I thought this was supposed to be like Half-Life 2.
Leading up to Homefront’s release, developer Kaos Studios repeatedly name-dropped the best-ever first-person shooter like it was their second cousin. They said things like, “we wanted to maximize player immersion with our world, and we drew inspiration from what Valve did,” and “Half-Life and Half-Life 2 are definitely the two big influences on the work that we’ve done.”
I don’t see it.
Fifteen years from now, Homefront tells us, the Korean People’s Army invades the United States and life sucks. Through a bus ride and visits to resistance and internment camps – the game’s interactive cutscenes and nods to Half-Life 2 – you see what horrors an invaded people must face: Two KPA soldiers casually gun down a mother and father while their small child watches, a baby coughs sickly and incessantly from inside an inadequate tent, corpses pile up in mass graves. Americans are drafted into military service or interned into labor camps.
It is all very gritty and somber. But it is also detached. You witness these things as a passerby, never recognizable, never involved. You are never connected to the civilians you meet, to the mother and father or the sickly baby or the bodies in the mass grave. There are no actions – like plugging in a malfunctioning teleporter or playing catch with a dog – to make those connections. As a result, the non-combat sections in Homefront are more reminiscent of Metro 2033’s city stations than anything in City 17. (While Metro may not be the opus that is Half-Life 2, it’s still quite a game.)
But Homefront fails to match either shooter.
The solemn cutscenes and emotional moments only exist in the first half of the game. And by “first half,” I mean the first two hours. According to Steam, the single-player campaign lasted me 3.9 hours. That isn’t a problem in itself, but it is a problem when there is so little compelling substance.
Outside of its displays of life under Korean oppression, Homefront completely disregards the somber tone for combat born of the “Modern Warfare Guide to Shooting.” In deserted, war-torn, visually dense suburbs, you must gun down endless waves of Korean soldiers with indistinguishable automatic weapons. They constantly duck behind cover, as do you after taking too much damage. And there is always a lot of yelling and mic chatter which urges you to move forward. It’s all supposed to be very exciting, but is simply off-putting given how derivative it is. One sequence has you raining down explosives from the “eye in the sky” and another has you sneaking through enemy lines, just like the stealth sequences in Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2. But thankfully, Homefront’s stealth sequence doesn’t occur in the snowy, East European tundra.
Interesting story and presentation.
Too derivative of military shooters before it.