Eyes-on / Homefront

The idea of North Korea invading the US and killing most of the population is terrible, sure, but if it leads to me getting to control a drone equipped with a rocket launcher, I’d probably leave the door open for ‘em.

Of course I’m joking, but only because Homefront has beaten me to the punch, but we’ll get to that. You’ve probably heard from developer Kaos Studios by now that this is an FPS with a heart, or rather one that wants to break yours. Homefront draws up the scenario where the Koreans have indeed invaded the US seventeen years from now, and what’s left of American life (at least from what we can see) has been forced into a small housing area, hiding away from the Korean iron grip.

This is where our Gamescom demo (played by the PC SKU team) starts. Our character, Jacob, wakes up to the warm welcome of his Captain, the father figure kind; it’s clear that Homefront wants you to care for its characters so you shed that tear when they inevitably die in a bit. On his feet and ready to roll, Jacob walks outside to discover the American dream… not quite. A small suburban area has been taken over by resistance fights and refugees, creating a safe haven according to the Cap’. Of course we’re willing to bet this place is ‘safe’ until the penultimate level of the game, but for now we’re at ease.

The developer takes his time to look around a surprisingly positive scene. For the situation they’re in, people sure are happy, and children’s laughter can be heard in the background as they play. For a second, we thought we might have stepped into the wrong booth and were looking at a revolutionary sequel to The Sims, but the stark contrast of the next scene is soon to prove we’re in the right place.

Having seen everything there is in this paradise, we meet a few of our comrades before we’re handed a rifle and led down a secret passage. It’s time to leave the good life behind and get shooty.

The game cuts to a scene overlooking a car park outside a super market. We’re armed with a scoped rifle, aiming at a squad of troops from the Great Korean Republic who calmly patrol the area. Much to their (and admittedly our) surprise, a van bursts through the park gates and collides with a parked vehicle. Music blares from within, and flames seep out of the sides. We’re as confused as the Koreans for a second, until the Napalm comes in, drenching our enemy in flames. We almost begin to smile before we realise we really shouldn’t; the men caught in the flames are screaming in pain, and the female soldier next to us begs us to use the rifle to put them out of their misery.

One of the tougher soldiers on the radio orders us to let them burn, but the dev shows them mercy anyway, taking them out with his rifle. We’re already engrossed in the action; competent graphics and incredible sound make sure of that, so it throws us off a bit when a misfire flings Jacob from his position. He gets up (even though we’re fairly sure he shouldn’t be able to) and begins to make his way through the flames to the other side, accompanied by the female soldier from before.

Kaos throw a lot at you here, keeping a very cinematic feel as cars explode and throw you back to the floor. Eventually we make it to the tower on the other side, but it isn’t long before that’s toppled over too. We’re now absolutely certain that Jacob should be dead, but we forget all about that when he starts using the Goliath. What’s the only thing better than a weapon that fires lots missiles? A remote controlled drone that fires lots of missiles of course, and that’s exactly what the Goliath is.

The battle has turned all the way up to eleven now; as we throw down rockets, bullets whizz past our head and explosions flicker in the background. We find ourselves surprised when the demo ends as it’s hard to pull yourself out from the killer atmosphere and return to sounds that don’t deafen your ears, and look at people that aren’t trying to kill you.

Of all the games that were on show in Germany, Homefront was one that stood out. It might be for the focus on story, it might be for the production values, or it could just be because we love a good shooter, but we’ll definitely be keeping tabs on this one until release next year.