Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Homefront (2011)

More information here.

The Plot. The story is set in near future United States, which has been occupied by North Korea. The game follows a different idea of a grim future, where North Korea is the one to take over the US instead of the Russians, as depicted in so many games. The story is about Robert Jacobs, a former Marine pilot who is taken into custody by the North Koreans for failing to answer to draft orders from the occupation forces. He is then rescued by the local resistance movement on the order of a man named Boone. Jacob then starts working with the resistance against the oppressors.

General thoughts. First of all, this game is painfully short. I finished it in under 4 hours, which is short even for a shooter. Second, this is probably the coolest cinematic shooter I've played in years. I am a big fan of cinematic shooters and this left me wanting for more.
The setting of the game is very gritty and dark. In the very beginning you are put on a bus and driven through the streets, as you observe people being treated badly. At one point a man trying to escape is shot and the blood splatters on the window right in front of you and stays there for the duration of the ride. Also, this game managed to pull off the saddest moment I've seen in a game, when in that very same scene, you see a man and a woman separated from their son and shot in front of him. The way the boy cries is realistic enough to get under my skin. I haven't seen anything like this in a game before. The driving around to set the mood is a popular choice for cinematic shooters. This is a really good way to let the player sit back and get the feel of what is the setting of the story like.

I saw a trailer of this somewhere and noticed a curious thing. The trailer was pretty much the visual intro of the game, where it was shown that Kim Jong-il has died and replaced by his son Kim Jong-un (which is probably what will happen). In the trailer, Kim Jong-un is shown giving a speech. Now, in the trailer he looks young and skinny, whereas in the game's intro, he has been replaced with an older and larger person.

In the game you get to use the standard 2 weapons of choice, grenades and all sorts of other mission-based stuff. The weapons dropped by the enemy, however, don't get much better as the game progresses. Apart from the last mission, the weapons dropped by the enemies are pretty much the same throughout. There are all sorts of them with different kinds of additions, like four types of red dot sights, holographic sights, grenade launchers and others.
Also, since the protagonist is supposedly a pilot and is rescued because of that, you of course get to fly around in a helicopter. That part is actually quite well done. The controls don't feel bulky and the machine moves around quite neatly. This won't be for too long, though. A lot of stuff to fit into 4 hours of gameplay.

As usual for the cinematic shooters, a lot of the emphasis is on the visual things. Things pretty much happen without you unless you need to push something or shoot someone on command. The game waits for you to reach a certain point and will gladly wait even if the mission is supposedly time-critical. The visual part is especially rewarding at the semi cut-scenes, where you can look around, but the game controls what happens to your character. In one such place you were hiding in a ditch full of dead bodies while observing some people trying to find you. I think this one has been used somewhere already. More than once.
An interesting thing is the atmosphere the game presents. When you die and the checkpoint reloads, you see pictures of how people live under the rule of North Korea. When a new mission loads, you hear a radio broadcast from a person called Voice of Freedom, who talks about what happened in the previous mission, almost like informing the public about the workings of the resistance.
As a tradition, such games usually depict some popular landmark as a battle ground at one point. Usually it's the White House or the Capitol or some other important structure. In Homefront, they used the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.

All in all, it was an awesome experience and it would deserve a lot more credit, be it longer than 4 hours. It's not like there isn't enough material, the war didn't actually end with the last mission. Maybe this is just to leave room for the second part, but in that case it'd be just another military shooter. I like this type of shooters. There's something about running around dystopia and fighting against the system that makes games much more interesting than the good old military combat. Half-Life 2 series is a good example of the same thing.
I think Homefront deserves it's rightful place in the hall of good cinematic first person shooters alongside Half-Life 2 and Call of Duty. I began playing it and at first figured I'd just try it out for a ten minutes or so, but after a few minutes I wanted more and couldn't stop before I ran out of game. Four hours well spent.

9/10 Flogs

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