it, and is an all-around unlikeable character. At one point, after an explosion occurs in a level, setting a bunch of enemies on fire, he shouts, "I thought I smelled Korean Barbeque!" He's just tacky. Rianna is another member of the team and she was fine, as was Boone, the leader of the resistance. Hopper, the tech guru of the group, is amusing, but honestly, for the longest time I thought his dialogue was actually my character, Jacobs's dialogue. He was supposedly half Asian and got some flack over it, but he didn't really look Asian to me, so I assumed that my character, whose face couldn't be seen, was actually the one revealing these things that had happened. As it stands, I think Jacobs must be a mute. Aside from that, some of the other characters you'll encounter, like at Oasis, the resistance's safe house, seemed a bit stiff, but overall, the voice acting was well done. I did encounter a weird graphical glitch when I was at the Oasis. I was headed over to some residents who were working in the garden and after overhearing their conversation, I initiated a conversation with one of them, only to have their head bounce back and forth like they were possessed. It was disturbing, to say the least.

The sound effects were very effective and I especially liked the soundtrack. The music was moving and rousing, as it should be and although I really didn't recognize much of the licensed music, I did recognize "Fortunate Son, which worked well for the scene.

The setting occurs in an (hopefully) alternate, not-so-distant future where North Korea has bullied South Korea into unifying with them and has subsequently been marching its way across the world. Using radioactive pollution of the Mississippi River to divide the U.S. and a huge EMP blast to destroy all of our electronics, followed by a very Red Dawn-like ground invasion, the Unified Korean forces have thrown the U.S. into a downward spiral, scattering our military forces. A small but steady resistance has been at war with them and as Jacobs, a helicopter pilot, you could be invaluable to the resistance that is housed in Montrose, Colorado, where the story begins.

Following a very excellently done, but disturbing video that brings you up to date on the terrible state of affairs that is America (and the world, for that matter), you as Jacobs are jarringly awakened from sleep by the Korean police, who take you into custody for failing to report for duty following a draft. You are then forced into a bus with a handful of others and are being driven to a work camp, all the while watching innocent Americans on the street being brutalized and killed by Korean forces. It's haunting and moving, much like the first time I saw Red Dawn, and there's a reason for that, as John Milius wrote the story for Homefront, and he was the writer/director of Red Dawn and co-writer for Apocalypse Now. Homefront's writing pedigree is definitely in order. Soon, a truck crashes into your bus and you are rescued by the members of the resistance, since they really need a man with your skills. It seems their ultimate goal is a series of fuel tankers that they mean to intercept and steal for the U.S. Military forces, but to get that, first they must commandeer a helicopter and they want you to pilot it.

In the Single Player campaign, you'll be making your way through bombed-out neighborhoods, homes and businesses, taking down the enemy forces as the attack you. You'll begin with a mere pistol, but soon, you'll be able to pick up a nice variety of weapons left by the enemy. Ammo never really seemed to be a problem, although I did run out a few times, probably because I was stubbornly holding on to a certain gun. It seems the way to go is to pretty much pick up whatever looks plentiful around you at the time and you'll be fine. On some levels, they liked to mix things up by having you control the Goliath, a Korean tank that was reprogrammed to work for the resistance. Here, you'll aim at enemies and once you lock on, Goliath will come busting through a wall and take them out with missiles. He comes in handy not only for ground forces, but for helicopters and other tanks or heavy vehicles like Hummers. In another level, you had to take the wheel of a helicopter and not only pilot it, but also clear enemies at the same time, which was trickier than the other levels in the game. Most of your time is spent on foot, however. The Single Player campaign is relatively short. It claims to be 5-10 hours in length and that sounds about right as I beat the game in a couple of longish sittings. Overall, I found it to be too short for my liking though.

Multiplayer is another story. You can play with up to 32 players (some games are 16 and some 32) and even though the game has already been out for a while, there are still a number of folks playing, but only certain types of games. For instance, I couldn't get a game started to save my life on Ground Control, which is a King of the Hill variant where you control certain areas. Maybe it was because I was a noob at Homefront and so were most of the others trying to get a game of Ground Control going, but since a game required 8 players and the most we could get was 5, it didn't happen, although I tried multiple times. Team Deathmatch is where it's at. There were tons of players when I checked it out and it's quite fun, although it does offer headset support, so I grew tired of listening to young kids rambling about how much they liked each other's names. The last type, Skirmish, offered a combination of Ground Control and Team Deathmatch on various maps, but didn't have anyone when I went, much like Ground Control. Do keep in mind that you have to enter a Battle Code to get over the level cap of 5, so I don't recommend you buy this game used because the only staying power is the multiplayer and once you hit your level cap, you'll be out of luck without a Battle Code.

