Homefront [5 Minute Review]

This is purely based on the single-player campaign, which is hardly indicative of the whole game at all, but the single-player was the main reason this title got my attention in the first place.

The concept of Homefront is interesting, if a little incredulous. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Il, has finally kicked the bucket, and after a period of national mourning, his son and successor Kim Jong-Un steps up to the throne. After single-handedly lowering borders, increasing transparency, unifying Korea and slowly rebuilding the nation, Kim Jong-Un helps North Korea become one of the world’s superpowers, annexing neighbouring countries and becoming a powerhouse in terms of exports, production and military. On the other hand, America is having trouble funding its multiple wars and at the same time reanimating its barely-there economy crippled by hyperinflation and debt. After being ravaged by a bird flu epidemic, the nation soon collapses into disarray, leaving the doors wide open for North Korean occupation.

The opening shots are pretty intense – I couldn’t help but wince a little when the North Korean soldiers killed a kid’s parents right in front of him. The separation of families and the mass shootings were also pretty graphic. It was all shaping up to be a pretty promising ride…and then the game actually starts.

The setting is fairly impressive – it appears that a lot of the environments are based on real-world locations and stores, as it helps with the immersion. Kaos also draw upon all the nice war cliches: ghettos and slums, turntable informants, hiding in mass graves, Americans mistreating North Korean POWs and vice versa…it’s all actually done rather well.

The only problem is that the supporting NPCs are freaking awful. There’s the gung-ho badass that shoots first and asks questions later and is constantly angry; there’s the bleeding heart chick that always insists that she “didn’t sign up for this”; and then there’s the meek token Asian dude that is good with computers and electrical engineering (and is always told to explain things “in English”). Fine, the game isn’t founded on quality characterisation: the game is about shooting foreign soldiers. But at least the soldiers sound like normal human beings.

I also struggled to believe that I was actually part of a resistance movement. The lack of ammo caches and the constant need to swap out weapons doesn’t really amount to much when you’re mowing down squads of North Koreans in broad daylight (with the assistance of a hacked unmanned armoured vehicle with unlimited ammunition and rockets, no less). Freedom Fighters did a much better job in representing guerilla warfare – hit-and-run tactics were necessary. One can easily get away with running and gunning in Homefront, given the abundance of hardware and inventory at one’s disposal.

But what really gutted me was the length of the campaign. The official claim is about 5-10 hours long, and it’s pretty much spot on (although how one can manage to wring 10 hours worth of gameplay out of this is beyond me). The whole experience felt awkward and forced when it really didn’t need to be, and then it was all topped off with an anti-climactic finish. Mmm.

Maybe I’ll find some solace in the Multiplayer…although I don’t quite like the idea of grinding through 75 levels.

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