There is an old joke that Woody Allen narrates at the beginning of Annie Hall. Two elderly women are at a restaurant and one of them says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know, and such small portions.” To borrow Woody’s analogy a little bit, thats how I feel about Homefront‘s single player campaign. Its bland, boring and its over too soon. You would think that would be a good thing, but the joke is on you when you have actually paid for the game.
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Set in an alternate future where North Korea manages to conquer the US (commence rolling of eyes), it details the story of the US resistance who fight back their oppressors in the name of freedom and the good old USA (your eyes probably rolled right out of your head by this point). To the game’s credit, it does try to explain how all of that happened by throwing in a mixture of fake and real news footage at the start of the game, but it just manages to underline the ridiculousness of the concept even more; kind of how Unreal Tournament shoehorned capturing flags into its single player storyline.
But it is a first person shooter, and video games are no strangers to far-fetched plots. So all of that wouldnt matter if the gameplay itself was good. Except that it isn’t. It feels like a poor Call of duty clone. In fact, its so creatively bankrupt that its stealing ideas that have been done to death elsewhere. Does a slow motion door breach sound familiar? How about a stealth mission with a silenced sniper rifle? Most of the set pieces lack any punch. To its credit, the game does pick up a bit in the second half, but considering the campaign takes just about 3.5 hours to finish, that good portion of the second half is all of 45 minutes long.
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The AI also lets you down. Dont get me wrong, I am fully aware that criticizing the AI in a Call of Duty clone is unfair. Its not like you expect them to be smart, but you dont expect them to be unfair either. They will gleefully ignore your teammates (who are standing out in the open) and only shoot at you. To compensate for their lack of brain cells, they have absolute dead-on aim. Expose one tiny inch of yourself out of cover and you have every single bad guy zeroing in on you. Needless to say gunfights are almost zero fun because of that, and thats a shame because the weapons are fun to use.
Visually, the game looks somewhere between passable and terrible (think Fallout 3 without the greenish hue). Whats more infuriating is the fact that it is horribly unoptimized. The same rig that was getting me 40+ FPS on Crysis 2 (on Very High) gets me anything from 19 to 35 FPS on similar settings with frame rate drops being almost ubiquitous. Considering the fact that Crysis 2 looks a whole generation ahead of this, the performance is frankly inexcusable. Sound is nothing to write home about either.
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Right about this point, I would have smoothed over the fact that the game has a poor single player by saying that the multiplayer makes up for it. And who knows that might even be true; it certainly seems like it has potential. But we wont find out. Not until the game has been patched up, because as it is, the multiplayer is almost entirely unplayable. The biggest issue is the terrible net coding. Despite playing on servers where I am pinging in the range of 150, I lag terribly. If that was not bad enough, it feels like the game is constantly dropping packets, so while you are running you often skip ahead a few frames; almost like a stutter.
The final nail in the coffin is that as unoptimized as the single player is, the multiplayer is actually worse. The frame rate doesnt seem to go above 30 FPS. Initially, I thought it was just me, but I was playing both Crysis 2 and Bad Company 2 on the same PC with the same connection. Both were working flawlessly. Turns out pretty much everyone who has bought the game here is having the exact same problems. A patch is supposedly on its way to fix some of those issues, but its gonna be too little too late, you feel. Already the server browser is a sea of empty servers. Once the game is playable, you will probably be only left with a few hardcore fans.
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So what we have here at the end of the day is a poor port of an already average game. Its never a good sign when I am almost ready to list a game being ridiculously short in the positives column. The multiplayer might be good, but its downright unplayable as it is. If you have to buy it, I would say try the console versions. Its buggy even there, but at least its playable. Or you could do the smart thing. Buy a better game. Buy a different game.