Yes, I Know It Came Out a Year Ago
When I review a game like Homefront, I become almost delirious with joy. Normally with a review you have to balance your positive and negative remarks, string both together in a kind of coherent, almost plot-like way that works towards a conclusion, and maybe even be entertaining while doing that. Homefront doesn’t give me that problem, because I only need to provide one kind of remark, and the only conclusion the game is working towards is the extermination of the very concept of joy.
Homefront is bad, then. Not Alpha Protocol bad, where some diamonds can be seen glinting within the enormous turd. Not Starcraft II bad, where I just don’t like the genre. Homefront is completely unoriginal, unsatisfying, is almost broken at times, and you’d probably have more fun using the disc to play Frisbee with a feral German Shepherd. Yes, your hand would probably be eaten. Yes, you’d still have more fun than you would playing Homefront.
The game’s problems can be broken up fairly easily – plot problems, and gameplay problems.
First, the plot and atmosphere. As you may have guessed from the box art, this is a Red Dawn style game about the invasion of America by Communist baddies, and today those baddies are North Korea.
Ghhhkk. Grrhhk. The stupid… it burns…
I hear that the invaders were originally intended to be China, not that that’s particularly less ridiculous (hint: China has somewhere between 20 and 1000 nuclear bombs, the US has over 7 000). Nonetheless, the fake newsclip-style intro cutscene explaining the invasion is still the most enjoyable part of the plot.
Homefront’s problem is that it can’t decide what it wants to be: a gritty, horrific, morally ambiguous depiction of guerrilla warfare like Red Dawn, or a militaristic patriotic wankfest where you get to kill every dirty Pinko on the continent like Red Dawn. So we wind up with North Korean soldiers whose entire occupation strategy seems to be ‘make everyone kneel with their hands on their heads’. I’m not kidding – in the intro sequence, you’re driven through the entire town and every single fucking person is either putting their hands on their heads or pointing a gun at someone with their hands on their heads. It’s not a compelling depiction of the horrors of war, it’s a cartoonish depiction of a Captain Planet villain that will give you the impetus to murder every single yellow person you see. It plays out like Colonel Kilgore stapled American flags over Glenn Beck’s eyeballs, gave him an M16 and told him that all Asian people are homosexual terrorists. The plot was written by a man who prefers Rambo 2 to blowjobs. I’ve less obnoxious nationalism from the actual North Koreans. It’s as tasteful as a Boy Scout troop leader wearing nipple-clamps.
My dirty lefty ranting aside, the writing’s shit. Characters are flat, they die tragically heroic deaths that mean absolutely nothing to the player, every North Korean soldier in existence apparently discounts the pitched gunfire the next building over as ‘just the possums again’, the twists and turns of the plot are poorly explained and the ending is abysmal. Oh, and the game is criminally short. I finished it in four or five hours, and as I’m about to explain, that wasn’t because I rushed through it on Kiddie Mode.
And yes, before you ask, the graphics are awful.
My hate-bile is starting to turn my saliva green. On to gameplay.
Homefront’s relationship to COD is like Mini-Me’s to Doctor Evil: neither are particularly fantastic, but only one is diminished, physically retarded and prone to crawling across the table and biting your finger off. “Here is a small field covered with chest-high objects and surrounded by invisible halls. Here are some dudes, kill dem cunts” pretty much sums it up. Oh, except it’s awful in every way. Enemies don’t take cover until they’ve had a ten-minute shower and a footrub, there are about eight guns total (if you’re playing multiplayer, the only shotgun comes as motherfucking DLC), and they’re all as satisfying to fire off as a premature ejaculation.
But the real problem is the aiming.
Homefront, you know how thumbsticks are hideously inaccurate compared to mice? You know how most console games either give us nice, large reticules, or a subtle amount of auto-targeting to compensate? Your character aims like his arms are made of snails and his brain is made of marijuana. Killing dem cunts isn’t fun, it’s a bloody chore, which means Homefront has failed at the simplest game design concept in the history of the universe.
And of course, the bad guys suffer no such aiming woes.
Homefront is difficult, and it’s the kind of fake, artificially imposed difficulty that makes you want to shit into your disc drive and mail the whole package to THQ. Enemies are psychic sniperbots. Checkpoints were placed by throwing darts at the game disc. Taking damage turns your entire screen into a pulsating mass of red veins, and your character starts breathing like he’s paying $2.99 a minute for this call. And the game routinely puts you in frustrating situations – by using a silenced sniper rifle from the top of a church tower, you manage to clear a path for your comrades to the escape helicopter. Then they’re spotted and attacked en masse, you’re knocked out of your tower, and told to fight your way through the 50 or so enemies to get to da choppa. You know, the choppa that the AI only got to because you spent ten minutes carving a stealthy path for them. And then they bitch at you. “Hurry up, Jacobs, we can’t hold here! Come on, Jacobs, we gotta go!” Excuse me while I murder my way through the Assault Rifle Appreciation Convention here, assholes, the one that you took ten shitting minutes to sneak through. Nope, don’t support me, don’t start shooting yourselves. I got this.
One last gripe before I execute this game and roll it into a mass grave. Like COD, Homefront ensures that you don’t break its linear, ‘cinematic’ chain of events by making the entrance to the next area only openable by NPCs. As in, if you’re in a yard and your objective is in the house, your allies will have to kick down the door so you can progress. Now this is really lazy level design, sure, but it takes Homefront to make it completely broken. So you finish a firefight, you pick up some ammo and maybe swap a weapon out, teabag a few o’ dem muddafuckin’ gook corpses. You see the door to the next area, amble over to it, and wait for NPC mate to come over and open it.
And you wait.
These guys will not let you progress until they are good and ready. They wander in random directions, get stuck on walls, have lengthy conversations with each other and then stand in front of the door for at least five seconds before actually doing anything. And the worst part is, you shouldn’t need to wait for them. I am a trained US Marine, I should be able to climb a ladder or crawl through a hole, but until your buddy goes first to show you how, all you can do is rub yourself futilely up against the wall or ladder, desperately wiggling your hips against the brickwork. It’s like amputee masturbation.
Wait a… grrksk… grrrkkk.
Okay, crap. Thaks t all this hate-bile, my saliva has nw actually tured dagerusly acidic; it’s bured hrugh my lwer jaw and ’s disslvig my keybard. Ths relly relly hurs. Help… Elp!!!! Eeerrrrrrrgggghhhhh!!!