Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Home is where the front is.

For my birthday this year I got Homefront. Actually, due to crappy delivery times it nearly turned out to be my Christmas present but that's another story for another time. So for some reason it was released over here about four days after the US release. I don't know if the internet had to book a plane to Europe and had problems or whether the US just wanted to test the game out first to make sure it wouldn't give us any ideas, but whatever the reason those four days became a mix of reading reviews and avoiding spoilers. From what I could gather I was ready to expect a mediocre single player campaign with a decent multiplayer mode to justify the price tag. I should have been expecting a terrible campaign all along. Now, bear in mind I stopped playing after the third chapter. Some may say it's wrong to judge a game without completing it but if I've stopped playing at the start of the game and have no desire to carry on then there is something seriously wrong in its implementation.
Thankfully, I'm here to tell you what, specifically.

For instance, your teammates are utterly useless. To see how well their AI was I crouched behind some cover and watched. For a full two minutes. One lay holding her stomach and the other pointed his gun menacingly at the enemy, firing only five shots, all of which missed. If it wasn't for their plot armour or the enemy's disinterest in anything that isn't the player character I'd wonder how anything resembling a resistance managed to survive this long.

While we're on the subjects of teammates, they seem to have a strange infatuation with the player, as anytime I was aiming at an enemy and lining up the perfect shot they came running over looking for a hug. Now I'm all for raising morale during a war, but when you're telling a guy to help take down some enemy troops, rubbing your butt in his face so he can't see probably isn't going to help.

In a similar vein, they're always pushing you about. Homefront uses the style of storytelling where everyone stands around talking instead of loading cutscenes every two seconds. This usually means that certain people have to be in certain spots and God help you if you're in someone's way. You'll get pushed out of the way and in to a wall by an approaching NPC. This can't even be countered by staying far back enough, since the talking won't start until you're a certain distance away from everything. I can't count the amount of times I've been waiting for someone to open the next door only to find I needed to be a little bit more to the left.

Your character is the most gentleman like specimen to ever be in a video game. There are points where you need to go up a ladder, down a hole, or over a ledge. At these points, you have to wait for EVERY single member of the team to do so first, while you wait patiently for the prompt to appear telling you it's your turn. This will occur even if you get there first, which will happen a lot due to the NPCs never being in a hurry and wanting to take in the sights. Expect this a great deal, since most of the game is following people to the next area. Also, I don't know if it's a bug or bad timing on my part, but sometimes if I'm close to a ledge, I need to walk away and go back toward it before the prompt will appear.

Your NPC friends are also very impatient, and after telling you what you need to do next they'll repeat it ad nauseum so you don't forget. This wouldn't be too bad, except they think you have very bad short term memory and will remind you every 5 seconds. The same line in the same tone every 5 seconds. I think the stress of war is less about the bullets and more about the irritation.

One chapter asks you to provide cover, use a targeting system and jump off the roof all within the space of 5 seconds. Then you have to run to a jeep. It doesn't actually tell you to run to the jeep, so much as shout at you for being so caught up with shooting bad guys while the jeep has started driving away right after you jump off the roof. This is where I realised that throughout the game so far I'd kept dying at key spots and had to learn from my mistakes and learn where every enemy is and what route I have to take. The game was no longer about skill but about memory.

Yes, I realise that this post has been mostly a gripe at the AI, but really there's not a lot I can complain about gameplay wise. This is not necessarily a compliment. Everything I've seen so far has been done already, and done better in similar games. Maybe there's something I'm missing later on in the game that'll blow my mind, but going by what I've heard online and from my dad's experience with the game I don't hold out much hope.

I've only played a few matches in multiplayer mode so far, so I'm still optimistic about that one. My main gripe is due to my constant dying but I think I can chalk that up to a severe lack of skill rather than anything to do with the game.

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