Also, the game plays too short on both a micro and macro level. Individual skirmishes tend to be over in a couple of minutes, while the campaign is way too short to sit comfortably with the story’s fanciful ambitions.
Then there are the strikingly basic combat mechanics. Your character’s movement often feels rather sluggish and unnatural; your approach to almost every situation is disappointingly ‘on-rails’; what appears at first to be an abundance of cover in the landscape usually ends up just feeling like an obstruction to movement; and enemies tend to show all the intelligence of a boiled egg. Especially if they get up close to you, weirdly.
Hardly ever do the game’s first four levels do anything clever enough during its shootouts to make us feel like we’d actually employed any serious skills in progressing. And nor, even more alarmingly, did our pulse start to race even once – a stark contrast with the sweaty adrenaline rush delivered routinely by COD, Gears of War and even Killzone.
What this all adds up to is a situation whereby for more than half of the game’s length, it feels like little more than a hollow grind, ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. And yes, we just quoted Shakespeare in a review of Homefront. Check us out.
Homefront certainly does have sound and fury, to be fair. Its graphics are busy and occasionally good (if bizarrely inconsistent), and its soundtrack is every bit as insanely bombastic as anything the COD games have offered. So you can’t accuse Homefront of not doing the FPS ‘smoke and mirrors’ stuff well. The problem is that the game’s heart and mechanics are so shallow and flawed that all the window-dressing in the world can’t hide the cracks.
One last moan to get off our chests concerns the points where the game takes a breather between set pieces and leaves you to wander around chatting to people. These bits really are every bit as crap as they sound, especially as your movement speed during them is restricted to something approximating an octogenarian’s limp.
For all its ‘fails’, though, Homefront’s campaign isn’t wholly without appeal. Most of the weapons at your disposal feel quite fun to use, and its last three levels up the ante considerably in terms of spectacle and gameplay, at least in patches. Memorable sequences include a sniping fest from a bell tower; a section where you give your team air support from a helicopter; and the final truly spectacular assault on the Golden Gate bridge.
There are still areas of weakness with the combat engine even during these much better moments, and they still tend to be over too soon. But overall they’re satisfying and spectacular. It’s just a shame you have to play through four levels of drudgery before you get to them.
Sadly some of Homefront’s achievements/trophies provide more proof of its makers not totally getting this whole gaming thing. For a start, nine achievements worth a mammoth 375 points are only gettable if you play online – something which we know will immediately piss of Xbox/PS3 owners who aren’t online yet.
Much worse, though, is the nature of most of these online achievements. For while the three or four associated with just progressing through the game’s online ‘challenges’ and ranks are just about fair enough, the ones you can only get for being in parties are horrific. One, in particular, you can only get if you join a game as part of a 16-strong party. Insane. Honestly, we haven’t seen online achievements as bad as that since way back in the days of the early GRAW games.
The campaign achievements lack imagination too, and seem more focussed on encouraging replay than getting you to try different things.
Finally, a couple of ‘secret’ achievements, such as the one you get for blowing 10 enemy agents off the Golden Gate Bridge from a helicopter with the help of your trusty grenade launcher, should surely not have been secret achievements. After all, you’re hardly going to spend time trying to get such performance-based achievements/trophies if you don’t even know they exist, are you? Daft.