THQ Gamers Week Coverage - Day 3

by: Matt -
    The final day of THQ's Gamers Week event started with a very early trip to the press venue, and I was hardly awake by the time the bus dropped us off. Our final day was full of Homefront multiplayer, and as of late I'd pretty much had my fill of first person shooters with CoD, and MoH, and BFBC2, and a bunch of other acronyms, so I can say I was less than enthused to be checking out another FPS, even it if was made from the group that spawned the Battlefield 1942 Desert Combat mod. Well, I had a lot of crow to eat after this day, Kaos Studios obviously knows what they're doing, and have the know how to make a fun and engaging online experience. Continue past the jump to see what might reinvigorate my desire to play an FPS.

    The thing to note about Homefront is that this game is intended to be as friendly and accessible to all players as possible. And I think it totally succeeds in this, any person of any skill level can play and enjoy this game and succeed. A lot of this is thanks to Kaos Studios' implementation of regular experience points, and the Battle Points, in-game currency that can be spent on the fly for a variety of items, from drones to armor, to tanks and more. It's a rather ingenious system since it allows anyone to pick up and play the game, all well leveling up at relatively the same rate as the player who goes out and gets the highest number of kills in the game.
    You earn Battle Points from just about every action, if you aren't too great with a gun you can spend your initial points to use a marker drone to sniff out and mark enemy units that your allies in turn can see running around the map. This makes you an invaluable member of the team, all while keeping your gun holstered and your body out of harms way. The level up rate may not be as quick as going in to combat and getting your hands dirty, but there is still quite a bit of progress you can make from the alternate methods of combat. You can also trade in that marker drone for a rocket drone, deftly dodging around buildings, taking out enemy soldiers from a safe distance. Or if the map calls for it, you can save up your points and trade them in for a heavy tank or a gunship that can lay waste to the entire enemy forces.
    As you level up you'll unlock more and more in the armory. This includes better fire-arms and perks that doled out in a point based manner. All perks are worth a certain point value and offer a large variety of special abilities, like increasing the battery life of drones, or lowering the cost of items purchased with Battle Points, but curiously with this perk you are still required to have the original amount of Battle Points needed to purchase the item, which will hopefully be adjusted before release. Perks continue to unlock the further up you go in level, and by the time the event ended, I was up to level ten with some pretty spiffy perks that allowed me to pilot a drone faster and keep it alive for a longer duration, allowing me to complete missions issued by the Battle Commander.
    The Battle Commander mode allows players to complete missions in order to earn in-game perks as they rank up. For instance there is a Battle Commander mission for kills earned, after your first two kills you will rank up, at that point you need three more kills to rank up again, and now enemy players have been clued in to your perimeter, and are ordered to take you down and get missions from their own Battle Commander, allowing them to earn more Battle Points for the kill. But just because you've got enemy players coming for you doesn't mean your Battle Commander leaves you high and dry. As you rank up you'll earn perks like a personal UAV sweep, a flak jacket to reduce damage taken, and more, though I must say, once you reach rank five you'll have the entire enemy team gunning for you and all the flak jackets in the world won't protect you.
    During my time with the game I had the chance to check out a couple of maps, one of which being Suburbs, which was previously announced as an exclusive to the Xbox 360. It was a small map, that had plenty of houses to explore and plenty of places to hide from enemy units. What's interesting is that when you're killed, rather than a replay camera, you're given a view from the opponents eyes to see what they are looking at. In this map, the marker drones were particularly useful, allowing me to reach a reasonably high rank four consistently. There was another urban map, Cul-De-Sac that had a small gas station surrounded by a few houses, with a lot of homes destroyed or with scaffolding allowing for places to hide from the rocket drones people would be piloting around, which are thankfully easy to take out with a good proximity rocket or even just a few bursts of gunfire.
    Getting away from the urban setting we had the Farm map that also offered us a new gameplay mode, Ground Control. In this mode, players fight to keep control over points on a map. After a team has held them for a specific amount of time they will be allowed to move-up on the enemy, who must fall back to points that are considered to be their base. This mode had much larger maps than previously played and offered more of an incentive to save your Battle Points to get a larger vehicle. I usually waited for enough points to bring in a devastating tank which had enemy players fleeing from my shells. The Farm map had a number of large buildings and was great for sniping from rooftops. The other Ground Control map we played was a previously unreleased map, called Crossroad which centered around a collapsed freeway with a power station and a ragtag junkyard base at opposite ends of the maps. This map is where we spent the most time, and surprisingly it had a lot of areas where you could sneak in to a point via debris and open pipes. This map was also great for a helicopter once I had enough Battle Points, allowing me plenty of targets as the enemies scurried up to control points that we were able to hold, and push them back to the center of the map, managing an eventual win.
    Homefront looks like it's a serious attempt by THQ and Kaos Studios to muscle in to a crowded FPS market. It's got a lot of great features present that make it stand out, most notably the Battle Point mechanic. It does a great job of allowing you the customization to play the game to your own personal style. And I've got to say, I just had a lot of fun with this, and that's with just four maps accessible and only a couple of gameplay modes. My only concern is that this excellent multiplayer game will overshadow the strong story that Kaos Studios hopes to deliver. Hopefully gamers will make sure that they give both an equal shake when Homefront brings the war home this March for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
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