The problem with gazing into a crystal ball and making bold predictions is the out-and-out risk. We did that with Homefront, pretty much calling it as a game of the year contender before it had even come out – we’d played a good wedge of the campaign, and a fair bit of multiplayer, on multiple platforms, and what we saw was looking good.
So why, then, now that the game is out, are we feeling a touch embarrassed about our prognostications of greatness?
Well, it’s because we got it wrong. Picking whether a game’s going to be good or bad based on carefully managed previews is always going to be tough, and in this case, we flubbed it. But we’re not the only people to blame – fair suck of the fail-sav must also go to THQ, who hyped the living bejesus out of the game. That level of hype is a problem because while it’s more or less adequate, Homefront is not the Second Coming THQ’s been promising.
But why not?
Is that it?
We almost can’t remember the last time we played a satisfying singleplayer campaign in a shooter. We might have to go back as far as the first Bad Company game, actually, but it certainly isn’t going to be Homefront’s offering that leaves the next good impression.
It’s a moody enough affair, set in the Korean-occupied future of the USA, and the game certainly looks good, but a lot of that is really only skin deep. Look closely and you’ll discover all the usual FPS bugbears of linear level design, poorly scripted AI and press-X-to-x that we hate about modern gaming. If you play the game in the spirit it’s intended, it’s good, but our real main issue is even then... you’re not going to get your money’s worth.
Homefront’s singleplayer is almost criminally short. The fastest playthrough we’ve heard of is about two and a half hours, which is... just wow. Really? To get anything close to a mere ten hours you’ve got to play on the hardest difficulty, and even then you’ll spend most of that time simply restarting levels.
Mechanically the game is fine, offering some sharp ballistics and some really deadly ballistics modelling. But there’s just too damn little of it.
Not really better with friends
Most modern shooters, however, rely on their multiplayer component for real success and longevity, but, again, Homefront’s online portion is so far more miss than hit. Of course, it’s worth pointing out that we felt much the same way about Bad Company 2, our current go-to FPS, but patches and careful attention from EA and DICE fixed that up pretty fast.
Homefront’s multiplayer troubles start with the server browser. As is so often the case, it’s buggy and prone to crash. Just refreshing the server list sees the game lock up, and we’re not alone in that. What’s more, the filtering options are limited to non-existent.
In-game, Homefront’s solid enough on many fronts, but not really outstanding in any of them. If anything, the game’s brutal weapon physics, work against online play. The default mode is closer to many other games’ Hardcore settings, yet without the moderating influence of things like bullet drop snipers become very powerful. The maps are good, but limited to just four at release, and while the drones and range of vehicles are good, you really end up missing BC2’s destructible environments. Any tank duel that can be won by clever use of picket fences is silly at best. Plus, like many FPS games, spawning can make or break your experience, and too often you end up dead before you’ve even worked out what way the objective is.
There’s a solid game there, but it’s going to take some clever patching and support to kick it into gear. And quite likely more than that to earn back the trust of a lot of disappointed, hype-sick gamers.