Release Date: March 11th 2011
Previous coverage: Multiplayer Hands-on Preview
The story of the new FPS, Homefront, is one of invasion, occupation and resistance. In the not too distant future, after the death the North Korean President, Kim Jon Il, his son takes his place. Over the next few years, he unifies North and South Korea and starts to invade nearby countries.
Throughout this period, America is weakening with a decreasing military force, further financial difficulties and a flu epidemic. This is when the KPA (Korean People's Army) strike. Using satellite EMP blasts to wipe out the American electronics, including their defence measures, the Koreans begin their unflinching invasion. The game begins two years into the occupation of the US in 2027.
This dark vision of the future has recently been a little too close to comfort in real life. Kim Jong Il's son has been recently promoted to a high ranking position in his father's administration and just a few months ago we were chilled by the news that North Korea had bombed a South Korean island in what seemed like a test of how the world would react.
Thankfully things have been quiet on that front in recent weeks. It would have been quite an issue for Kaos Studios though if things had escalated. Hopefully nobody shows the game to Mr. Kim, we imagine he's stilled pretty pissed about Team America.
Home is where the war is
Kaos are trying to place as much emphasis as possible that you and your fellow resistance fighters aren’t well-trained army fighters or elite Special Ops, you’re civilians forced into the fight. You play as Robert Jacobs, the FPS-standard silent type and former helicopter pilot, recruited by the resistance. Members of your cell will include former police, ex military, a hunter and a mechanic who is also half Korean, half American. Not the most ‘civilian’ team ever is it? A civilian team to me at least would have been a barmaid, a shelf-stacker a bus driver and a lawyer who everyone knew was going to die first.
Expect plenty of scenes that will hit home the surreal nature of this invasion of America. Such as a huge passenger plane that has just dropped out of the sky into the middle of a suburban area, thanks to the EMP blast. The landscape will be familiar to Americans or the rest of the world used to seeing the country on TV. Real life brands such as Jansport, Hooters and White Castle have been included to help add realism.
It's not the first game to show the states being invaded, we've seen this recently in Modern Warfare 2 and Resistance 2. Film fans will have also noted this all sounds similar to the movie Red Dawn. Obviously inspired by that movie it must have been a real boost to the team when they managed to sign-up its writer, John Milius.
One of the highest ambitions Homefront has, is to avoid what Kaos call ‘massacre fatigue,’ where players become immune to the violence after a while as they mow down hundreds of enemies throughout the game. They’re aiming to imprint on the player how the violence has consequences. The cutscenes and plot will all need to be tightly woven into the gameplay experience if they hope to achieve these lofty goals.
Thankfully the gameplay is shaping up rather nicely indeed. The shooting controls feel sharp and responsive, with enemies falling after brief bursts of accurate fire. Weapons will be a mix of guns salvaged from the remains of the US military and those stolen from the KPA. Expect to see real-life ones and a few fictional ones to make it feel like the year 2027.
Vehicles will play a large part in Homefront. Jacobs' skill as a chopper pilot will doubtlessly be called upon, along with tanks, trucks and hopefully some of the drones we've seen in the multiplayer.
Missions will put you and your resistance buddies against large numbers of KPA troops. You're always going to be outnumbered, which should keep the excitement at high levels throughout. One mission we've seen so far is an assault on a KPA base that begins in the large car park of a retail outlet. Enemy soldiers are initially distracted by a van that charges through a barricade, before an explosion of white phosphorus flares rain down from above, slowly burning them all to death. Naturally, putting civilians in charge of such lethal fire-power doesn’t always go so well, as displayed by the next round of flares that miss their target and force you to dive off the roof where you’d been providing sniper support.
Following this escape from bone-melting death, you're tasked with escorting a vehicle on foot. The enemy are targeting the resistance's Goliath truck (pictured below) with EMPs. You need to keep it in one piece so you can use it to fire rockets at vehicular targets via ‘painting’ them with a scope device, activated with your d-pad. As a new name in a crowded FPS market, Homefront is going to be more than welcome.
The multiplayer is looking immense too. Taking place during the initial invasion, it has more of a 'war' feel to it than the single-player game, as both sides start off on foot, but the battles escalate into frenzied affairs with drones, tanks and helicopters. Have a read of my multiplayer hands-on preview for more details. Xbox 360 owners will be getting all the game's DLC as a timed exclusive as well as a permanently exclusive 'Suburbs' map. But there'll be plenty for PC and PS3 gamers to get stuck into as well come March 11th.