Homefront was released by THQ early in 2011, with a much-publicised script by John Millius, the co-writer of Apocalypse Now and Dirty Harry, and director of Red Dawn. And it’s a good time to catch up on the interesting but flawed original as not only is a sequel due shortly, but a lower price point certainly helps to justify trying it.
Despite mixed reviews at launch, it sold 375,000 copies in the first 24 hours and went on to record 1 million plus sales, so it must have done something right, but was it just all advertising hype?
Homefront Single Player:
The year is 2027 and North Korea has taken over much of the globe including occupying North America, as relayed in various video clips in the introduction. Some anticipation is built with the use of real news events and clips featuring the likes of Hilary Clinton before the game kicks in.
You take on the role of Robert Jacobs, a former Marine helicopter pilot living in Montrose, Colorado, and after a lengthy opening section which sees you placed on a bus for re-education in Alaska, you’re rescued by American Resistance fighters to join their cause by shooting bad guys. The eventual aim is the slightly underwhelming quest to secure jet fuel to help the remnants of the American military to retake San Francisco.
It’s a short campaign, clocking in around 5 hours or so for completion on even the hardest difficulty settings. But although short, it’s got some moments which stand out, including during the opening bus ride when Montrose residents are being rounded up by the Korean army, the discovery of some of the horrors committed by the occupying army, and sections of the final battle for San Francisco. The idyllic base of the resistance fighters in Montrose also promises something slightly different to most FPS games as you wander around chatting to homesteaders tending their garden or milking goats behind boarded houses.
But the problem is that the game doesn’t live up to the promise of these moments. There were rumours that Millius didn’t do as much work on the script as advertised, and since release developer Kaos Studios has been shut down by THQ – the sequel is being handled by Nottingham-based Crytek.
Certainly much of the attempts at cinematic drama fall a little short – the supporting characters don’t prompt much emotion, particularly as they’re invulnerable in battle and only meet their maker at heavily sign-posted moments. The prospect of the hidden homebase is obviously wiped out early on to make way for plot progression in such a short space of time, for example. One memorable moment is sparked by an ill-advised mortar round fired by an American-Korean character in the main cast, but even this only accounts for a minute of action before everything moves on relentlessly.
Besides the need to move relentlessly onwards, the game mechanics don’t lend themselves to a memorable experience. It’s very much pull left trigger, aim, pull right trigger, fire, and repeat. Occasionally you’re given control of the automated Colossus vehicle, in which case it becomes a case of using your targetting goggles, firing and repeating.
It’s not a particularly bad experience – there are certainly worse FPS games mechanically, and everything has a reasonable level of polish and action. But it’s just not great, and doesn’t help lift the story or the action. There’s the odd choice to relegate climbing ladders and certain moments to a button press, and the clunky controls for a helicopter section which undermine the supposed skill of your Marine helicopter pilot as he careers around aimlessly.
Graphically it looks pretty good – particularly with the ruined scenery of suburban America in a subdued palette. But again, game mechanics undermine this as you can’t go off the beaten path, even when searching for the obligatory and heavily highlighted collectible newspaper articles. Every time I started to sink into the game a little I found myself stuck on an invisible wall, or occasionally waiting for a scripted AI moment which left me unable to open a door or do anything.
The audio is pretty good with some rousing orchestral themes, and the voice acting isn’t bad – just average. Occasionally it’s slightly muffled, and I ended up putting the optional subtitles on to avoid missing anything useful. But there’s always a mission target icon shouting loudly at you to get to the objective, so it’s never a problem.
Inevitably you’re led into various big set-piece bottlenecks which rely on you moving up through cover to allow your invincible team-mates to wipe out the Korean (or at one stage survivalist) enemies, whilst you pop out occasionally to give them a hand. But even the prospect of killing fellow Americans doesn’t phase the AI characters for more than split second.
