The economy has collapsed, there’s a worldwide energy crisis and the once-great USA is in tatters. No, it’s not present day: the year is 2027, and North Korea has used its missiles to destroy South Korea and invade the States. Hmm, we could cover one eye, squint with the other and pretend we’ve never played this scenario before...
So the premise is hokey but don’t tell THQ: developer Kaos is eager to point out the Story Consultant role filled by grizzled Apocalypse Now writer John Milius. Given that Frontlines’ oil-starved story was one of the better FPS tales but still failed to capture gamers’ imaginations, we’re unconvinced of the impact Milius’ involvement will make. Short of boasting a Clancy/Patterson/McNab triple combo, it’s difficult to see how Homefront could hope to completely transform Kaos’ fortunes through narrative alone.
It’s not just the story that smacks of familiarity either. Homefront has Frontlines’ action written all over it, right down to the controllable drones. Admittedly, the weapons feel slightly weightier than the floaty-light combat of Fuel of War and level streamlining pushes the formerly open-ended action down a more funneled route a la Modern Warfare but everything else, from battlefields to mission objectives, mirrors Frontlines.
Frontlines didn’t set the world alight with monster sales figures, but it remained a fun shooter nevertheless. Kaos can easily build upon those successes, and its Homefront innovations are well realised. Case in point: the Drama Engine, a tool designed to merge the thrills of scripted events with the unpredictability of dynamic set-pieces. It tracks your position and triggers key sequences, not when you reach an invisible preset marker but when the pace demands interference. A good example involves firing a rocket-propelled grenade at a Jeep – regardless of where you’re standing the explosion’s calculations are quickly fixed to ensure that the flaming husk of the wrecked vehicle cartwheels in your direction, giving you just enough time to sidestep the metallic carcass before you’re transformed into icky pavement paint.