Preview: Homefront

Steve Butts | 11 Nov 2010 14:00
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Most shooters seem to suggest that the shooting justifies itself, but Homefront tries to place it in a context that provides a persistent motivation that touches the player's natural patriotism. Though it might be a smaller motivation in the big picture, it's much more comprehensible to players than the "saving the universe" or "I just hope I don't die" target that many shooters aim for.

Unfortunately, the game doesn't hit these notes right off the bat. After the player is arrested in his crappy one-bedroom apartment somewhere in Colorado, he has to endure a lengthy bus ride full of war movie clich├ęs that seem designed just to shock. Brains splattering on the window from an execution and a crying baby who watches his parents gunned down on the street corner are just two of the purely visceral, button-pushing moments that game presents. While it may be accurate, there's no real story context for it, and it seems designed just to make the bad guys so bad that the good guys seem like angels by comparison.

The story really starts to pay off, at least in terms of supporting the gameplay, once you reach the other members of the resistance. Having braved so many firefights and fought your way towards a community of fellow resistors, you're criticized for bringing unwanted attention on the civilians caught in the middle. It's a great moment that turns your expectations on their head. Here you've been trying to link up with the resistance and, by the mere fact of success, have screwed up the lives of several innocent people. It throws another layer on top of the "Why we fight" question.

Things get even more intense once the inevitable Korean attack comes. You and your fellow freedom fighters take cover in a nearby house as Korean army soldiers and vehicles come racing down the street. The trouble is that the house is occupied by a mother and her crying baby. Having to fight off wave after wave of enemy troops while the baby is constantly crying in the background lends an emotional element to the fight that you just don't get shooting yet another terrorist in yet another dusty brown village.

Just knowing that you have to keep that mother and baby alive is enough motivation to get me to actually care about the outcome of the battle on a personal level. When combined with the satisfying gameplay, it's more than enough to get me excited about what Homefront can offer once it's released next year.

Steve Butts thinks he's tough for eating beans every day.

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