John Milius knows his shit when it comes to guns. Involved in a military think tank as a consultant, on the Board of Directors for the NRA, he likes frequenting many a shooting range when not on location and lists the Bridge on the River Kwai as his favourite film. He's connected up to his ears in Washington and counts the Coen Brothers as two of his closest pals, providing the inspiration for Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski. Oh, and you know the line 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning' from Apocalypse Now? Yeah, he wrote that and co-wrote the screenplay.
For one of his next projects he's gone and penned a tale about a future not far from here. The year is 2027. Kim Jong-Il is dead, his son has gone and unified Korea, invaded the US...and succeeded. Apparently, according to our helpful PR rep, Milius went across to Washington and started spitballing with a few people about possibilities for global meltdown and then ran with a scenario, embellished it a fair amount and the result, ladies and gents...is Homefront.
We were privy to a half hour presentation of the game, slated for release in early 2011, and it actually looks pretty promising. The story will take your character, a downed fighter pilot, on a journey from Montrose, Colorado across to San Francisco. Rather than the familiar becoming rubble a la Modern Warfare 2, the further you move west, the more of a Korean influence you'll begin to see on your surroundings.
The in-game presentation kicked off in Colorado at the start in a self-sufficient, insular community forced to survive by any means necessary. But there was a real family feel to the whole thing, children's toys strewn everywhere, light strings and piano reminiscent of Thomas Newman's score for American Beauty and citizens who'll talk to you uninvited, trying to engage you in conversation. Design Director David Votypka has already talked about the game having a magnetism effect, making the player seem like they're right in the thick of everything, but this was really the only evidence we saw in our short time with the game, apart from the helicopter that gets blown up at the end that is, and falls, in spite of physics, straight at you.
The presentation then took us into the field and showed us some combat. It's worth mentioning that Digital Extremes are actually developing the PC version from the ground up to essentially offer the ultimate experience and, running at over 100 fps, it was looking damn fine indeed. There'll be dedicated servers, clan support for the multiplayer and a whole other host of PC-exclusive refinements. Even in the heat of combat, the framerate remained top notch.
Essentially being a journey story, this is a game that will incorporate guerrilla tactics, but also taking advantage of the futuristic setting for some 'fictional' weapons. One of which was the remote mech tank of awesomeness Goliath. Like calling in an airstrike, our guide used his scope to designate targets before Goliath obliterated them before our very eyes with exploding missiles.
There were plenty of surprises thrown in there too. Friendly fire from our helicopter accidentally obliterating the ground beneath our feet, scripted moments like our backup jeep running down a Korean soldier about to put a bullet between our eyes after a fall with a bloody splat, our female companion at one stage later in the presentation begging for the enemy soldiers to be put out of their misery following a fiery airstrike.
But, on leaving the presentation, it was that colourful start to the game, so very different from the grey-drenched wastelands we've become used to, that stuck in my head. I wished I could have explored this 'Why We Fight' setting more, Fallout-style but, alas, it wasn't long before a gun was presented and we were funnelled into the action.
Homefront has certainly piqued my curiosity. I hadn't even really registered it until Gamescom and now I find myself really wanting to see more. It's clear that Kaos are trying to bring a bit of humanity back to what has become an arguably sterilised genre – adrenaline-fuelled certainly, but lacking in emotion – and for that, for trying something a bit different, I think they should be applauded. But with details thin on the ground it's hard to get too excited...so the general message is more please!