There's a global financial crisis. And a global energy crisis. What if these international issues led to a worst-case scenario? How about the conquering and subjugation of America by North Korean armies? That's the premise of Homefront, the new first-person shooter from developer Kaos Studios and publisher THQ. The game takes place about 20 years in the future, in a war-torn America that has been devastated by the invasion. In the game, you'll play as a single soldier who joins a ragtag resistance army in the desperate fight to survive. And we've got the first details.
Kaos Studios' Erin Daly suggests that Homefront will stand out from the many other first-person shooters out there with at least three key features: first, its locations, which will primarily be devastated versions of familiar American locales. The game will begin in the state of Colorado, which is currently known for its beautiful Rocky Mountain vistas, but will, like the rest of America, be a smoldering ruin in Homefront and take on what Kaos hopes will be an "alien" look. Over the course of the game, you'll eventually head west and end up fighting along the Pacific Coast in a series of escalating battles. That'll be the second key feature that Daly suggests Homefront will offer: fast-paced action with no breaks and no cinematic cutscenes. All dialogue and story events will happen in real time, like in the Half-Life series. And finally, the third feature that Kaos hopes will set the game apart will be its "toys"--specifically, future-tech weapons and vehicles that, though only in experimental stages today, will be fully realized and usable in the game.
The demonstration that we watched took place in an area that Daly suggests contains elements from the beginning of the game, but may not be the actual first level. Our character awoke to see a pair of resistance soldiers standing over him, shocked that we had survived and mentioning something about our character being on "the list." We arose and followed the leader as he led us through the shantytown, which was built around an abandoned Colorado suburb. Rickety windmills had been cobbled together to generate electricity, sapling trees were growing out of old paint buckets, and a mother was carrying her crying baby into a house. The resistance leader mentioned that this particular location had been a good one; crops had grown well this season, but the group had to remain on the move or risk getting attacked. We followed the leader through the suburb, entering what appeared to be the resistance colony's military headquarters, which amounted to a weapons cache in a living room. The resistance leader passed us a new weapon, the ACR (adaptive combat rifle), a smarter, faster version of the standard-issue M4 Carbine assault rifle used by the Armed Forces today.
Just moments after we picked up and equipped the rifle, the town came under attack by enemy soldiers that had apparently discovered the location. The enemy troops came in hard and fast, ferried in by Humvee-like transports and immediately staking out cover behind their vehicles and even perching on rooftops. The resistance leader directed us to lend cover to the handful of battle-ready soldiers to get across the street to the town's main weapon dump, which also contained the controller for Goliath--a heavy-duty, experimental unmanned armored vehicle that the resistance leader referred to as "the only exit strategy." We took a breath and then leaped out of the building with the rest of the soldiers, blasting at enemy troops that our squadmates helpfully called out for us. An enemy soldier with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher was perched on the roof of a building across the street; we took him down and grabbed his fallen weapon, as directed by the shouted orders of the resistance leader and a brief onscreen mission prompt. As soon as we scooped up the weapon, we trained it on an enemy transport that was headed straight for us, blasted it, and narrowly dodged the flaming wreck as its momentum carried it past us until it exploded in a spectacular blaze. As Daly later explained, this was one of many dramatic set-piece moments planned for the game, but these events won't be scripted to happen exactly the same way each time.
We finally tumbled into the house across the street, hastily grabbing a few ammo cartridges and the controller for the Goliath. The heavily armored vehicle came crashing through the wall, but with our controller, we were able to paint enemy vehicles as Goliath's next target through a hole in the wall, and with targets acquired, the unmanned vehicle crashed right back through that opposite wall to go after our foes. With Goliath providing cover, we were in a much more advantageous position to move back into battle and attack the invaders head-on. We bobbed and weaved through cover, stopping and popping at enemy soldiers as they continued to arrive in waves. Just when it seemed like we might have been turning the tide of battle, an enemy bomber in the sky launched an air-to-ground missile that blasted Goliath sky-high, bringing our demonstration to an explosive end.
Although cover will be a very important part of Homefront, there won't be any kind of cumbersome "snap-to" system that forces you to acquire cover. Instead, in keeping with the game's focus on nonstop action, you'll simply need to run up behind, or duck behind, anything that can keep you safe. As it turns out, the game will actually have several suburban battles like the one we witnessed. The manicured hedges and parked SUVs of your local suburb might not seem like the first place you'd think of for ferocious close-quarters gun battles, but surprisingly, it seems to work quite well. Then again, not all of the battles will take place in the 'burbs, and not all of them will be fought alone. During the course of the game, you'll join up with a total of four computer-controlled companions as a makeshift fireteam that will call targets for you and provide covering fire to help you get from point A to point B. And Homefront will also have a "very big" multiplayer component, though at present, Kaos is keeping quiet about the details. Keep an eye on GameSpot for further updates on this explosive new game.