December 16, 2011

Homefront

Last week I picked up Homefront for the Xbox 360.  I bought it used at GameStop for $18.  It's an OK game and I am quite grateful that I waited and bought it used instead of paying $60 for it.  At the original price point I'd have been quite PO'd.  I'd have been much happier if I only spent $10 on it.

Today was the first time I popped it in to play and just about 2 1/2 hours later I had finished the game.  I probably could have finished in less than 2 hours if I hadn't been trying for some achievements along the way.  I have yet to try the multiplayer, which may be a redeeming feature of this game, but I'm not counting on it.

I'll try to give a quick review.  The TLDR version is rent, don't buy it....and if you can, just borrow it for a day from a friend.

It is a standard fare first-person shooter (FPS).  The first thing I noticed was that I had no way to change the game's difficulty level.  Some of the achievements you have to earn by beating the chapters on the hardest setting.  I'm guessing you have to play it through once and then you can do a replay on a second run-through.

If you are an achievement hunter, pass on Homefront.  You get 7 10 point achievements just for playing the game through.  That's 70 points out of 1000.  Playing through on the hardest difficulty setting nets you another 175 points and playing through each of the seven chapters without dying nets you another 175 points.  That's basically 420 points for playing the game three times (realistically).  Another 400 points come from online play that will basically be a grind which will take a long time to complete.  That leaves 180 points for "fun" achievements.  It should be noted that there are 7 "secret" achievements that are for solo play.  Some are stupid, like jumping to your death off the Golden Gate Bridge and others are a bit more fun, like sending enemy soldiers flying off of the bridge to their death.  The latter achievement was a bit harder than it seems because you aren't killing the soldiers directly, but using your grenade launcher to create an explosion behind the soldiers that sends them screaming off of the platform.  That achievement is called "Wilhelm's Nightmare" and is probably the most fun one of the lot.  There is also the overdone "item collection quest" achievement, but those items are often practically invisible and only noticeable when the head's-up display tells you to press X to collect them.

Homefront is essentially a videogame version of Red Dawn with a unified Korea of the 2020's invading the US instead of the Russians and Cubans.  The story centers around your character that is needed for a Resistance Movement operation to assist the US Army in an upcoming battle.  There are seven chapters of the operation starting with you being freed from the Occupation Forces and ends possibly with the death of your character in a big battle on the Golden Gate Bridge.

There is an homage to Red Dawn in the 2nd Chapter when the PC and NPCs go to the local high school.  The school's mascot is the Wolverine.

The gameplay is straight forward.  If you've played and Call of Duty then you already know the controls.  There is little customization available.  You can go with regular controls or "southpaw" and invert the axis for vehicular operations.  I'm used to switching the melee button in Call of Duty, so I had issues knifing guys in Homefront.

The computer AI is abysmal.  I would say that 50-75% of the computer-controlled enemy soldiers focus their attacks on you, no matter how many friendly meat-shields there are around you.  The friendlies could't hit the broad side of a barn if they tried and it seems the only kills they get are either story-driven or caused when the enemy runs into the bullets trying to maneuver to shoot at you. 

There were a couple of times when there was a new control mechanism that wasn't explained very well.  Early in the game you have to control the targeting for a remote controlled vehicle.  You don't get a remote view from the vehicle, but a normal view from your current position.  Using the right trigger targets enemies for the remote.  I'm still not sure if I had to pull the trigger again to fire or not. I ended up just button mashing.  Later you are piloting a helicopter and the side-to-side movement was displayed on the screen, as well as one of the firing modes, but I had to figure out how to climb and descend on my own.  Maybe the instructions flashed on the screen, but I didn't see them.  Having them viewable in the options menu would have been nice. 

I might play through again to pick up a few more achievements, but I'll probably just put Modern Warfare 3 back in and wait for the 2010 remake of Red Dawn to come in the mail from Netflix.

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