HOMEFRONT - Single-Player Preview Event|
Written by Charles Boucher
November 4, 2010
The opening of THQ's new Montreal studio was a red letter day. Between the announcement of Patrice Désilets, creative director of Assassin's Creed, joining the company and THQ's studio opening its doors to journalists, there was no shortage of things going down. Still, amongst everything that occurred, the highlight might well have been the reveal of Homefront's single-player campaign, taking players straight into the fight to free occupied America from the iron fist of the Korean invaders, where we got to play the first level of the upcoming shooter from THQ and Kaos Studios.
Set in the American west in 2027, several years after the North Koreans occupied the United States, taking control of territories west of the Mississippi. You play as a citizen of occupied America who, through circumstances, joins up with the resistance. Waking up to a propaganda broadcast, you have only a few brief moments to look around your dilapidated apartment. It's not long before the Korean People's Army comes knocking to take you into custody.
The world that Kaos Studios is creating in Homefront is, in many ways, reminiscent of Half-Life 2, which lead single-player level designer Rex Dickson cited as an influence. While more modern, cinematic games like the Uncharted series also influenced the team, Kaos is trying to create an immersive experience, never leaving the main character's perspective, and never taking away the player's agency, except when outside forces remove that agency.
After a beating by the Korean People's Army, the player is loaded onto a repurposed school bus to be taken away, and presented with a firsthand view of occupied America, where the center of a suburb has been run into the ground. Businesses have closed, lines of cuffed prisoners are marched down the street. One tries to make a break for it and catches a bullet in the head for his trouble, blood and brains splattering onto the bus window, obscuring your view. A crying child's parents are gunned down on a street corner for resisting the orders of a Korean soldier. Kaos calls moments like these Homefront's 'why we fight' moments, and by the time a resistance vehicle rams the bus and flips it and you're able to take a pistol from a dead soldier, you're ready to start fighting.
Homefront's fighting will take the player through universally recognizable aspects of Americana, ranging from the backyards and alleyways of a suburb to a high school, and ending in San Francisco as the resistance pushes towards the coast to back up the army in their attempt to take America back from the invaders. Every level in Homefront tries to take a familiar place and reflect it through the lens of an occupied nation as you fight to liberate the nation. At least in the demo level, the feeling of being a desperate guerrilla was balanced well with the need to be able to fill the enemies full of lead. While I never lacked a gun, I was constantly low on ammo, often having to fight my way up towards a fallen enemy to take his weapon before I ran out of bullets and had to resort to my pistol. The variety of weapons is impressive as well, ranging from fairly typical modern automatic rifles to prototype guns that have apparently become common between now and 2027. While you might not always have the gun you want, it makes it all the sweeter when you manage to find one of the fancier ones on the body of a KPA soldier.
The demo continued as the resistance soldiers who pulled you out of the bus wreckage help you fight through a gas station, sneak behind a Korean tank column, battle through backyards and the wreckage of a plane that fell out of the sky when a Korean EMP attack began the invasion, and finally defend a group of squatters living in some relatively intact homes, who get caught in the crossfire between the KPA and resistance forces. Here, the player can either watch a scene as the resistance leader tries to calm a woman and her child, or head to the front of the house to help fight off the army as they swarm through the cul-de-sac. Just when the situation seems at its most dire, as KPA vehicles pull up, the resistance breaks out its secret weapon: A massive remote control drone, at least by remote control standards, that needs you to mark targets for it, evening the odds in the battle. Evening the odds, that is, until the Koreans call in an air strike, bombing the neighborhood to the ground. It's a sudden end to the fight, and I can't help but wonder what comes next.
While there were still some rough spots in the demo, with some events going on long without much to shake them up, the game is still nearly six months away, not out until March 2011, leaving plenty of time to clean those up. Right now, the game looks like it could absolutely live up to its potential on both single and multiplayer, and give us the first game about fighting for your freedom against an occupying force since Half-Life 2 hit shelves years ago. Personally, I can hardly wait.