Homefront’s opening cinematic outlines the game’s uncomfortably plausible premise: an opportunistic North Korea takes advantage of an America weakened by avian flu, skyrocketing oil prices and civil unrest to expand its holdings in Asia, then launches an attack on the American homeland itself. It’s a grim picture, ably penned by Apocalypse Now writer John Milius, and is well represented through the cleverly edited news footage that describes Korea’s expansion, attack, and later occupation of mainland America.
The game proper begins in occupied Montrose, Colorado with a Half Life style bus ride, where the horrors faced by the invaded become abundantly clear: those that can work are shipped to labour camps and those that resist are brutally terminated. The exposition is soon punctuated by a ham-handed rescue by the American resistance force, who want to use your skills as a pilot to help the beleaguered remnants of the US Army.
As the game progresses, you’ll find yourself meeting a cast of characters that unfortunately don’t further your immersion in the plot, with lacklustre dialogue and little backstory. The setting is further described through collectible newspaper clippings, although it seems Kaos Studies has missed a trick by making them difficult to find; I only found two out of sixty over the course of the campaign. While the characters and the immediate storyline fall a bit flat, the pacing is commendable, with lessons clearly learned from Half Life that it’s difficult to tell a story over the roar of gunfire.
Gameplay is simplistic, with industry-standard setpiece gunfights set behind chest-high walls and one-button problem solving (“press E to hide in the mass grave.”) There’s the usual assortment of weapons and attachments, but it’s a bland selection. Firing lacks feedback and feels floaty. One highlight of the campaign are the vehicle sections, which provide brief but satisfying feelings of immortality. Homefront does clock in on the short side, taking me only five hours to complete. The interesting setting is unfortunately underexplored in this regard, although future DLCs will have a chance to change that.
PC exclusive developers Digital Extremes, of Unreal Tournament fame, have done well to provide the options that PC gamers crave, with comprehensive settings including things like field of view, mouse acceleration and interface tweaks all easily available in the cavernous option menus. Still, use of a checkpoint system is far from ideal, although thankfully these are frequent and there are few unreasonably challenging sections.
Another possible area of contention is that of performance; while the game was playable on high settings, I eventually decided to move to low settings in order to gain an edge in close gunfights. My rig is not far above the requirements and a patch is reportedly incoming, so your results may vary. On high settings, the graphics were about average for the Unreal 3 engine, somewhere between the excellent Bulletstorm and the original Unreal Tournament 3, with a good mixture of bright open environments and dark grimy scenes. The score, composed by Matthew Harwood, is similarly unremarkable.
Homefront’s singleplayer campaign ultimately fails to live up to the premise so convincingly described by its opening cinematics, with its often unremarkable gameplay and one dimensional characters. Kaos aimed high with Homefront’s singleplayer section, and even missing the mark they produced a world that’s definitely worth spending some time in – even if it’s only five hours.
Now that you’ve read the singleplayer review, why not check my review of the other side of the coin – Homefront’s innovative multiplayer!
Homefront was reviewed on a PC running Windows 7, and fitted with a 3GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Geforce 9800 GTX in SLI, and 8GB of DDR2 RAM. Review copy was provided by THQ UK.