Much-hyped Homefront game disappoints

Genuinely original settings are rare in video games. But THQ's Homefront -- a seemimgly generic, near-future first-person shooter -- boasts a storyline that's had many jaded gamers pricking up their ears. Set in 2027, it tells the story of an invading North Korean army sweeping its way across a greatly weakened United States, and casts the player as a soldier in the home-grown resistance movement. Pretty compelling stuff.

So it's something of a letdown that Homefront's story -- penned by celebrated screenwriter John Milius (Apocalypse Now, Conan the Barbarian, and the superficially similar Red Dawn) -- looks to be one of the most disappointing aspects of the game.

Calling the setting "a great germ of an idea," Joystiq's Justin McElroy was obviously bummed by Homefront's execution, taking swipes at its hamfisted product placement, its dated gameplay, and its lack of personality.

"The characters couldn't be more stereotypical and their interactions couldn't be more cookie cutter," he writes. "If they're average Joes protecting their homeland...they obviously haven't been informed about it."

Other critics found a little more to like. Praising Homefront's realistic presentation, IGN's Colin Moriarty called the setting "unique and interesting...something totally different." But he still can't seem to get enthusiastic about the gameplay, calling it " doesn't buck any trends...not a paradigm shifting product...classic shooter fare." Dammed with faint praise? Considering the story's seven chapters can "easily be completed in five hours," the game's clearly poor value for solo-focused players.

So what's the online play like? Fortunately, pretty good, according to multiple critics. IGN's Moriarty enjoyed its variety-packed customization options and its novel focus on team point-scoring rather than individual success, and found it addictive enough to keep him coming back despite some technical issues. 1UP's Jobert Atienza concurred, saying Homefront's multiplayer is "where the game's real value lies, and it's certainly more than competent."

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