Overall I actually enjoyed the single player campaign. Although much of the game feels workmanlike, it had enough atmosphere and story to keep me interested in how everything turns out, and the short campaign meant it didn’t outstay its welcome (Although it came close on one particular stage). If each area of the game had just been a little better, the whole experience would have been very highly rated, but as it is, I’d suggest it as a rental or cheap purchase to run through quickly for a break from the CoD and Battlefield worlds.
The good news is that early launch problems were rectified pretty quickly, and Homefront has a pretty solid and enjoyable multiplayer experience. The bad news is a rental or secondhand copy requires an online pass to be purchased for 800 MS Points before you can proceed past Level 5 with your character – considering the age of the game and the downloadable alternatives, that really, really needs to be dropped to something more accessible asap.
Multiplayer itself can be a little tricky to find games, but once you’re in it’s good fun. You get standard team deathmatch or ground control (capture the base) game types, along with Battle Commander which assigns special objectives and highlights enemy players with killstreaks to dish out bonus points.
One unusual feature is that the game’s Battle Points can be spent on the fly during a game – you have an available selection for each class, and you can also buy vehicles. So during a game you can save and spend your points on a rocket launcher or a helicopter depending on how well you do.
There’s a small selection of maps, along with later DLC releases for Alcatraz and a couple more. Again, it’s hard to justify investing in maps and online access when there are a number of other notable shooters available, but if you decide you prefer the Homefront approach, I can understand that.
Homefront verdict: 6/10
I do think Homefront is worth experiencing. The story may not achieve all it was set up to do, but if you approach it as an attempt to set a different scene and world, it’s easy to see a number of good moments and ways it could be spun out for the second game. Certainly the familiar mechanics and gameplay mean the short campaign can be gone through quickly to let you see everything and make up your own mind.
It feels much like the Millius script was always the unique selling point for this game, and the rest of development was more of a box ticking exercise, which results in a decent-enough multiplayer, a decent-enough single player, and a decent-enough game, hence why it gets a decent-enough score. I’m really keen to see how the story side of the game might be expanded for the sequel, as Homefront could develop into a very interesting franchise with the right emphasis on the emotions and struggles of resistance fighters. But if you’re looking for something to amaze you, it’s probably better to wait for the next installment of the big FPS franchises for the time being.
Version tested: Xbox 360.
It’s been a big year for FPS shooting games, and that’s reflected in the 2011 Gamesmaster Golden Joystick Award shortlist, with several of the nominees in the Best Shooter category also having a good chance of potentially claiming the Ultimate Game of the Year in the world’s longest-running videgame awards.
The shortlist for your votes in the Best Shooter category are:
- Call of Duty: Black Ops
- Crysis 2
- Dead Space
- Goldeneye 007
- Halo Reach
- Killzone 3
- Medal of Honor
- Red Faction Armageddon
If we had to try and predict the winner, seeing as it’s entirely based on user votes, we’d probably go for Black Ops due to the record-breaking number of sales, and continued success of the series, but there are a few titles that could cause an upset (Crysis 2, Halo Reach, Killzone 3 for example, although platform exclusives are at a big disadvantage).
The Ultimate Game of the Year also includes several shooters:
- Call of Duty Black Ops
- Fallout New Vegas (Also in the RPG category)
- Killzone 3
- Portal 2 (Which is also in the Best Action/Adventure category)
In the Mobile Gaming category, N.O.V.A 2 – Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance is a possible FPS winner.
And finally, there’s the One to Watch category with:
- Aliens: Colonial Marines
- Battlefield 3
- Bioshock Infinite
- Farcry 3
- Halo 4
- Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3
That’s a lot of voting to get done, so you better start now! About the only big release not getting a mention is Duke Nukem Forever, which despite reasonable sales has had a very mixed reception.
Homefront was a special FPS from THQ, just as Metro 2033 before it, yet this was different. The mixed reviews and share price drop has made no difference for the games’ first day selling performance, chart topping ability and sell count of over a million copies in less than 3 weeks. Advertising can do wonders can’t it?!
