While the action in Homefront’s campaign feels generic and restrictive, its multiplayer is anything but, and it’s not a stretch to say it feels like a completely different game. Sure, the controls and basic action are the same, but while the campaign sees Robert Jacobs and his scrappy band of civilian rebels striking blows against their terrifying occupiers, multiplayer pits the GKR troops against the US Army in control-point (or “Ground Control”) and team-deathmatch scenarios for 16, 24, or 32 players. (And yes, you'll need a passcode that comes with new copies of the game to get access to everything. Or you can buy one. In any case, not having one won't restrict you from playing online, but you won't be able to rise past level 5.)
Above: Also there are tanks
Assuming you can get over the slightly weird fact that both sides use exactly the same weapons and vehicles (something explained by a news clipping in the campaign), there’s a lot to like here. The action is fast and chaotic, as the armies clash over huge, open maps set in places like the Bay Area’s Angel Island and an assortment of more anonymous ruined freeways, cities, suburbs and rural areas. These are all filled with plenty of buildings to occupy, high places to snipe from and blind corners to hide behind, and (as in most multiplayer FPSes) knowing a map’s layout well enough to work out a strategy around it is key to success.
That goes double during Ground Control matches. GC is divided into rounds, and depending on which team wins the first round (by capturing and holding at least two of the three available control points), the action will advance/fall back to a new area, past the outskirts of the previous round’s spawn area. Because these new areas usually have completely different topographies and structures, it’s a little like instantaneously switching over to a new map.
The big draw, however, comes from what you can earn by racking up Battle Points. Earned by killing enemies, assisting teammates or conquering control points, BPs can earn you the right to deploy a drone (which come in both ground and air flavors, and are immensely fun to pilot), equip yourself with a rocket launcher or call in an airstrike, which you can aim from a plane’s-eye view of the battlefield. It can also earn you the right to spawn inside of a vehicle (with better ones available to those with more BPs), which seems like a drag at first, but actually makes piloting vehicles a question of merit, instead of a question of which idiot can sprint to the cockpit first before crashing into a mountain.
Each multiplayer loadout comes with two different “purchase slots” (which don’t include vehicles; those are universal), and while there are four starter loadouts and two unlockable later on, you’re free to customize these however you like. If you like the drone and airstrike the Sniper class comes equipped with, for instance, but you’re no good with a sniper rifle, you can swap it out for an assault rifle or machinegun. You can also trick out your favorite loadouts with performance-enhancing perks – and, of course, more and better perks, unlocks and weapons become available as you gain experience and level up.
Above: Multiplayer, like single-player, features more than a few logos for White Castle, Hooters, TigerDirect.com and other iffy brands
Thanks largely to all the cool stuff you can play around with, Homefront’s multiplayer is instantly fun, rewarding and varied, and only becomes more so as you unlock new stuff. It looks about as dated and unpolished as the campaign does, but there are few sensations quite as fun as crouching in a dark corner and surprising enemies halfway across the map with a well-placed drone.
Next page: Is Homefront better than Call of Duty: Black Ops?