But look an American dead in the eye and call him a dirty no-good, red-faced Commie? Well, you just took a dump and wiped your heiny with Old Glory. Son – you crossed the line.
So yes, Americans hate communists – yet there are no real AAA commie bad guys left. China’s too busy rolling in a giant pile of state-sponsored money to care, and Castro’s about as dangerous as The Wiggles. The only proper old school commie bad guys are North Korea, and Kim Jong Il inspires all the fear of soggy circus dwarf – wearing a summer dress.
Thankfully Kaos studios have taken the liberty of reinventing the communist for the modern Western World dweller with Homefront. In this nifty piece of speculative fiction a declining America is routed by a Korean led commie master race. In the aftermath you are part of the resistance – buckle up yankee doodles. You’re about to see some serious shit.
It’s the things you don’t see
Our hands-on demo starts on a bus, en route to some sort of concentration camp. You sit rigid in your seat, but can look around and drench yourself in the density of the Homefront universe. It’s the kind of intro that kicks off any self respecting set piece driven shooter – from Half Life to Modern Warfare.
So far so generic – but this one is good. Very good. And is the perfect intro to what is a genuinely intricate game world. Homefront is truly a game drowning in detail. As the bus moves through the town you watch as innocent civilians are shot in cold blood, Americans are lined up and killed, there’s a real sense of chaos that is tangible.
It’s so dense that we don’t know where to look. On one occasion we turn to give full attention to the civ talking in front of us. When we turn back there’s a thick concoction of brain fluid dribbling down our window. No need to use a Gears of War style ‘Y’ button as a focus – the Homefront world is so filled with information that you’re bound to miss something on your first playthrough, and we think that’s a good thing.
Homefront is, at its core, a shooter in the vein of Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. Fans of these games will feel instantly at home with the controls and the mechanics. Left trigger to use iron sights, right trigger to shoot.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – the manner in which Homefront innovates is in the environment, the detail, the smart choices it makes to drive tension.
At one point we’re trapped in a house, surrounded by Korean troops. It’s a full scale firefight and the bullets are flying. It’s almost the kind of moment you would expect to be accompanied by a full blown orchestral score, a pumping track to get the blood flowing. But there’s no music, only the sound of a screaming child, wailing in the background.
It’s subtle, but it’s the kind of detail that really ups the ante in a game situation like this. There is a baby in this house, you have to protect it and you’re constantly being reminded of that fact. It’s a layer of subtlety rarely seen in a genre that usually extols the bigger is better philosophy. By stripping back the layers of bombast, Homefront is capable of creating something far more engaging and grounded.
And in Homefront that moment occurs precisely when you’re given control of the ‘Goliath’.
The Goliath is essentially a remote control tank that blows up whatever the hell it wants to. Its controls are Modern Warfare-esque – whilst holding the remote you basically point at whatever you to explode and charge up the right trigger – but what elevates the Goliath above any similar mechanic in Modern Warfare is the manner in which it is implemented.
In Modern Warfare similar mechanics usually revolve around some sort of airstrike. You point, click and watch stuff explode. There is rarely any connection to what is making said stuff explode – just a whooshing sound and the subsequent fireworks. Watching the Goliath zoom in and out of position before shooting is a joy to behold, and it makes the experience a little more tactile and grounded, despite the fact that you’re not necessarily in control of the vehicle.
There’s that word again: grounded. But remaining grounded may just be the key to Homefront’s success. Despite its speculative setting, there’s a real tangible quality to the universe Kaos Studios has created, and that’s what makes it immersive. Despite its fantastical setting it feels real and, most importantly, it feels believable.
We can’t wait to see more.