On the surface, the premise of Kaos Studios’ new shooter seems a little insensitive. Taking the death of Kim Jong-Il, the aggressively anti-Western leader of North Korea as its starting point, it quickly spirals into whoop-whoop alarmist land. He’s replaced – as he probably will be in real life – by his youngest and favourite son, Kim Jong-un. We know he’s his favourite son, because none of the other kids have had their birthday turned into a national holiday. That must have caused some friction at the dinner table.
From these realistic roots grow outrageous branches. The US realises it’s been spending too much trying to police the planet, and adopts a more insular role to lick its financial wounds. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un sets about the seemingly effortless job of unifying Korea, annexing Japan, and then the rest of Asia.
It all builds up to 2025, when a promise to return American hostages is used as a cover for a full-scale invasion on the US west coast. With their troops in disarray from a nationwide EMP blast, San Francisco becomes the first American franchise of the Korean Federation.
That’s how we get to the seemingly idyllic camp of the second mission. Our hero has been plucked from action by a resistance group. They live in a selfcontained village, sheltered from the searchlights of the helicopters by camo netting. Living in constant fear of discovery and lethal reprisals, they need training for the upcoming fight. That’s why you’re there. But things rapidly go boobs-upward. The camp is uncovered, the people you’ve spent a few minutes walking around and overhearing are killed, and you’re forced into an intense and unready firefight with Korean troops.
To give Homefront its due, the action is intense. In less than five minutes, you’re thrown from a collapsing watchtower, forced to traverse a corridor of fire as fighters of both sides burn around you. You even suffer a friendly mortar attack, while trying to take out an EMP rocketeer so you can issue firing orders to a Goliath tank. While the premise might not stand up to much scrutiny, the action set-pieces carry you along with convincing bombast.
After the disappointing singleplayer of Frontlines, Kaos are determined to fill their new baby with traditional linear levels and a compelling plot. To that end, John Milius is writing the script. He’s most respected for his work on Apocalypse Now, but he also wrote the right-wing pro-gun paranoid romp, Red Dawn. It’s this last film, if I’m being completely honest, that this game bears most resemblance to. Swap Russia for Korea, and lose the teen heroics for grown-ups and consequences, and you’ve got Homefront.