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Homefront hands-on preview

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The other item that makes Homefront stand out even more, for better and for worse, is the availability of drones. We’re not talking predator drones here, but rather small, remotely-piloted attack and surveillance craft. We’ve seen a tiny attack chopper, a miniature tank with an LMG mounted on it, and a flying spy craft. The attack chopper was the most popular by far in the matches we played, and frankly felt extremely overpowered. We’re talking about a flying rocket platform that can typically take out a player with two shots that also have considerable splash effect. In every match we played, there were at least two (and usually more) of these rocket-spamming mini-choppers in the sky at any given moment. Flying these things is fun, and we racked up some disquietingly easy kill-streaks with them – they seem to have no timer that we could discern, so one can fly around for minutes at a time.


Above: This is not the mini-chopper. This real chopper is a high-level vehicle

The second most popular drone was the Parrot, a spy craft that has no weapons but instead tags enemies so they show up on radar and are also visible through terrain with a big red diamond around them. These drones are a nice touch because they give lesser-skilled or team-oriented players a chance to make a difference, and it’s possible to earn considerable BP without getting a single kill. The last drone, which we saw little of but enjoyed piloting ourselves, was the Wolverine. It looks like a small tank but certainly doesn’t have the armor to stand up to much damage, but unlike the drone chopper, can easily sneak inside buildings and kill those hiding from said choppers.

While these drones make Homefront’s multiplayer feel somewhat different from other shooters, they also raise concerns for us around what they turn gameplay into. First, they are so cheap to purchase that every player can launch one immediately at the beginning of a match. This means that rocket-raining choppers show up in the first few seconds of play almost every round. The result is a certain number of players just hunkered down in some corner of the map instead of fighting the enemy face-to-face. The other problem is that, especially with the mini-choppers, these things are incredibly difficult to hit. We’re talking about a flying object less than half the size of a normal player, which also strafes and skips around, making them even more difficult to hit. Shooting at small, armored helicopters and knowing that even if you do destroy it you don’t even earn a kill is not fun. We spent a lot of time hiding inside of buildings just trying to ignore them.

However, we must stress that this was an event involving brand-new players using low-level characters, so the dynamic could change drastically as people figure out the multiplayer. We saw a bit of this toward the end of our play time because people had leveled up and unlocked vehicles, and vehicles can treat drones as a minor annoyance. There are also potential weapon combinations that work best for dealing with drones, so it’s possible the overabundance of robots won’t be an issue soon after release. Even so, the chaos element that drones introduce does make the game feel fresh on one level.

A final component of Homefront’s multiplayer that makes it noteworthy is the way it creates a shifting battlefield. Its take on control-point play, where there are three areas teams fight to take over and hold, does a fun little twist where if one team manages to dominate, the “front line” of battle shifts, moving the three control points to another part of the map, simulating the need for the losing team to “fall back.” This can create a neat tug-of-war as the front line moves back and forth and ensures that you’re not fighting over the same parts of the map the whole round.

The other way Homefront moves the focus of fights happens with a kind of notoriety system. If you manage to rack up a kill streak or simply excel in a particular way, you’ll gain a kind of threat rating which then causes a commander AI to assign kill missions against you. Aside from simply enjoying the notoriety of being the most wanted player on the field, you’ll also earn bonuses for going up the ranks. The ultimate threat rating is five stars, and from our experience it is not easy to reach – not only did we achieve only three stars, but we didn’t see anyone else reach five stars during our play time. This feature adds another layer, a kind of minigame that lets players get fifteen minutes of fame for both being wanted and for killing the wanted player.

Homefront has taken bold steps with its story, crafting a world that feels unnerving and real where most shooters go straight to the sensationalism and improbable set-pieces. It’s strange, then, that the multiplayer brings its “gamey” elements to the forefront. It has tried to make its multiplayer really stand out with its Battle Points and drones, but these mechanics don’t really make it all that different from Call of Duty or Battlefield. Clearly the devs have put considerable effort into the multiplayer – this is no tacked on obligation. It doesn’t look like, though, that the multiplayer will be the main reason to buy the game – instead, we’re betting players will be interested in the campaign and then enjoy the multiplayer as a hefty bonus. We just hope those mini-choppers find a natural place in the hierarchy, either through designed obsolescence, or if necessary, a balance patch.

Jan 21, 2011

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20 comments

  • Garg - February 16, 2011 7:56 p.m.

    Plot sounds somewhat similar to Freedom Fighters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_Fighters_(video_game). I had to take a few brakes on the last level because my heart was pounding so hard.
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - January 24, 2011 8:21 p.m.

    If I just said "It's like Frontlines" then that wouldn't be helpful to the people who haven't played that game. Besides, it isn't "just like it" and has its own details, however small. Perhaps I should have specified, when talking about Red Dawn, that the invaders were shown taking over a high school and a random small town. I don't recall the movie showing them taking NORAD or anything else that would make sense from a strategic standpoint.
  • R3DRUN - January 24, 2011 6:37 a.m.

