Hands-on preview: Homefront

Set in a future America occupied by North Korean forces, Homefront is a relentless first person shooter in the gameplay style of Call of Duty.

At a glance:
Summary:Forget the call of duty – fight right on the American homefront.
Games Info:Kaos Studios & Digital Extremes; Publisher: THQ
Platform:PC,PS3,Xbox 360
Test Platform:PC

Set in a future America occupied by North Korean forces, Homefront is a relentless first person shooter in the gameplay style of Call of Duty.

Due for local release on March 18, Homefront will be on shelves before our April issue goes to print. Sadly, the best I could get my hands on at the time of writing was a preview version containing the first three missions. I say “sadly” because I’ve finished those three missions, and they’ve left me with no doubt that I want more. Even if I have to pay with my own hard-earned cash, I’ll be playing through the full game as soon as I can beg, Steam or borrow it.

The backstory is solid. North Korea’s rise to a major world power is well thought out, and well chronicled in an introductory clipshow of news broadcasts. The game takes you from the present day to 2027 with little suspension of disbelief required. Petrol prices over US$20 at the pump? Yeah, it’ll happen. The only thing truly cringe-worthy is the obligatory EMP – today’s deus ex machine when it comes to toppling world powers.

As for the in-game plot, I’ll get back to you when I’ve played the whole thing. The flying lead is far heavier than the storytelling, for those first three missions at least. You play as a pilot, who seems quite happy picking up any weapon in the battlefield – from pistol to light machinegun – and demonstrating extreme proficiency with it. You do have a name, but I was too busy not getting shot, exploded or burnt alive by white phosphor to remember it.

Homefront does not pull any punches. There are parents getting shot in front of their children, civilians being brutally murdered, bodies in the streets, mass graves being filled with bulldozers. Maybe this game will desensitise you – personally, I found quite the opposite.

The action is fluid, and near-constant. When you reach the odd moment of “standing around and waiting for an NPC to do something”, there’s a real sense of relief that for a few seconds, no one is trying to kill you, and your eye isn’t glued to the sight of your weapon.

I did have some complaints around the controls for running, crouching and laying prone – they just didn’t seem as fluid as I’m used to in similar titles – but they may have been improved in the release version. For now, benefit of the doubt. Even if they ship as-is, it’s not a deal breaker: I did get used to them after a couple of hours of gameplay.

Damage is relatively realistic – a shot to an enemy’s head, with any calibre of weapon, is lethal. Body armour will soak a few low-calibre shots to the chest, but high-powered rifles will punch right through. Balancing this is a realistically low ammo capacity, making careful aiming a necessity. The player can sustain more damage than their enemies and health regenerates while you’re in cover, but you’re still pretty easily killed.

Graphics are absolutely stunning. At medium settings, everything looks lovely. Maximum? Pushed my Core II Duo and GTX 480 to the limit, but it was easily the best looking game I’ve seen to date. (No, I haven’t played Crysis.) Brief experiments with stereoscopic 3D showed excellent results, but a framerate low enough to make me physically ill. Think I need a new CPU and a second GPU before I can experiment with that again.

Altogether? Don’t miss this game. I can’t promise you the ending won’t be terrible, or that it won’t be too short. I can promise you that if you enjoyed the Call of Duty series, those first three missions are total gaming gold.

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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