It’s times like this you have to feel sorry for America’s enemies (wow, I can see that being taken out of context and put on the internet, but anyway). There they are minding their own business and getting up to… whatever it is they do, when suddenly out comes a game or a movie in which they’re shown herding Americans into camps, they become convenient hate figure of the week, and the US gets its fresh wave of patriots ready to fight the good fight. It’s genuinely disconcerting seeing how much joy they get out of making these games. Look at Red Dawn, or Modern Warfare 2. You wonder if they might actually be looking forward to it just a teeny bit. Anyway, it’s time for America’s latest invasion love-in, so step forward Homefront.
So this time it’s the Koreans that get to have a go at taking over the good ol’ US of A, presumably because Call Of Duty and all the other combat games called dibs on the good nations. It’s 2027 and the entire Earth’s economy is well and truly buggered, leaving Korea free to just go around doing whatever it wants just like, well, the America of the future, and decides to take its next step up the property ladder by draping its flags all over the USA’s landmarks. After about 2 years of occupation, the Americans finally decide they aren’t going to stand for this anymore and so begins Homefront…
You are Robert Jacobs, a man who got rescued by the American resistance because he can fly a helicopter, and I admit I do at least have to applaud Homefront for going with that reason and none of this “you are Earth’s last hope for some unexplained reason” crap that seems to plague games of all genres like a giant turd of predictability. You’re taken to a rag-tag band of resistance fighters featuring Boone (leader of the resistance in Colorado and generic tough black guy number 20,006), Hopper, whose favourite tactic in a fire-fight is hiding round a corner and being of as little help as humanly possible, and Rianna, who is the subject of so many gratuitous arse shots you start to wonder what sort of game you’ve bought.
Your main leader throughout the game, though, is one Connor Morgan, and how this guy managed to be placed in charge of anything more complex than his own sock drawer is beyond me. He looks like your generic grizzled, surly, grey American game protagonist, but he must have been dropped on his head as a child or something, because brain damage is the only possible reason I can think of for the numerous phenomenally bad decisions he makes throughout the game. For example, when there are only 3 of you in a group and you are trying to sneak around a field full of murderous Koreans, the best thing to do would be to stay quiet and not draw attention, right? Don’t be so silly! Connor uses traditional American brain-power and decides the best way to get out of this tricky situation is to scream and shoot his way out of trouble, leading to numerous insta-kills and genuine murderous thoughts aimed towards your commanding officer. Although, to be fair, when they give you these orders they probably genuinely believe your character’s silence is that of unconditional compliance rather than, say, the silent realisation that he’d rather take his chances with the Koreans.
The combat is almost identical to Call Of Duty, even down to the stupid jam-in-the-eyes thing that you get when you’re just about to die unless you crawl behind some cover for a couple of seconds to have a little cry until your skull grows back, that combat game developers seem almost contractually obliged to put in every game they do, and here lies its main problem. It’s trying WAY too hard to be Call Of Duty, and it ends up being too much, yet not enough, like it. The fact that it’s set in the future and that it could play around with high-tech weaponry and stuff like that was a good piece of innovation that worked relatively well, but it ended up falling into the COD trap and broke both its legs on the way down.
Of course despite its faults, the game does have its good, sometimes even great parts, topped handsomely by a harrowing and really hard to watch scene in which you and your team-mates have to hide inside a pit of dead Americans to avoid being seen by the Korean army, but despite all my problems I think my biggest problem with Homefront is that it’s just too… Americanised. Every single American in the game runs around like they’re in their own personal war film, spouting the same 3 one-liners while they pump dirty commies full of lead. Before the game came out Playstation Magazine ran a massive feature on this game, mainly praising its pacing, but there is none. The very first scene of the game allows you just one brief look out the window before Korean police kick your door down and politely introduce your face to the butt of their gun, and after 2 minutes (I know, I counted) you’re on a bus being driven through street after street of death, guns and beatings like an extremely harrowing version of “it’s a small world”.
So I suppose this is the time to say “if you liked Call Of Duty you’ll like this”, because it’s pretty much just more of it, but then if you don’t mind a game with thick-as-pig-shit AI support and a stupidly designed difficulty curve then by all means give Homefront a try. It’s not even a particularly bad game, the story’s good and it’s all very cinematic and everything; but the voice acting’s often sub-standard, and after being insta-killed for the 90 hyper-billionth time by an enemy that probably doesn’t even exist in the game conjuring bullets from the fucking ether you seriously start to entertain thoughts of microwaving the disc. It’s still a game I’d recommend, you just need to have insanely high patience levels to be able to get through it without launching your controller towards the screen at least 3 times per level.