You know when you go to see a movie, you come out, and have to give it an official ranking of “Meh”?
Well, that’s the impression I get from Homefront.
It’s simply not strong enough to stand on its own, and feels like an odd hodgepodge of Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo – with a smattering of Red Dawn and a little dab of conspiracy theory thrown in.
Not to say that borrowing from the best hasn’t paid off – Homefront is a good game, but it’s hodgepodge nature and abysmally short campaign just led me to one conclusion: “Meh”.
Campaign wise, the terribly short blast takes just under five hours, and is a pretty fun ride, despite how familiar it seems.
Fighting on US soil is hardly a new experience, but despite the Red Dawn overtones, the game’s story is believable – and backed up with a pretty snazzy opening video, mashed together from news reports and global conspiracy.
It’s a shame the game feels the need to plaster “Press X to skip” all over it. I don’t want to skip it! I want to know what’s going on!
The story covers the gradual fall of America – fuel prices are rocketing, stock is crashing, rioters infest the street, and the warring states of Korea have reunited under the banner of Kim Jong-Il’s son, Kim Jon-Un (unlikely as that is).
This new red menace quickly annexes Japan and China, and blitzes its way across the planet until it runs slap-bang into America, invades, and subjugates the people of the once-great country.
As usual, the Americans don’t give up, and before long you find yourself in the resistance movement, fighting a guerrilla war against a vastly superior force.
So far, so Call of Duty.
The biggest difference Homefront slaps you with is the focus on the brutality of a country under siege – the executions of resistance fighters, the mass graves, the cruelty.
In the first five minutes – in an opening that’s a little too Half Life 2 to be ignored – you see blindfolded women being gunned down, screaming babies and the brains of some innocent civilian painting the walls of the bus you’re in – it’s vicious.
This characterisation is extended to your fellow resistance fighters – they’re not beacons of hope, they’re dirty, disheartened – ruthless. This drags you into a story that, despite its short length, is still a blast.
Starting off small, with firefights in suburban gardens, the action switches through city streets, aerial assaults, drone dogfights and tank battles, all with a descent smattering of close combat.
Story-wise the plot is nothing spectacular, but a few standout moments (hiding in a mass grave, for one) are memorable and fun – and illustrate the human cost of war all too well.
Outside of the single-player campaign, the game also features a decent – if familiar – multiplayer offering.
Playing like a cross between Battlefield and Battlefront, the gameplay is mostly team-based deathmatches, with a few objective-based modes thrown in for good value.
The standout addition to the game is the battle-points system. This rewards you with battle-points for every kill, as well as XP, and can be spent on the fly when you need it.
For example – under fire from a minigun-armed drone? Buy yourself some armour. Need a hole in the enemy lines, fast? Buy a tank, and roll into battle behind 13 inches of steel plating.
It’s a surprising and enjoyable addition to a tired formula, and keeps the action fresh and intense.
That said, the game suffers a fair bit with an odd control scheme, and the ‘bouncy’ gunplay you get from the likes of Timesplitters, and occasionally Battlefield.
The weapons don’t feel meaty, and the sounds they make as they spit death are less the boom of high-calibre weapons, and more a sneezing rat.
It’s quite telling when the sound effects in a game are not up to snuff, I find.
Thankfully, the score and voice acting are up to scratch, and carry off the weedy guns with great aplomb.
The graphics on the PS3 are pretty lacking, however. Even after a fairly large downloaded patch there’s a fair bit of screen tearing and rough edges, and despite the sprays of mud and blood kicking up into the screen it’s just not that sharp.
The same could be said of the enemy AI which – while smart enough to take cover while being shot at – is content to sit back and let you pick them off, one by one, without relocating.
They are, however, crack shots – and are more than happy to put a rifle round through your skull from five miles away, so using cover will quickly become second nature.
Overall, Homefront is a decent if uninspiring shooter. Seemingly slapped together from the likes of Halo, Call of Duty and Battlefield, the action is intense – if short-lived. It is, thankfully, backed up with an extensive multiplayer offering and some clever gameplay mechanics. While it’s worth a look if you’re a shooter fan, I’d wait until it’s out of the £30 range.