Can Homefront’s multiplayer component topple the current king of shooters online?
Our single player review of “Homefront” explored the brief but finely crafted narrative and gameplay of THQ’s latest shooter. Now, let’s dive in to the main course of “Homefront,” the multiplayer experience.
For those of you wondering, this multiplayer offering cannot compete with “Call of Duty,” because it surpasses it in nearly every way. Here’s a shocker: During our 20-odd hours with the multiplayer, we didn’t experience a single disconnection once a match had begun. THQ’s insistence on utilizing dedicated servers across the PS3, PC and Xbox 360 versions is a complete win for gamers. There’s no lag, stutters or hiccups. Kaos and THQ have seductively opened the door for fatigued “Call of Duty” veterans, and we expect them to come running with abandon.
At its core, the multiplayer of “Homefront” offers only two modes – Ground Control (think “Domination”) and Team Deathmatch. Within this shell is a diverse load out system across six classes (Assault, SMG, Heavy, Sniper, Tactical and Explosive), several more for vehicles (and a deep well of rewards, all of which is fueled by the game’s clever use of Battle Points.
Battle Points (which can only be utilized for the duration of a match) are achieved for much more than popping head shots. Start a match by sending your remote controlled Parrot – a drone with limited battery life – skyward to scout and tag enemies who are then visible to your squad, and you’ll earn Battle Points (campers, you’ve been warned). When a teammate eventually sees the bright red diamond indicating the precise location of that enemy and dispatches him, you’ll get Battle Points for the helping hand. Hunt down and eliminate that player who’s racking up the kill streaks and get showered with Battle Points. Cash in those Battle Points to call down hellfire missiles, deploy a Wolverine battle drone, or perhaps spawn some heavy armor for your team to help turn the tide. Or use a smaller chunk of BP to arm yourself with a flak jacket and a personal UAV scan. Kaos understands it’s not simply about killing (evidenced by the lack of a free-for-all mode); it’s about the actions you take to contribute to your team’s victory. It’s this philosophy that lends to the game’s heavy “Battlefield” feel coupled with the brisk gameplay of “Call of Duty.”
The rate at which you accrue Battle Points corresponds to experience earned, which of course levels your character and unearths a satisfying range of equipment, weapons, attachments, vehicle load outs and infantry abilities. We hit level 16 online (out of a possible 50 levels) before penning this review and had only unlocked about 25 percent of the tasty war chest of toys of “Homefront.”
The truly engaging stuff happens at Level 7, when the Battle Commander mode unlocks, augmenting the standard Deathmatch and Ground Control matches. Dominating the “Battlefield” in this mode alerts members of the opposing team of your presence, as an invisible commander informs them of your crime — and your general location. Keep pulling off kill streaks and gradually the entire team is made aware of your location. But becoming a priority target doesn’t mean you’re defenseless. Keep the kills rolling and “Homefront” rewards you with five levels of perks to fend off the enemy in addition to the abilities and equipment you can take advantage of with your Battle Points. This dynamic shift in gameplay throughout the course of a single match (and amidst your standard objectives) is just insanely addictive.
We should also mention that you’ll never grow tired of hopping between your different classes. Because such a variety of useful equipment can be assigned (beyond just grenades and impossible-to-achieve kill streak rewards), each class can be outfitted to suit your team’s needs during the course of battle.
What about the actual gunplay, targeting and general feel of the weapons? They certainly don’t look and sound as authentic as the armament found in other modern shooters, but they’re no less responsive. Actually, we’re thrilled to report that there seems to be a complete lack of auto-targeting, meaning your sniper best have genuine skills. There is no sweet spot for your cross hair, so precision counts.
While we never experienced a disconnect during a match, the pre-game matchmaking occasionally has trouble connecting to a match, and kicks you back out to the main screen. This is an offense “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” is guilty of too, and developers need to better serve the needs of gamers who want to jump into the action rather than wade through menus. Still, once you find a match, both the load times and respawn times are consistently and blisteringly fast.
Like “Medal of Honor” before it, “Homefront” has two distinct personalities, but in this instance the game is all the better for it. While the story mode is an engaging, brilliantly written and emotionally wrenching experience, its brevity may deter gamers not interested in dropping dozens of hours into the addictive multiplayer aspect. In their case, a rental is strongly encouraged. On the other hand, if you’re looking for multiplayer with the scope of “Battlefield” and the intensity of “Call of Duty,” “Homefront” unquestionably delivers and warrants the full purchase price.