Published on November 13th, 2010 | by Swaine Dillinger0
Homefront – Preview
Let’s not fool ourselves; if you’re in the market for an online shooter, you’re going to buy Call of Duty: Black Ops next month, aren’t you? Or failing that, you’re going to pick up the Vietnam add-on pack for Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Medal of Honor or hold out for the brown-hued destructive delights promised by Killzone 3. And THQ know it. The publisher’s well aware that Homefront isn’t going to steal a huge amount of players away from its more established rivals – at least not the first time around. Instead, it’s simply looking to surprise you, with developer Kaos able to focus on its own product rather than worry about other people’s. And it seems to have done the team a world of good. Launching a new IP may naturally place Kaos as the underdog, but judging by our time with an early build of Homefront’s multiplayer, they may just come out on top.
To say Homefront’s multiplayer is nothing like the big boys though would be a bit of a fib. It feels very much like Call of Duty in a Battlefield setup. Controls are nigh-on identical to Modern Warfare’s, pushing the left stick to sprint, Circle to crouch, shoulder button to fire, and the D-pad to use special items. It’s just as responsive too, although the size of the maps (maps can be vast and sweeping, easily on a par with some of BF:BC2’s biggest online battlegrounds) mean it isn’t quite as frantic as Call of Duty’s constant kill/respawn cycle.
The 16-a-side battles mean that there’s always something going on wherever you look though, be it grenades going off at your feet, tanks rumbling in the distance, or a helicopter gunship wreaking havoc in the skies. The vehicles aren’t just unpilotable killstreaks either; these are fully controllable war machines, loaded to the nines with rocket pods, Gatling guns and death-bringing missiles. Homefront employs a system known as Battle Points, an XP system with a twist that lets you purchase equipment and vehicles on each spawn. Points can be earned in a number of ways – killing an enemy, grabbing an assist, taking control of a point, avenging the death of a teammate (or getting revenge for yours), and you can choose when to spend them throughout the round. Smaller rewards, like an armoured anti-infantry drone, cost fewer points, while heavily armed helicopters require you to save up the cash. You’ll spawn directly inside the vehicle too, and buying them with Battle Points is the only way to access them, meaning there’s no sudden rush for the tank at the beginning of the game. There’s a standard XP system too, for fulfilling certain ‘Call of Duty Barracks-alike’ challenges, which unlocks new armour and equipment throughout your multiplayer career, and the usual class-based equipment loadout menus as well.
In turn, the nature of the Battle Points system ends up with games gradually building into a crescendo of all-out war, with matches starting out as relatively light, infantry-based scuffles and coming to a nail-biting conclusion of tank and helicopter fire overrunning the once-quaint farmland environments and destroyed American suburbs.
Though Kaos promise plenty of game types in the full game (including the usual Team Deathmatch), we mainly got stuck into Ground Control, a game type that’ll feel familiar to Battlefield veterans. It plays very much like Rush, and has players battling for control over two points on a map. Once your team has secured them both, a progress bar will fill over a period of a few minutes until your asked to push on to another two points. The biggest difference between this and Bad Company 2, however, is that there is no defending team. Both teams are vying to take control of the points, and if the opposing team manages to grab hold of the second set of points after being pushed back, you’ll be back at square one. It leads to a sense of genuine struggle between both sides as control over the points goes back and forth between them, all the while knowing that at any moment in the game you could be on the back foot should someone have saved up enough points to bring in the big guns against you.
Of course, it’s difficult to describe Homefront’s multiplayer on the whole as innovative. It is what it is, a halfway house between Call of Duty and Battlefield, but what a genuinely brilliant halfway house it is. Given the option between staying to play more Homefront or heading back home for our daily games of Call of Duty, we’d have probably preferred the former.
And this really is just the tip of the Kalashnikov for Homefront. With plenty more going on behind the scenes, including a single-player campaign that looks worthy enough to stand toe-to-toe with the shooter behemoths, and the salivating tease of a multiplayer Beta possibly coming in the months ahead, we’re sure to be seeing considerably more of Kaos’ finest very soon. Could it be one of the finest online shooters coming next year? Almost certainly. Make no mistake, this is one game you’ll want invading your play time.