Although it received many mixed reviews, with gamers opinions varied too, it was difficult to see how this title would sell into the hundred thousands, let alone millions. I mean, THQ’s share price fell by a quarter!! That’s a big loss before the titles’ release.
The story was short but sweet, to which some found more engaging than the latest Call of Duty title and the likes of CVG calling it ‘The thinking man’s Black Ops’ when they previewed the title. And there is no demo available for those who have not bought the game yet (me!) for both single player or multiplayer.
But that’s not why we’re here. Homefront is making THQ some cash. Now it seems that 2.6 million copies of the game have been sold worldwide, and to which has sparked plans to release downloadable content as stated by CEO Brian Farrell.
In a webcast presentation found on THQ’s Investor Relations, Brian Farrell says, “It’s clearly a hit franchise we can build on going forward… This digital plan is an example of what we intent to do with all of our key core games going… Build a digital ecosystem after the launch of the retail game to continue to engage out consumers to generate revenue.”
Well, with the release of the multiplayer demo, more gamers should be attracted towards this title, as they have a potential owner of the game right here!!
There is no date yet confirmed for the demos nor the planned DLC, apart from THQ stating that downloadable content will be provided over the next six months. Lets hope it’s sooner rather then later.
Have you got Homefront? What do you think to it? Leave some thoughts below or jump over t our forums.
Mixed reviews or not, gamers have voiced their opinion via their wallets.
THQ must be happier now with this piece of news. Homefront hadn’t even been released when reviews started to appear online with less then expected average scores. This resulted in a 25 percent drop in share price which must have worried shareholders.
However, all should not feel too despondent at THQ. Their FPS has sold over a million copies and they are about to break even.
Last Monday, Homefront was enjoying life at the top spot in the UK charts, before being dislodged down to third by Crysis 2 and Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars.
Brian Farrell, President of THQ, was overly pleased with strong worldwide sales and that “Homefront is clearly resonating with gamers…
But as with many games, you can’t have it bug free. Currently, there are a few glitches with multiplayer modes, though a patch should be released this week some time.
With all the love Homefront seems to be receiving, it’s good to see THQ giving something back.
Let us know what you think to the game below.
Although THQ’s first person shooter received many mixed reviews, with some not even passing the 70 percent mark, and their shares dropping by approximately 26% in 24 hours… I guess they are having the last laugh now knowing their title seems to have hit the sweet spot with consumers.
In the UK alone, the new entry into last weeks chart, topped the list fighting off EA’s Dragon Age 2 and two other new entries from SEGA and EA.
With our copy yet to arrive, we’ll have our review here as soon as possible. Meanwhile, leave your thoughts on the title below.
Homefront has been out in America since the 15th. Already, it seems to have kicked up a storm in sales with over 375K copies sold and that’s just North America.
Publisher THQ’s President and CEO Brian Farrell, posted a statement saying “we are delighted with first day sales for Homefront and are already fulfilling re-orders for the game from multiple retailers.”
In a message to IGN, VP of Investor Relations, Julie MacMedan, stated that “we get electronic data feeds from out retailers and online distributors,” on each copy sold, which can only suggest this figure is pretty accurate.
The only downside to this title is the mixed reviews it has received.
If you have this game on pre-order, let us know what your initial thoughts are below.
Homefront out this week
On Friday, publishers THQ will unleash Homefront in the UK on all major gaming formats and OnLive… but not the Wii.
Personally, I’ve heard very little about this title, with first signs of it’s existence coming in the form of TV adverts. But oh boy does it look interesting.
Homefront is based in the near future, year 2027. The Greater Korean Republic Army are now armed with nuclear weapons, and what better thing to do with this power then invade the US. I guess one could say this game could do with being delayed what with the current events occurring in Japan, though the chance of that is pretty slim.
You take on the role of a former Marine helicopter pilot, Robert Jacobs. He is ordered to a re-education camp in Alaska for failing to answer drafts from the Occupation forces and enroute to the camp, his bus is ambushed by American Resistance Fighters Connor Morgan and Rianna. Jacobs journey then begins…