What was interesting about Homefront's multiplayer is the economy system they offer. You earn BP, your in-game currency for multiplayer, by making kills, assisting in kills, etc. and you can spend these points on upgrades like a Humvee or a helicopter, a flak jacket or better weapons. As long as you are consistently making kills, you'll earn money at a decent rate, but you have to be careful how you spend it. For instance, don't go on a vengeance mission and buy a helicopter hoping to off the tank who just killed you because if you manage to die before getting back to him, you just lost your heli and the hard-earned dollars you paid for it - even if you barely got to use it. What's cool is getting a Humvee and then having a random person from your team hop in and act as the gunner or even driver. I found a nice sense of community, at times, even though I was new and clearly inexperienced in that portion of the game.

There are four difficulty settings in Homefront: Easy, Normal, Hard and Guerilla. I played the game on Normal and it was about on par with Call of Duty and the like, as far as difficulty goes. There were some difficult moments, but they came more in the form of frustrating controls, game design or stupid A.I., rather than true game challenge. I'll go into these issues more in the Game Mechanics section, however. In the shooting department, you can enable Aim Assist and whenever you click (R1) to aim, your gun will always target on the person to whom your site is nearest. Once you drop them, simply back out of the aim and then aim again by pressing R1 and you'll center on the next closest. When done in rapid succession, you can clear enemies at an amazing rate. Sure, it won't help you if you are ever actually in the heat of battle, but it can make playing the game more fun.

Changing the difficulty setting is ridiculously difficult in and of itself. In order to do so, you must back completely out of the game to the main menu screen and get to it via game settings. However annoying it was, for the sake of the review, I did try out a particular level on all difficulty settings. Easy was somewhat easier than Normal, and Hard was somewhat harder than Normal, but honestly, at least int he levels I tried them out on, there didn't seem to be a vast difference. However, Guerilla stands out as a really tough battle, so if you breeze through on the lower difficulties, Guerilla should make you sit up and take notice. It's brutal.

Game Mechanics:
Homefront controls much like a standard first-person shooter. While on foot, you'll control Jacobs by moving the Left Analog Stick and you'll look around with the Right Analog Stick. You'll aim your primary weapon with (L1) and shoot with (R1), using (L2) and (R2) for your two types of explosives. Sprinting is done by pressing down on the Left Stick (L3), but sometimes I didn't find the sprint to be too responsive, and melee is accomplished by depressing (R3). Jumping and crouching/prone are done using (X) and (O) respectively, which again, is pretty standard, while (Triangle) swaps weapons and (Square) is used to pick up a new weapon or to reload, which you will do automatically, but it seemed slow sometimes, so I preferred to reload when I had a second of downtime rather than to be wailed upon while I am reloading. While operating an aircraft or ground vehicles, your controls are pretty much the same except that (X) activates a countermeasure when you have been locked-on by a missile.

To activate the Goliath special weapon, the reprogrammed tank I mentioned earlier, you would press up on the directional pad which would bring up the Goliath HUD overlay. You would then aim it towards the target(s) and once they flashed red, indicating a lock-on, you'd press your fire button and then the HUD would go away and presumably, Goliath would take down the foes. While a weapon to be reckoned with, he was a little on the slow side, so often, in tense situations where he was available, it was better to pick off assailants with your gun and use him for the heavy stuff.

One of the most annoying things about Homefront is the fact that when you approach a ladder to climb, instead of allowing you to merely look up and then start climbing the ladder, you must get in exactly the right spot and then press (Square). This seemed so stupid to me. Why go backwards when it comes to controls when FPS games have been doing this for years? Worse yet, in the multiplayer mode, you can walk up to a ladder and simply climb it, but not in the Single Player mode, which tells me they were just artificially slowing you down. Further, if you were told to follow Connor into the fray, you had to wait until Connor, Rianna, Hopper and anyone else who happened to be with your group had gone through the door before you could proceed. Annoying! Another issue I had was with level progression. At one point, I was in the Tiger Direct and my current goal was to "follow Connor." Well, I went throughout and killed all the enemies in the immediate area, and I couldn't really see what to do next. I went to Connor and "followed" him, where he proceeded to sneak around a group of boxes, stopping at each corner and getting back into position. By the time he had made his second go round the same damn boxes, I realized something was off and just left him behind, hoping to progress the level myself, which I eventually did. But that was some stupid A.I.

The last thing that I had problems with was the compass on the HUD that showed you where your next goal was and gave you a distance as to how far from it you were. I've seen this done very well in Call of Duty, but there were times when I got left behind by my team (specifically in a rough firefight on a city street) and I simply could not tell where they had gone. Sadly, the compass was moving to and fro and it wasn't much help either. Perhaps a little tweaking would improve this and help implement it better.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing Homefront. The story was good and while it had a satisfying ending, I can see room for a sequel within the storyline. My only hope is that they make some tweaks and fix the problems I encountered to make it that much better. Oh, and a longer Single Player campaign would be appreciated. Overall, I'd definitely recommend Homefront as a rental because you can beat it over a weekend and it has a good storyline, and the multiplayer, while fun, probably isn't going to steal you away if you are a diehard COD player anyway. While the Single Player campaign is short, it's fun and worth your time, even with the minor annoyances, just not necessarily for a purchase.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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