There were a lot of great games shown at E3 last year, but not a single one excited us more than Kaos Studios' cinematic-shooter, Homefront. And that's why it took home our Game of Show award. Now that it's here, the question that has to be asked is, does Homefront live up to our lofty expectations, or is it just another generic first-person shooter? Thanks to an incredible single-player campaign and some intense FPS action, Homefront doesn't disappoint.
Set in the year 2027, Homefront presents a kind of "worst case scenario" of the near future. Kim Jong-Il, the current real-world leader of North Korea, has died, and has been succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Un. After unifying North and South Korea, and forming the Greater Korean Republic, Kim Jong-Un begins annexing nearby countries, such as Japan and Vietnam. At the same time, America's economy lies in shambles due to their dependence on foreign oil. After a satellite-launched EMP blast, Korea finally invades America.
In the single player campaign, you play as Robert Jacobs, a former helicopter pilot who is being recruited for "re-education" by the Koreans. But pilots have become scarce in occupied America, and the resistance fighters need one for an important mission. Luckily, it doesn't take them long to liberate you from your Korean captors.
The campaign in Homefront is absolutely fantastic. It's thrilling from start to finish, and filled with plenty of memorable scenes and intense firefights. Kaos Studios was trying to make the story as emotionally impactful as possible, and they succeeded. Watching a little boy weep as his parents are shot right in front of him is the kind of thing that sticks with you long after the campaign is over. There are some pretty memorable set pieces throughout the campaign as well, from a civilian detainee camp housed in a football field, to an epic battle atop the Golden Gate Bridge.
The gameplay is fast-paced and exhilarating throughout the campaign. The shooting feels incredibly tight and powerful, and is extremely satisfying. Honestly, I don't remember the last time it felt this good to shoot someone in the face. The AI, for both squad mates and enemies, is outstanding. Your squad mates are able to hold their own in a firefight, and even saved my life on more than one occasion. And your enemies provide a fitting challenge without it feeling like they're cheating. For instance, enemies don't automatically know where you are (like in some shooters) making for some pretty awesome ambush scenarios.
As a member of the Resistance, you're almost always outmanned and outgunned, meaning that hit-and-run guerilla tactics are preferred over head-on assaults. And even though you're only a lowly member of the Resistance, you still get some neat toys to play with once and a while, such as the Goliath: a six-wheeled tank-like vehicle that destroys enemies that you mark with a targeting device. You also get to man the gun of a humvee and fly a helicopter over the course of the campaign.
The only problem with the campaign is that it is over far too quickly. Consisting of seven missions, it only takes about four hours to finish the campaign on normal difficulty. Even worse, it feels like the battle is really just starting to begin when the story ends, which is a little disheartening, because you'll want to keep playing. There are 61 collectibles to be found throughout the campaign, which helps add some replayability. They take the form of documents and newspaper articles, and provide backstory on life in America up until the Korean invasion. Still, the length of the campaign is disappointing.
Once you're finished with the campaign, you can always jump into the multiplayer. The online multiplayer in Homefront is almost an exact copy of Call of Duty's online offerings. There are six different classes, such as "Assault" and "Sniper," that can be customized and renamed. As you gain experience and level up, you unlock new perks and weapons. Up to 32 players can play in a match, and most of the maps are of the suburban variety.
One cool thing about the multiplayer are Battle Points. Battle Points are earned in-game by doing things like killing enemy players and completing objectives. However, unlike experience, these points don't carry over to the next match, meaning you have to spend them in-game. You can buy things like air strikes or controllable vehicles with Battle Points, or even weapons. Is there a pesky helicopter that just won't leave you alone? Then purchase an RPG and blow it out of the sky. It's a neat addition that kind of replaces killstreaks.
There are only a couple of different game modes available online. There's Team Deathmatch, which is your standard fragfest, and Ground Control, which has your team vying for different points of the map to control. And then there's Battle Commander, which is the most interesting mode. Each team gets an AI-controlled commander, who sets up missions and places bounties on players during the match. It's a fun mode that can be played in both Team Deathmatch and Ground Control variants. But in the end, the multiplayer is nearly identical to Call of Duty. If you're looking for a radically new online shooter to jump into, this isn't it.
Graphically, Homefront is solid. Environments are well-detailed, and help set the tone of an occupied America. Some textures, like the wood grain in a hardwood floor, look absolutely stunning. But shadows sometimes look a little low res, and character models can look sketchy at times. But even if Homefront had the greatest graphics in the world, they would still pale in comparison to the phenomenal sound design. The sound effects of the guns are probably the best I've ever heard in a video game, and the explosions don't sound too bad either. The voice acting is spot-on, and the incredible soundtrack sets the mood perfectly throughout the entire campaign.
If you've been looking forward to Homefront since last year's E3 like we have, you'll be glad to know that Kaos has delivered a truly fantastic shooter. If you're burnt out on Call of Duty`s multiplayer, then Homefront may not keep your attention for long. But the campaign should still be experienced by FPS fans. And if you're the kind of gamer that values quality over quantity, then you'll definitely want to check it out.