Homefront On The Range

Homefront On The Range

At its core you could argue that Homefront, despite its aspirations, is simply another shooter. With the controller plunked in my hands it took all of five seconds for me to get orientated – not just with the controls, but with the mechanics, the structure – thankfully the manner in which Kaos Studios attempt to subtly subvert these standards is what distinguishes it from the competition.

I’m in the middle of a furious shootout. The kind you’ll find yourself embroiled in with most military shooters. Having played Call of Duty: Black Ops and Medal of Honor in the past four months, I found myself wondering if I was really interested in cludging through yet another game of this ilk. But it’s around then that my partner in commie-related homocide pipes up.

“Over there,” he shouts, “behind the Hooters.” I almost cackle out loud. ‘He just said Hooters,’ I think to myself. Then I take a gander at the smouldering lump of concrete to my left. There, home to roughly fifteen dead combatants, was what remained of an American institution. That’s what was left of Hooters.

Almost reading my cynical, jaded mind, our THQ rep pipes up.

“We weren’t paid to display any of those American brands in the game,” he claims. “We put them in for free. There’s no point of playing in a broken down America if it doesn’t feel like America.”

It was then that I started to understand why Homefront is just a little bit different from other shooters.

Fundamentally Homefront is a game about killing people – that’s where the core mechanics lie – but it’s in the details that Homefront innovates. It’s the details that should make you care about what is essentially another military shooter.

When it comes to your Call of Duties and your Medal of Honors, I typically play in bursts. Shooters usually play out as a set of tightly recycled mechanics that have me mentally exhausted (and bored) within the hour – usually. I’d be lying if I said that Homefront doesn’t eke towards similar fatigue, but it undoubtedly does a far better job of managing tension throughout the single player campaign.

Pacing in shooters tends to be frantic – designed for those with the attention span of lobotomised bumblebee – but Homefront has entire sections where you don’t even hold a gun in your hand – sections where you are encouraged to literally smell the roses, to wander, to speak with non-combatants, to truly take the time to become engaged in the game’s universe. In most shooters the environment only serves one purpose. It’s a one-dimensional glorified thunderdome – 1000 men enter, one man leaves. Thankfully Homefront gives you the chance to encounter and engage with the people you’re supposed to be protecting; that makes a difference.

We’ve already spoken about the level of detail in Homefront’s environments, so we won’t dwell on it too much here, but it’s worth noting that Homefront’s America – despite the game’s ludicrous premise – does feel like a real place, and that’s credit to the effort Kaos Studios has put into every aspect of its creation.

It’s an effort that flows through the entire game. In most military shooters I barely understand where I am or why – shooting multiple drones in the domepiece is my sole aim and the rest is finger food. There are aspects of that in Homefront, don’t get me wrong, but it comes with a feeling of consistency, an idea that you came from somewhere, that’s there’s a tangible plan of action. It makes Homefront feel less like a series of discrete levels (here’s the snow mission, here’s the sniper mission, etc, etc) and more like a seamless course that has been plotted, a course that makes sense within the narrative. Sure, it doesn’t make the core mechanics any fresher, but it does give you the incentive to continue playing in spite of it.

Homefront also aims to shock. It forces you to blast through seemingly endless hordes of enemy combatants, but takes the time to show the consequences of violence. The end of our demo is particularly poignant. After battling our way through an army of Korean troops, reinforcements arrive and we’re forced to hide – inside a mass grave filled with the rotting corpses of our comrades. At this stage I’m unsure of the intended effect, but it got me thinking – during my two hours of playing Homefront I’d probably killed at least three times the amount of people festering in this hole.

And that made me feel a little bit weird.


  • I’m pretty interested in this title, having most of my recent heritage in the states, but did it HAVE to cost 80 bucks on Steam? Part of the reason why I use Steam at all is the low cost.

    Are we getting shafted on Steam now, as well?

    • Ty, I would suggest having a good read of this site: http://www.coflash.com/steam/

      Steam isn’t ripping us off, the Publishers are. They know we pay more for Games on every other market, so the Australian Steam market for certain games has mark ups of up to 70%.

      The simplest, and legal, way to get Steam games for cheap is to have someone in the US gift you a copy from the local US store, as Homefront is $50 there, $30 cheaper despite the dollar being at parity. Simple profiteering on behalf of the Publishers

      • It’s actually more than that. It’s done to keep retailers happy. Retailers won’t buy as many units if the game is $30 below cost price on Steam. Why would they? No one would buy it at that price. They increase the price so retail can be competitive.

        I know. It’s ridiculous.

        • Ah yes, how could I forget the precious Retailers… I’ll be sorry to see them go, but not all of us are made of money. At least Valve doesn’t price fix.

          Until there is massive reform in the retail sector and imports, so that everyone gets the best bargain, instead of the retail sector getting the most profit, I will continue to buy on Steam.

