It's interesting to look back on preview events after a game has been released and consider how the final product differs from the way in which it was originally presented. When we first saw Homefront at GamesCom last year, for example, we thought its focus on tightly scripted events was a good feature. We looked at a non-combat mission in which players roamed through a friendly base, and were impressed by the amount of detail put into these incidental scenes. We assumed that these sections were representative of the direction in which THQ was taking the game and we lauded Homefront for being more than just another, easy Call of Duty clone.
Oh, how wrong we were. Homefront isn't trying a new direction at all – it actually deliberately apes the tropes of the other genre giants, demanding players to jump through familiar hoops with predictable rhythm.
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When you get right down to it, all that really distinguishes this tale of American uprising against Korean occupation is the fact that Kaos Studios has disguised some of the doors as fridges. As with other lack-lustre super-linear shooters (see Medal of Honor), Homefront often keeps you waiting in empty rooms before an NPC opens the next area and lets you continue. Where other games use locked doors to block the way, however, Homefront litters the ruined levels with bulky fridges that can only be shifted by your allies.
Fridges. When that's the limit of the game's creative reach, you know there's something wrong. It gets worse when the fridges are rolled out so frequently, regularly sealing you into a room so you can hear uninteresting characters spout boring genericisms.
It's hard to sympathise with or feel any attachment to any of the characters who accompany you throughout Homefront's three-hour-long campaign. Hopper is a quiet American-Asian geek who mostly drifts into the background, while Rhianna is the usual spunky-sexy-sensitive stereotype who flits between cutting throats and crying about all the senseless violence. Connor, the ostensible leader of your group, stands out most – but for all the wrong reasons. He's loud and crude, best summed up by the sweary quips he makes as you play (‘I thought I smelled Korean barbecue,' he chuckles as enemy soldiers are immolated around him).
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He's probably quite a realistic personality given the plot line, but that doesn't really add anything in a game largely unconcerned with factual representation. We spent most of the between-fridge moments just shooting him in the face, unsuccessfully.
It doesn't get any better when you turn from the story to the core gameplay, either. Kaos Studios has tried to weave excitement and energy into the compartmentalised levels by using big set pieces and missions that funnel you along through the centre of the violence. Most of these fall down due to sheer familiarity, however, as Kaos never manages to present us with anything we haven't seen before. One of the late-game helicopter missions, for example, sees you targeting ground forces with unlimited missiles and thermal vision. It doesn't take long to see Kaos' inspiration for that idea.