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Homefront (PlayStation 3) artwork

Homefront (PlayStation 3) review

"I stopped expecting First Person Shooters to be marathon slogs a long time ago, but I donít think Iím ready to expect them to stop being good."

Itís not often I change my mind on things (or, at least, publicly admit it) but thatís just what Iím about to do now. Once upon a time, I penned a review for Modern Warfare 2 where I poked fun at just how short a game it was. I used phrases like ďThe single-player campaign is blink-and-youíll-miss-it shortĒ and Iíve had to highlight this here because youíll no longer find it in the body of that review. You can thank this change of heart solely on Homefront.

You see, I get it. I do. I donít expect FPSí to have the huge lifespan of games like Doom because the game development is an entirely new kettle of fish. Putting Doom stages together back in the day was more about employing the limited resources you had to, essentially, try to screw the player over as much as you could without making it feel like it. The devils were in the design, and, as such, the series is kept alive even today with fan-made .wads, proving that anyone with enough time, good enough ideas and a computer predating medieval times has the means to slap something together in the comfort of their own homes.

Times have moved on and production values have skyrocketed to the extent where being given a gun and told the pixellated armies of hell are trying to eat your face before being shoved into the midst of battle simply donít cut it no more. Hereís the thing, though; a decent play through of Doom could take weeks, months. The simplistic levels were numerous, evolving, never the same and crammed full of secrets and hidden paths, weapon caches and inside jokes.

Homefront can be completed in an evening.

The trade-off modern shooters have brought to the table have been those production values. You couldnít piece a game like Homefront together at home without some serious hardware, but for all its fancy values, its famous writers and highly paid voice actors, the game is over before it really begins. More damning still is that it doesnít manage to advance a single stand out moment in its handful of hours of life. Itís not Doom; please understand that was never my thesis, because it doesnít want to be. Right or wrong, it views that mindset as obsolete. It wants to be Call of Duty: Modern Me Too. It wants it so hard you can taste it oozing from every cut scene that tries to tug at your heartstrings, or every set piece youíre meant to be wowed by. And itís not. Itís just.. really, really not.

Homefront checks its subtlety at the door on almost every level. The game starts with one of those ďsit in a vehicle and watch atrocities happenĒ openings youíre probably long used to via its peers, complete with parents being shot down in front of weeping toddlers right on the doorstep of razed suburbia. Youíre supposed to be appalled by these events but, thanks to the brevity of the game, these are stockpiled atop each other in rapid fire procession. Stage 2! American corpses bulldozed into shallow trenches! Stage 3! Flailing, burning soldiers as, oh god, weíre as bad as the enemy! Stage 4! Korea steals Christmas!

Korea because the one thing Homefront doesnít pinch from CoD is a Russian invasion and instead hires John Milius, the guy who wrote Conan the Barbarian pre-reboot, to substitute them wholesale for another nation then pen a small collection of action character tropes to serve as a supporting cast. Badass former marine clichť is a badass former marine, and slinky huntress comrade doesnít worry about body amour just enough to still allow the world to see her bared midriff. Your American-Korean tech geekís place in occupied times is woefully underexplored and likeable retired black copís fate is obviously obvious.

So your ragged little troop more or less trudges through the game ticking all the boxes. Overwatch sniper stage? Check. On rails vehicle section? Check. Paint heavy armour for artillery strike? Check. Despite all these actions requiring equivalent hardware, the game still tries to sell you on the basis of a guerrilla war, which suggests to me that while Milius may know how to write about muscled guys with broadswords, he seems to have some trouble with definitions. Every attack you make on Korean forces turns quickly into head-on assaults. Charging headlong into enemy encampments isnít an especially lauded guerrilla tactic, which is a shame, because the idea of a hit and run war in a burning middle America sounds promising. But itís a premises Homefront takes precious little advantage of.

I stopped expecting First Person Shooters to be marathon slogs a long time ago, but I donít think Iím ready to expect them to stop being good or ready for them to be a handful of hours before completion. For the most part, the trade off between challenge/length to a more rounded overall product has brought few complaints when done well -- that these games now have a story, a higher purpose than they used to is a huge positive and a giant step in the evolution of the genre. But successful implementation is not just a case of making a half-arsed ape of the current big thing and expecting that to be enough because, as much as Homefront wants to be comparable to Modern Warfare despite being the equivalent length of one of that titleís chapters (MW has three chapters; Homefront has seven stages) itís simply not even within touching distance. For all its holographic and ACOG sighted assault rifles with under-barrel grenade launchers, for all its click right stick to melee and everything else it eagerly lifts from Activision's measuring stick series, by design or by accident, it falls long short.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (February 14, 2012)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted February 14, 2012:

Nice take. I understand exactly what you mean. But Modern Warfare Me Too is where the money is! Surely "missed opportunity" is cliche, but the occupation angle was definitely promising...
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zippdementia posted February 14, 2012:

I haven't had a chance to read the review yet, but this line ensures I will:

"I stopped expecting First Person Shooters to be marathon slogs a long time ago, but I donít think Iím ready to expect them to stop being good."

Of course, I'll probably discover a score of typos at the end of the sentence... such as:

"or ready for them to a handful or hours before completion."

I think you mean... to be a handful for hours... not sure?

Anyway, I am looking forward to reading the review.
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SamildanachEmrys posted February 15, 2012:

Homefront was a wasted opportunity. I quite liked some scenes, and the almost post-apocalyptic crazy redneck encampment was interesting, but it really is far too short. I finished Modern Warfare 2 in about 12-15 hours, and considered it a little on the short side. I finished Homefront in under five hours.

Zipp, I think that line is meant to be "handful of hours".

Here are some others:

"You can thank this change of heart solely on Homefront" doesn't really work as a sentence.

"Homefront checks its subtly at the door" should be "Homefront checks its subtlety at the door".
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pickhut posted February 15, 2012:

Good review, EmP. Summed up the game pretty well to me.

From what I was able to see of the game from various streams I watched back when it came out, the thing that disappointed me the most is how the devs more or less ignored the Korean occupation angle, that hook of Homefront. It was like "Okay, they've seen the opening cutscene, that's good enough" kinda thing.
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EmP posted February 15, 2012:

Thanks for the catches, all. I admit, I rushed this one out earlier than I wanted after I saw Sise's review hit the url tag of review 9999 and, dammit, I wanted 10000! Turns out some news story got it instead though. Blergh.
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Masters posted February 15, 2012:

Turns out some news story got it instead though. Blergh.


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