Homefront brings the reality of war to our doorstep

Half-Life meets Red Dawn in near-future America

Back to the demo, and we see Korean soldiers wandering through the parking lot. Then a van screeches in and smashes into a vehicle near the middle of the area and bursts into flames. The troops rush to investigate, which is when all hell breaks loose. Massive flares of white phosphorus burst into the air and rain onto the troops, burning them alive as our buddy Connor charges in with a bunch of resistance soldiers to finish off the Koreans.

Our role is sniper support, and we pick off the guard-tower grunts with ease. Everything seems to be going to plan. Then a scream over the radio. There’s a second salvo of phosphorus incoming, a misfire – the result of US guerrillas having to use homebrew kit and aging tech. It starts raining down into the parking lot and burning friendlies. A brilliant white comet smashes into the roof, sending our pair into the mayhem.

On the ground our character scoops up a dropped rifle and Rianna tells him to finish off the soldiers who are still rolling around on the floor screaming. American? Korean? We can’t tell, but the dev demoing the game makes a meal of finishing them off. He then wades through a gap in the fire to try and find Connor. The heat shimmer and sparks floating around look and sound incredible, as does the car that explodes as our man approaches it.

Picking himself up again, he rendezvous with the survivors who have holed up in a guard tower. Rianna is arguing with another man. She wants to abort the mission - her friend disagrees. It’s a smart moment – one where you feel like you’re the underdogs, the makeshift military without a perfect plan.

Their argument is cut short as Korean reinforcements show up and blast the tower. Again, our heroes are on the floor and the Koreans are closing in. Suddenly a car-sized drone rolls in and crushes a nearby enemy. It’s the Goliath, an unmanned, six-wheeled tank used as fire support by the future US military. And it’s controlled via a simple scope attached to our rifle. Point it at a bunch of enemies and it unleashes a salvo of rockets that wipe them out with meaty thuds.

The rest of the level is panicked siege warfare as the remaining guerrillas see off the Korean reinforcements. Shooting looks solid, although not quite as polished as Modern Warfare, but the smart interaction between weapons gives it a varied feel. EMP rockets, for example, disable the Goliath, so you need to pick off the EMP snipers while fighting off the main force. Given the gadgets we’ve seen so far, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see more advanced weaponry featured in the final game.

The demo ends as a helicopter arrives, gets shot down by the Goliath and careens toward the player, using Homefront’s Drama Engine (which ensures big set-pieces will always happen slap-bang in front of you, so you always feel like you’re in the center of the action). And yes, that leaves us wanting more.

We’re convinced that the gun-play is excellent, and we know Homefront is solid visually. But what will set it apart from other modern shooters is the way it makes players feel about being a survivor in occupied America. It’s the humanity – not the mayhem – that will make or break Homefront.

Jul 5, 2010

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