        • hey mark

          pray tell where are these retailers selling PC games these days

          they honestly can’t be complaining about the console copies

          and seeing as my local store the only buyable games for PC are WoW, D2 and Starcraft 2

          but the real issue then becomes why do we pay more for DLC as well. all the borderlands DLC was overpriced here and i garuntee EB aint selling that

      • Thanks for the link, Glenn. I’ll be checking pricing on the US site from now on, I guess.

        Since moving here, I find it pretty difficult to accept the gouging on products created internationally. I realize there are some cost issues associated with shipping, but nothing to justify double or more the price elsewhere.

        Back when I lived in the states, EB sold me a brand-new copy of Metroid Prime for $7 USD. $70 for a used 1st party title at EB here seems incomprehensible after that.

    • Well publishers will say that they are doing it to keep it inline with the boxed copy prices sold in stores, but that’s just a giant load of bull. Besides, the role of a publisher is to make money, and if they can inflate the price and get more cash, why wouldn’t they?

    • If you still want to get the game digitally, you can grab it from direct2drive. It is the US price and does not block us Aussies out this time. Then you will just get a key to activate it on steam, it being a steam game and all.

  • I’m not a very big fan of moderns shooters. I don’t care if you have the best multiplayer, if you’re lacking an engaging Single player campaign, you don’t deserve my attention or money. Modern Warfare 2 had the most clusterfu**ed single player campaign, I had no idea which character I was (Cause the character died soo many times), where I was fighting (Different countries after each mission), who I was fighting, or why I was fighting them (I suppose it was because I was the good guy!).

    Even in MW2, your actions in the airport scene, as shocking as it was, have no consequences, because your character is killed afterwards… wtf was the point!

    I really enjoy Halo, because it’s not a modern shooter, it’s a futuristic/sci-fi one, as well as the fact that narrative gives you a sense of purpose as to why you’re killing Covenant.

    I might pickup Homefront, if it has a nice length campaign, but if it’s another 4 hour no story shooter like COD, I’m not going to bother until it’s on Steam for $10.

    • Yeah. Some people are afraid that it’ll only be around 5 hours.

      I like CoD, it’s fun. But I got the game primarily for the MP.
      This game, I am getting for the SP.
      I’m going to assume it’s going to be at least 10hrs or so, because, you know, it should take at least that long to take America back.
      I hope I’m not being too hopeful…

    • Your presence in the airport (and your dead body) is the only relevant part of that entire level. Because that sparks the whole “war” in MW2 between Russia and the US. (A US terrorist linked to all the civilian deaths in the airport are enough to garner support to attack America…or something like that).

      I agree, its all over the place.

    • “Even in MW2, your actions in the airport scene, as shocking as it was, have no consequences, because your character is killed afterwards… wtf was the point!”

      Huh? It made perfect sense. The Russians find an American responsible for the slaughter. It gives them an excuse to start the war that had already been brewing. Doesn’t seem that hard to understand :/

  • I think I’ll pick this up and check it out, but I think most of the stuff that you mention, about stopping to smell the roses, getting to interact with the NPCs, having a much clearer concept of who you are and what you are doing, are very subjective.

    One person’s piece of narrative is another person’s boredom. And I don’t just mean the kind of low attention span gamers that loved the MW2 campaign. I personally don’t think this will be much better, developers have been saying for years that they have focused on great characters and storylines, I’m sure every COD game developer has said it at some point or another, but it doesn’t make it true.

    Half Life 2 is the only (modern) instance I can think of a really good atmosphere and story telling weaved into a first person shooter game. That’s one out of hundreds of games that have tried. I will give Homefront a chance, but in the end I don’t think it will be able to make me care about its plot.

    • Bioshock did a decent job of it, especially in the atmosphere department. I wasn’t as big a fan of the storytelling in Bioshock as some others were, but it wasn’t bad.

  • Pretty interested in this game – hope it turns out well. I have recently started to forego modern FPS purely because they are like a Michael Bay movie on viagra… I like games that enable me to play at my pace whilst having a good sense of pacing themselves. Big moments tend to become trite in most FPS’ because that’s all they rely on… seems to negate the weight these situations should have.

  • This game certainly had a fresh quality that’s kept me interested. CoD Black Ops bored me to salty tears with its half assed story and crap levels.

    Yes I do expect more from a single player campaign in a shooter, I’m that one guy.

  • Im looking forward to this, always love these alternate reality scenarios.

    I wouldn’t call it ludicrous, since if you made a game in 1924 which had the premise of Germany running all over Europe with a massive military force….you would’ve been laughed at and called a lunatic. It wasn’t in the realm of possibility for them, but one man turned that around. All it takes some times is one man.

    Given the right set of circumstances, it could possible happen. The North takes over the South and re-unifies the peninsula…you suddenly have a military dictatorship in control of one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world and converts its industry to making weapons of war…

    It’s highly unlikely…but as history has shown us, stranger things have happened.

    Also, I don’t think its going to be a case of “Beat the Koreans, retake America”, since in the universe the Koreans have irradiated the Mississippi River and created a natural barrier to the East Coast, and no one’s heard from them in years…im sure thats where Homefront 2 will take place.

    Either way, this game has piqued my curiosity and love of “What if?” scenarios

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