The experience often feels like two different designers have collaborated on the finished product, with one capable of beautifully intricate juxtapositions of sprawling America and the other perfectly content with slapping a mouldy grey texture all over endless angular corridors and plopping in a line of dialogue from Connor complaining about the horror of it all. Kaos' implementation of Unreal Engine 3 also seems poorly handled, with the technology failing to render the required draw-distances of Homefront's urban chaos without severely compromising on visual fidelity. That said, the PC version looks like it fares substantially better than the Xbox 360 version I used for review.
Ultimately, Homefront's threadbare campaign is like a beautiful, sweeping piece of music being awkwardly recited by a child on a recorder. The heavily publicised emotional narrative falls completely flat outside of the goldmine of its conceptual stages, a fact not helped when gaps between utterances are generally big enough to park a 4X4 in, and a scant handful of evocative set-pieces do little to hide the fact that the linear campaign is both hugely unadventurous and creatively bankrupt in its design.
Redemption is thankfully afforded by the competent multiplayer, where you can gleefully slaughter American and Korean alike without all the grimy trappings of narrative and context. A typical 75-level grind gives you an expected series of perks and staggered unlocks across two modes - Ground Control and Team Deathmatch - with the latter entirely self-explanatory and the former a variant of the traditional Domination game type with a tug-of-war style best of three rounds thrown in for good measure.
The key is in the delivery, with both modes dishing out large-scale skirmishes across a roster of eight maps; anyone familiar with DICE's Battlefield games will feel immediately comfortable here. This is a rougher, more brazen experience than the polished sheen of Bad Company 2, however, and the wide-open environments lacking in obvious choke points make Homefront the most uncluttered and advantageous playground for crafty snipers in recent years.
Kaos' multiplayer trump card is Battle Points, which shows capitalism is more than alive and well in occupied America. Performing kills and team actions affords you points, which get saved up and can be redeemed for a variety of prizes - such as one of seven vehicles, airstrikes, or Kevlar vests - when the player so chooses. The system is fun and shows promise, though slightly flawed in its current iteration: the base economics feel skewed, with troublesome, high-risk actions (like capturing points) ultimately proving far less profitable than finding a dark hidey-hole and bagging massive sacks of headshots. It's also particularly ghastly to spend an entire game banking just shy of 3000 points for a devastating Apache gunship only to have it brought down seconds later by a cheap and cheerful drone.
The other notable feature is the Battle Commander mode, which shakes up the basics by adding in a five-star wanted level similar to Grand Theft Auto. Killstreaks are both rewarded and punished, the game assigning you increments of speed, damage and health at a cost of alerting an increasing amount of enemy players to your location - rank up to the maximum wanted level and you're lit up on the mini-map for the entire enemy team, with a nice little cache of Battle Points waiting for whomever finally manages to bring you down. Despite dropping the maximum players from 32 to 24 in the Battle Commander playlists, the idea is a nice little flourish added to a familiar system and certainly my favourite way to play the game.
There's enough material within Homefront's concept for it to spiral into something more interesting, and with plenty of talk about a sequel it's clear that's what THQ and Kaos is looking for, but this first crack of the whip falls far short of the competition. THQ obviously has a lot of faith in the game, however, and boss Danny Bilson has aggressively promoted Homefront in the run-up to its launch, repeatedly stating how the publisher is now in a three-horse race with Activision and EA for supremacy of the coveted FPS genre. Homefront has enough potential as a franchise for his statement to ring true, but I certainly know which horse is currently finishing third.