Homefront is one of THQ's biggest releases in 2011, and it's not pulling any punches. I talk no jive and I tell no lies, GNers; the intro to this game is the most brutal, emotional sequence I've ever played in a videogame. I won't spoil it for you, but there are ten specific seconds that were heart-breaking, and I was ready to plug some North Koreans by the time I got a gun in my hand, and it was all entirely intentional.
If Homefront's civilian-resistance-against-a-communist-invader plot sounds somewhat familiar, you might've seen a little film called "Red Dawn," a Cold War classic whose writer, John Milius, helped write the plot behind Homefront. That plot sees you playing a pilot, recruited into a resistance group in Montrose, Colorado. The game's alternate future sees North Korea blossom into an Asian empire even as the United States slipped deeper and deeper into economic depression. It's all plausible, and real world events seem to be conspiring to make Homefront's world even more believable. I got the opportunity to play the first hour of the game at THQ's swanky new studio in Montreal, and I came away intrigued.
Homefront is, in a word, intense. Aside from the opening sequence, which was jaw-dropping, firefights were fast and furious, set against a ruined suburbia whose images left lasting impressions: sniping from inside a child's tree house, fighting in and around a crashed jet liner, through people's homes. There were similar sequences in CoD: MW2, but, with the exception of coming around the corner and finding a Russian soldier nosing around in somebody's fridge, those sequences never struck me as human, y'know? The houses felt too plastic and perfect. Homefront is entirely dedicated to what developers call "the world of Homefront;" everything feels natural, feels lived in, filled with small details that flesh out the world. When you're talking with civilians, there are people who support you and voice dissent. When you're in a firefight in a suburban mom's house, you're fighting next to her, defending her and her screaming child.
Talking to Kaos Studios, the devs are going for a scenario wherein the "familiar becomes alien...the resources are on the side of the enemy." Kaos has built a world of desperation, and sells it well. The North Korean soldiers weren't exactly tactical geniuses (though you should keep in mind that this is an alpha build), but they were plentiful, and situations that might've felt rote with one or two soldiers felt tight, claustrophobic, trapped. Fighting an armored personnel carrier in a ruined backyard felt desperate. After that stirring opening sequence, I wanted to fight and I wanted to win; the thought of losing to that APC illicted an emotional response, a stubbornness that hasn't come up for me in a lot of games.
It's intense, it's human, it's gut-wrenching: it's Homefront.
(THQ provided transportation and lodging to the event)