In case the onslaught of marketing hasn't made this perfectly clear, Homefront is THQ's attempt at making an entry into the big leagues of first person shooters. From its premiere at E3 all the way up until the weeks following launch day, THQ has been doing everything in their power to let people know that this is the game to own if you're a FPS fan. This week I take on the PC version of the game to see if it lives up to all the hype.
Homefront wastes no time diving head first into a decent storyline that shouldn't take too much imagination to get behind. The well casted and emotional opening cinematic sequences do a great job of reminding one just how ruthless war can be. By the time I had my first weapon in hand, there were no reservations about which side I would be taking it to for the duration of the game. While the supporting cast of characters come off as original and dynamic enough to add overall entertainment value, their dialog is unfortunately less than engaging and by the end I found myself tuning them out altogether. One of the main gripes I have with Homefront is the lack of direction provided throughout the game. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of six inch tall fences and other frustratingly low barriers that you can't make it past for no good reason other than to keep you within the confines of the map. No, what I'm referring to is the invisible lines that need to be crossed in order for the next wave of tanks or whatever to come barging in on you. I can't count the number of times I sat behind a barrier wasting ammunition on an infinite amount of enemy soldiers, only to find out that everyone had been waiting on me to weather a storm of bullets in order to push forward.
If you've ever fired a shot in a modern day Call of Duty title, you should notice almost no difference here. The same array of modern day guns and accessories are all accounted for and mostly pack the same punch. A few of the areas I struggled to cope with were grenade throwing and melee attacks. Both grenade throws and melee attacks have the same overall effect as you would expect, but on my test system the animations for both were wildly fast, almost like it was happening in 2x speed compared the rest of the action on screen. The inclusion of the overpowered Goliath vehicle, and its hilariously simple targeting system made some of the bigger firefights a little more bearable. Vehicle operation was mostly a smooth ride with controls and response times that felt just about right. Turrets on the other hand, particularly those attached to moving vehicles, seemed to wildly flail about no matter how steady I tried to hold my hand. Perhaps this is a realistic experience for this weapon, but for me it mostly devolved into a spray-and-pray operation each time.
I had heard from some of the other editors that Homefront's graphics vary depending on the object, and the PC version is no different. Adding to this frustration of staring at a world that looks like parts have been borrowed from a game released in the early 2000's, the PC version lacks the ability to turn up everything to an illustrious level of detail it could have achieved. Another bummer is that for my testing system, which isn't the biggest and baddest of gaming rigs, but is also a good step above the minimum requirements posted, had to run at the lowest level to reach any sort of playable frame rate (and even then I never got much better than 20fps). I was also perplexed by the number of glitches that tied in with the audio system, like mouths not timed or moving correctly with sound, which was unfortunate because even though audio quality was good (weapon sounds, voice acting, etc.) it only helped to outline the poor scripting of characters as they chimed in.
Luckily for Homefront the major area of focus seems to be on its multiplayer component. The game lands a solid punch that even the most die-hard of fans from other shooters will have a hard time not appreciating. The Battle Commander modes are a well thought out way of rewarding kill streaks while also placing massive bounties on the very same player that is doing well. What's the reward? Well, for the player running up the body count you get help in the form of upgrades to weapons and armor, and for the other team you often see decent payouts of Battle Points (the in-game currency) which can be spent on pretty much anything your little gun slinging heart desires. While Battle Points come off as a clone of any other point system, the twist comes from being able to purchase a host of upgrades and vehicles in game. It removes the pre-planned kill streak milestones and actually requires some strategic thought about what you're spending points on in order to achieve the best tactical advantage.
Overall I was left in a pretty confused state by Homefront. The campaign mode struggles through its paces, but multiplayer shines. Certain visual and audio aspects of the game are amazing, but the glaring untouched parts and bugs often took me out of the experience all together. If you spend a majority of your time online, Homefront is an easy entry into the current lineup of top tier shooters, but if a well-rounded package is essential for you to lay down some cash I would check out a rental copy to make sure it's what you're looking for.
Final Rating: 68%. Homefront makes a big splash in the multiplayer field; leaves everything else out to dry.