Developer Kaos Studios certainly has a pedigree when it comes to multiplayer in shooters, thanks to its previous work on the popular Battlefield 1942 mod Desert Combat and the large-scale conflicts of its previous game, Frontlines: Fuel of War. As you'd expect, competitive multiplayer will be another strong focus for its upcoming game, Homefront, and we managed to get some hands-on time with an early build of this shooter to see exactly how combat preparations are proceeding.
In Homefront, players will be confronted with a ravaged United States of America, reeling from an invasion by new military and economic global superpower, North Korea (for more on the title's future history and how the Hermit State could possibly take on the might of the US, read our earlier previews). The game's single-player component--which takes place in 2027--will see you fighting alongside a small band of resistance fighters, but Homefront's multiplayer will take place before the events of the single-player campaign. In multiplayer, you'll fight as either American or North Korean soldiers, who are still locked in heated battles to take control of the US.
Kaos Studios says Homefront will feature all of the hallmarks of the company's previous multiplayer efforts; that is, a large player count, large maps, plenty of vehicles, and amped-up combat. And, all these were on show during our recent hands-on session. The game will support 32 players online, and as has become standard with most shooters, you'll be able to select from a few preset class loadouts before you enter the fray. The mode we played was called Ground Control and required teams to capture a series of points on the map and hold them for as long as possible to rack up points. There was good variety in the two maps we played--Cul-de-sac was a smaller area filled with ramshackle houses that was conducive to short-range fire fights, while Farm was a much larger map that was ideal for vehicular hijinks.
While the above may sound fairly typical for a modern shooter, Kaos also unveiled something it hopes will give all of Homefront's multiplayer matches a sense of ever-escalating intensity--the battle points system. Every kill, assist, captured point, and other player actions within a match will earn battle points, which can then be used to buy extra abilities, weapons, or even death-dealing vehicles. Some of the extras on offer during our multiplayer session included rocket launchers, aerial and ground-attack drones (making a return from Kaos' previous game, Frontlines), Humvees, tanks, Apache helicopters, an Osprey, and more. Each player will have a set list of extras to choose from that can be deployed by simply pressing that perk's appropriate position on the D pad.
Different abilities will cost different battle points to deploy. Small perks, such as a rocket launcher or remote-controlled drone, will cost less than a few hundred points, whereas serious firepower, such as tanks or the Apache, will set you back significantly more. Kaos says the battle points system should make most multiplayer bouts in Homefront more frenetic and action packed, with players starting off slowly but eventually earning enough points to unleash some serious firepower the longer a match proceeds. It should also make the acquisition of a new vehicle (should you want one) less of a hassle. Instead of hoofing it on foot to a vehicle's spawn point, all you'll need to do is pick that vehicle bonus, and it will appear at your feet (should you have enough battle points, that is).
For players, the battle points system aims to add in a new level of strategy amidst all the frenetic shooting. Do you, for example, spend points as soon as you earn them, getting lots of small upgrades along the way? Or do you save up your hard-won earnings to shell out for that tough-to-beat tank or that death-from-above chopper? During our play session, we tried both approaches. While playing on the smaller Cul-de-sac map, we focused on drones, scurrying around to earn enough battle points before picking a quiet spot to deploy our little harbingers of doom. The drones--both the missile-packing aerial type and its machine-gun-toting ground version--proved extremely effective against enemies and were also quite resilient under fire. On the larger map, we switched to vehicles, and while it was initially tougher to earn the battle points required, it proved well worth it. Bringing a tank onto the field was a lot of fun and netted us plenty of kills, thanks to its beefy firepower.
Our time with this particular multiplayer mode in Homefront was extremely engaging, with the battle points system adding an extra layer of depth and strategy to the game's pretty solid combat basics. Homefront's looking good at this stage, too, with the ruined suburbia on show in the Cul-de-sac map looking especially detailed. While the unveiling of the battle points system was the key message to come from this session, Kaos is promising more announcements down the track. These include new modes, details on dedicated servers for both console and PC gamers, and more information on how the experience and level system will work within the game. We'll have those details as soon as they're made public, so keep it locked to GameSpot for more on Homefront.