It was an odd feeling to drive down Figueroa Street opposite the Los Angeles Convention Centre to see North Korean flags adorning the road-side. It was even more unnerving to see checkpoints set-up for entrance into car parks, which were being policed by what looked like futuristic North Korean soldiers. Fortunately North Korea weren't occupying the United States, but that's exactly what's happened in THQ's upcoming first-person shooter Homefront.
Homefront tells a futuristic tale of the fall of the United States of America. It's set in 2027 where North Korea, under new rule, have gained considerable power and influence in the world. They have expanded their borders by the occupation of South Korea and Japan and made the rest of the world extremely uneasy. To make things worse, they aren't simply expressing their new-found dominance by conquering via combat, they are also waging economic wars.
When the time is right, the Korean People's Army launch a full-scale invasion of the United States and defeat their army. And this is the world that players will start off in - the role of a normal civilian desperately trying to survive against an unrelenting and remorseless foe. From what's been disclosed and the atmosphere that's created by the gameplay, it looks like this is what's really going to set Homefront apart from the rest of the first-person shooters out there. Other games have tried to deal with America being invaded, it almost seems like it's become the common theme, but none have done it anywhere near as well as Homefront promises to do.
This is partially because they've hired John Milius to write the script for the game - some of his works include Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn. But it's also because of some clear design decisions that have been made. The developers really wanted players to feel vulnerable, not something many other first-person shooters attempt to fathom - the majority of them have players controlling military personnel of some kind. Hopefully Homefront can dispel the illusions that first-person shooters have poor stories.
As for the actual gameplay, it looked fairly generic. This is one aspect of the game that is unlikely to really pull any surprises. It's said that the gameplay will attempt to revolve around guerilla tactics, which makes sense given the nature of the player's situation, but how well this actually translates into the game remains to be seen. The segments shown in the demonstration were more stereotypical of the FPS genre and were actually rather intense.
The player did seem to take a considerable amount of punishment though, mostly from set pieces. Whether it was a missile gone wrong, huge balls of fire or simply falling from high places, the main character just kept on going and didn't really seem any worse off because of it. Considering the game is meant to be about plausibility, this was slightly disconcerting.
Homefront is due out in February 2011 on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. And if Kaos Studios really support the story with some solid gameplay, this could turn out to be a really great addition to the FPS genre.