Regular readers will notice that the following article is a slight departure from our usual preview style. For gamescom 2010 we've adopted a streamlined structure, allowing us to cover as many games as possible while giving you the important juice and info. In many cases we'll be running longer, more detailed previews upon our return to the UK.
What is it?
An intense first-person shooter in which the America of 2027 has been devastated by a vastly superior Korean invasion force. With the American military fractured and scattered, splinter groups of rebel freedom fighters band together to kick the commies off Uncle Sam's front porch.
It's Kaos Studios' first foray into a serious single-player adventure - formerly working with DICE on Battlefield 2 and creating the lukewarm Frontlines: Fuel of War - though the developer insists a fully-fledged multiplayer mode is also being developed; this will be detailed extensively before Homefront's release in early 2011.
The PC version is being designed exclusively by Digital Extremes (who famously worked with Epic on the original Unreal) and was shown running at over 100fps on a Geforce 470.
What was shown?
Snapshots of two levels, intended to contrast between the game's heart-wrenching human segments and bombastic action escapades.
The demo starts with protagonist Jacobs awakening in the resistance encampment of Oasis, which is all stars, stripes and throwaway dialog about suburbs, liberty and destroyed dreams, built up and around traditional American residential iconography. Children laugh, families work together while you, camp leader Boo and temperamental bruiser Conner decide on the best way to murder loads of nasty Koreans. The level ends with you picking up an assault rifle and heading into the sewers.
Then it's off to a big ruckus from later in the game. A jerry-rigged truck drives into a Korean occupied commercial centre - the all-American Elvis's Burning Love blasting out of the stereo - before an incendiary air strike hits the truck. Your character blasts away at shuffling, screaming Koreans until he's knocked off his vantage point by friendly fire. Here you and probable love interest Rianna crawl, coughing and spluttering, through the devastation until they manage to take refuge in a tower. Which, unfortunately, is taken out when an enemy helicopter crashes into it.
The demo ends with you taking the pesky helicopter out, alongside a bevy of enemies and quite a lot of the surrounding architecture, with the Goliath - a heavily armed drone that will fire rockets at anything you see fit to point at. Which is pretty much everything, to be honest.
It didn't take long for Executive Producer Frank Delise to bring up Half-Life 2: it's a clear source of inspiration for Homefront. And you can certainly see why, straight down to the bits where you take great pleasure in destroying a helicopter that's been giving you endless grief for the last few minutes. The American resistance certainly has a twang of the downtrodden City 17 populace, too.
Of course, the invading alien armies have been swapped for Koreans, who've neatly managed to conquer the world after Kim-Jong Il dies in 2012 and is succeeded by his (probably evil) son. Homefront intentionally preys on one of America's greatest fears - a full-blown communist invasion - to produce some impressive action set pieces. Listening to the screams of your immolated enemies definitely felt a bit vicious, but it was impressive sound work nonetheless.
Whether the full game can match the intensity of the vigorously preened and carefully selected sequence shown to the press is another question, but Kaos is adamant that if the folks at Infinity Ward can/could do it with Call of Duty, then they can certainly accomplish the same with Homefront.
Kaos is also keen to stress the importance the sequences outside of straight action. The idea, of course, is that you're playing a regular (instead of G.I.) Joe, pulled into extraordinary consequences. It works to some degree, but wholly believing the illusion is made altogether more challenging due to the fact you're playing a mute with the ability to shoot a target a mile away with unerring precision.
One thing is for sure: it's highly unlikely Homefront will end with a neat and tidy Korean withdrawal from American shores. This is already being considered a promising franchise, effectively destroying any possibility for genuine narrative finality. Oh well.
Homefront is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in early 2011.