    I am a little excited for this game. Can't wait.
  • tyler_14_420 - January 24, 2011 12:56 a.m.

    The idea of Soviets flying directly into the States isn't all that shocking. The USSR was reported as having rediculous amounts of anti-air weaponry due to the whole Cold War Fanaticism, which was largely proven long by a pilot who flew his plane into the USSR and landed it in front of the Kremlin. He ended up being in Jail for 20 years and wrote about his experiences. No country is invincible.
  • Z-man427 - January 23, 2011 2:37 a.m.

    In Red Dawn, it was briefly mentioned that Russia had already invaded and taken over Mexico via Cuba
  • colorado20 - January 22, 2011 6:51 p.m.

    Why would Colorado be of importance? Forget all of our military bases and weapon stock piles the real reason they would invade Colorado is because they want control of Red Rocks Amphitheater.
  • Baron164 - January 22, 2011 6:38 p.m.

    From what I remember of Red Dawn the Russians Nuked China and invaded the US from the West cost up to the Mississippi river where the US Military was finally able to stop the advancement. I don't remember much from the movie so I could be missing a few details. I remember it being similar to how World in Conflict did it but in that game the Russian's didn't get much further than California. But in any case I find the setting really interesting and I fully intend to pick this up day one if only for the campaign experience. I don't know how much time I'll put into the multiplayer, will have to wait and see how it works when it launches.
  • TheWerebear - January 22, 2011 4:45 p.m.

    Honestly, "why would Colorado be of any strategic importance?" There are a LOT of reasons, some of which have already been mentioned so I'll just mention another. We have a huge store of mustard gas munitions from WWI which would be quite a bonus for an invading/occupying force. On another note completely, I want this game quite a bit and entirely for the campaign experience. I play CoD for it's multiplayer because I honestly can't get over the lame nonsensical story structure of it's campaign. Homefront looks like a shooter that will finally deliver on a PLOT.
  • RicePuddingUK - January 22, 2011 11:36 a.m.

    This game looks promising, I'm looking forward to the campaign, haven't played a decent campaign since Mass Effect 2 and Alan Wake. Didn't the developers say the sequel or DLC would be set in London? British gamers or more rather English gamers will be getting the homefront treatment.
  • shadyteadybear - January 22, 2011 10:12 a.m.

    guy's it's it s own game stop comparing it to other games like Cod just because it's kinda in the near future, it has potential to be a great game but it's not out yet so it could still fail which i dont think it will
  • pr0tostar - January 22, 2011 9:06 a.m.

    "why would Colorado be of any strategic importance?" nuthin much, just NORAD HQ.
  • GwaR - January 22, 2011 8 a.m.

    Yes, as AxiamWolfe said, you could've made it a lot easier on yourselves if you just said 'multiplayer is almost exactly like frontline: fuels of war'. Maybe the previewer failed to realize that it was the same studio making Homefront as Frontlines, or more likely he just never played Frontlines...
  • AxiamWolfe - January 22, 2011 4:30 a.m.

    Hmm, seems to take quite a few cues form Frontlines: Fuel of War, namely the "Frontline" thing as well as the RC drones. But what else to expect? Same devs. Vehicles as spawn points: Ain't that more BF2142 (APCs) than BC/BC2?
  • Sy87 - January 22, 2011 4:18 a.m.

    You see this alot one game does something awesome someone else has to copy same game plan. I will admit it looks good, but why can't they make a game where the U.S. goes imperialistic in the since that we go conquering other countries. I mean come on how many people would sign up for the Empire in Star wars and say rebels are losers. Just like everyone picks on the germans and japanese in WWII games. I think it would be cool to see their perspective. Be open minded. Anyway sorry to rant. Wolverines!!!!!!
  • excaliburps - January 22, 2011 4:12 a.m.

    And this is why I think DICE has nailed infantry-based vehicular combat down to a science. It's extremely hard to balance and be fun at the same time. I know I don't want to play a game where every one has UAVs, Drones that take out the whole time with little to no consequences. Just my two cents.
  • Danielmemo - January 22, 2011 3:50 a.m.

    In Red Dawn Colorado is probably invaded because of the Air Force there. But if there is Airforce, then WTF are they invading without trouble/ But anyway, I can't wait for this game. For once the bad guy is also not a Russian terrorist/army/spy/hot chick villain.
  • Hobojedi - January 22, 2011 3:17 a.m.

    I was hoping for more campaign coverage..
  • UberNoob - January 22, 2011 2:24 a.m.

    Looks like a nice game. It seems to remind me of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 though...
  • Chaoscoolperson - January 22, 2011 2:23 a.m.

    yeah Iguess youre right about balancing issues but the multiplayer still looks more fun then CoD and Halo combined(I can't believe I just typed that)
  • Chaoscoolperson - January 22, 2011 2:21 a.m.

    First maybe? OMG I cant wait for this game!

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