Homefront is Kaos Studios‘ second and final game. After the disappointing release of Homefront, THQ at the time decided to axe them. Another studio and brand are dead, in a sea of publishers looking for that sweet Call of Duty 4 money. This is a tale old as religion. Instead of focusing on what made their game good, they decided to chase trends, which in the end proved to be a futile endeavor. However, the game is not all bad, the campaign is entertaining at times, but long gone is the cool futuristic setting. Now, it’s set in a more contemporary setting with some light sci-fi stuff. Just like Frontlines: Fuel of War, Homefront has a strong multiplayer focus, but unlike Frontlines: Fuel of War, it never grabbed me as that game. It feels way too much like CoD. It also comes with added XP, leveling, and soldier kit upgrades – stuff that I don’t enjoy in an online shooter since it makes the immersion and balancing absolutely dreadful.
The world has gone down the drain, viruses have been ravaging the world, fuel prices are out of this world, and the general state of things is bad. Especially hard hit by this is the USA, which
China, sorry, North Korea together with South Korea through unification takes advantage of. After the occupation of Japan, the USA is next on their list. And after blasting an EMP nuke in the atmosphere over the USA, the invasion is on. Thanks to a crippled military and an economy spiraling out of control America didn’t stand a chance and gets royally screwed by the Koreans.
Two years into the occupation you come in as Robert Jacobs, a former Marine helicopter pilot. For some reason the Koreans want you alive, and during the transport to a prison camp, you get rescued by the resistance. It’s time for payback, and through a set of missions – actually, it’s not clear what the hell you are doing and why until the end of the game, but either way. It’s time to kill Koreans, and hopefully, establish a future for American somehow, or at least punish the Koreans for their transgression.
Now, this story wouldn’t be half bad if it weren’t for one rather big pink elephant in the room, and I already hinted at what. Where is China in all this? I find it ridiculous that North Korea, even through unification with the south would have the manpower, tech, and political will to do something like this. Much is explained through articles you can find during the game, but still, it feels a bit out there. I sense that China was supposed to be bad guys, but for some reason, it got changed. I suspect it was because of the China market. It ruins the believability of the setting, unfortunately. That is not all. As far as I know, China gets no mentions at all in the background lore. I can’t be certain, because I didn’t find all the lore articles, but it seems like they don’t even exist in this timeline. They don’t join Korea, they don’t oppose them, Korea just marches over their country apparently, and lays siege to Japan.
While Frontlines: Fuel of War had a sandbox approach to its gameplay, Homefront goes the other way and embraces the Call of Duty style of a super-scripted campaign with explosive set-pieces. I don’t mind linearity generally, however, in the case of Homefront, it gets a bit much. There is constant hand-holding, and not until the end it lets up a bit. Just a bunch of follow me, or follow him, being blocked up by invisible walls if you try to flank or explore. It’s also filled with scripted sequences that take away control from the player – in other words; it’s crammed with some of the worst aspects of a CoD campaign. Coming from their first game, it’s a major disappointment, which gets translated to the multiplayer mode as well. In the online mode, the game is just way too fast. The time to kill is ridiculous, and it does not have a feeling of war with regular soldiers. It feels more like you are playing a bunch of solo mercenaries running around blasting each other, all with their own private kit and weapons. Decline all around.
However, I got to say, I still found some enjoyment during the campaign. Some of the set pieces are entertaining to take part in, and the story or at least the background stuff is interesting to follow. I should clarify that while the setting is cool, besides having North Korea as the bad guys, the story during the game is rather weak. Instead of providing interesting characters with a history, Homefront rests exclusively on being “edgy” and pulling on the good old emotional strings. It does feel a tad tryhard, especially since you don’t have a connection to anyone or anything. It’s just random scenes of misery and despair, and I don’t have anything against dark subjects, but it got to earn it.
The campaign is also short. You can probably finish it in three to four hours. It didn’t take me long at all to complete, and finally, when the game gets going for real, it just ends. While providing a conclusive ending to the little resistance group you are part of, Homefront ends before truly hitting its crescendo. The campaign feels unfinished thanks to this, and what makes this even more of a sour taste is that the redneck militia portion of the story should have been cut, and made into something better. It’s a meaningless mega-scripted slow-going stealth segment, much like “All Ghillied Up” from Call of Duty 4 with sniper gameplay. Here you face off with boring militia dudes that make no sense in the setting since they both kill and make deals with the Korean occupying force. This section should have been cut and instead used to improve the ending.
Gameplay otherwise is standard FPS fare, and compared to Frontlines: Fuel of War, it’s much faster, and much easier to kill soldiers, both in single and multiplayer. There are still vehicles and drones, yet it doesn’t have the same cool feeling thanks to the setting and codification, but at least it’s still there, and makes the game stand out a bit. However, the infantry fighting is CoD through and through, and as mentioned, it does now have XP, and kits to unlock. What is impressive is that there still exist servers and that the in-game server browser works. Finding a server might be hard, though. When I tried it, only three servers were running, and all of them were empty, sadly. But it makes me happy that the game isn’t killed off, even if it isn’t one of my favorites.
The visual style is clear and the graphics overall looks good. The environments have plenty of detail, and the different areas you will traverse look like they have been ravaged by war hard. Homefront still uses Unreal 3, like their former game, but it’s clear it got a facelift, now providing even more colors to its name. Gone are the browns and greys, but I honestly think the visual style of Frontlines: Fuel of War looked better – it felt more distinct than the more mundane visuals of small-town USA. The sound of war and battle is great and are one of the stronger parts of the game. Distant shouting and gunshots sound much better in this game than in many modern titles. It makes it easy to locate where stuff is going on, and besides that, it adds to the authenticity of the situation by a lot. Music is the typical hero-pumping orchestral type, however, I can’t say anything special stood out to me here. It’s there and it works.
I have mostly been negative in my review, so it probably comes as no surprise that I don’t recommend getting Homefront. It’s not all bad, but the campaign is so short that it makes it hard to justify buying even for cheap. The multiplayer aspect is dead, but at least it is working, compared to Frontlines: Fuel of War. I’m not sure that helps, though, since you need players and people don’t seem to play this title anymore. It’s a big shame they went this way, it killed the studio, a studio I think had some real potential. But trend chasing usually ends up this way, and we have many examples of studios doing just that. Just check the MMO genre with the countless World of Warcraft killers coming out back a few years ago, all massively bloated projects that never took off when released. Oh well, that is gaming for you. Until next time!
Thanks for reading.