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I recently finished two very different shooters (for the XBox 360) and thought I'd share a quick review on both. It's kinda sad that I seem to only finish shooters lately. I grew up on RPGs but lately I find it real difficult to actually finish them. I've had the latest Final Fantasy for a while now and haven't put more than an hour in it. I've had Fable 3 for a while as well, and while I've played it a bit I just don't feel very motivated to finish it. (And let me say again - it pisses me off that the unnecessary adult content on Fable 3 prevents me from playing it with the kids. It's stupid, out of place, and adds nothing worthwhile to the game.) Anyway - the games in question are Homefront and Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
Homefront - the game that apparently everyone hates. All I heard was about how badly this game was reviewed. Apparently it even sent the company's stock prices into a tailspin. I'm not sure about other reviewers, but I freaking loved it. The basic premise is simple. In the future, a unified Korea has grown extremely powerful and attempts to take over the United States. That sounds pretty far fetched, but the intro video to the game makes you a believer.
When the video started off with Hillary Clinton, it got my attention. Most games refrain from mentioning real people. Heck, most games refrain from even naming real countries. Did they ever tell you where you were fighting in COD:Modern Warfare 2? I mean outside of Russia. The game seemed to take pains to not say where you were in the middle east. Homefront has no problems being very specific about names and places. That's a theme that continues as you play. You pick up random tidbits of history via newspapers left behind. It may be a small thing - but when I read a report about food shortages at Walmart - it just made it seem more realistic to me. Sure it's free advertising for Walmart, but still. In another scene you fight in a typical American commercial area and all the stores were real. Again - I know this is just advertising, but it made it all the more real to me.
I think that's what surprised me most about the game. So many small little things that just felt right but seemed to be missing from other games. Consider this. One of your buddies in the game is an Asian-American. At multiple times in the game he will encounter racism from other characters. It's direct and blunt, and frankly expected, I mean you're in a country attacked by Koreans, but the fact that the game actually included it made me think the creators were treating me like an adult gamer as opposed to a 12 year old boy.
The game is also very blunt about the war itself. There are scenes in the game that are absolutely brutal. If you've read my video game reviews before, you know I don't like it when violence is used in an unnecessary/exploitative way. I despised the fact that Prey included violence against children. It was out of place and served nothing to further the story in the game. While Homefront doesn't have children mowed down in front of you, you certainly see the impact of the fight upon families in a very direct, incredibly realistic way. (Ok, to be honest, I'm a computer nerd who hasn't fired a gun in the past ten years so it isn't fair for me to speak about "real" war. Just giving my opinion obviously.)
There is one fight early in the game where a mother and her baby take shelter behind you and your companions. So imagine - you've got a large group of enemies attacking the home your hiding out in, gun fire all around you, and a woman and baby screaming behind you. I don't think I can adequately describe how freaking insane that is. I wanted to yell at the mother myself to get her to shut her baby up. If the point of a good game is to get you into the experience, Homefront does an incredible job at it pretty much all throughout the game.
So - why is it getting bad reviews? Most likely the graphics. I'm including screen shots below, but the graphics are definitely the weakest point in this game. They feel approximately 2-3 years old. When compared to Bad Company 2 they look even worse. Does the poor graphics make the game completely ugly? Heck no. There's plenty of scenes/areas that look well done. It just feels old. While I certainly noticed the graphics (right away), it didn't take away my fun of playing the game at all.
I can't talk much to multiplayer. I tried it about an hour and it seemed ok. One cool thing they have is in game upgrades. While you play a game you earn points. Points can be spent on little upgrades like armor and weapons. The fact that you can do this while you play adds a real interesting factor to game play. As I said, I just tried for about an hour, but I'd like to try more.
One last note - the difficulty in Homefront is pretty darn hard. It never got to the point of wanting to make me stop playing, but it did get frustrating at times. There's times when you just turn a corner and get killed in a second. That's pretty realistic I guess and I did get used to going a bit slower as I played. I will say that after finishing Homefront, I found Bad Company 2 almost a bit too easy at points.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
I really had no expectations for Bad Company 2. I never played the first part and had not tried a Battlefield game since I had a PC back 5 years or so ago. I had hoped for a Modern Warfare clone. Considering that I consider Modern Warfare to be one of the best games ever made, a clone would be fine by me. I was pretty surprised though. The tone of the game is very different from Modern Warfare, primarily in terms of the humor in the game. Don't get me wrong - you've got serious stuff going on - lots of drama, but the game has a lot more joking around than MW. Primarily this is via the cast of characters in your group. Each of the three guys with you have a distinct personality and all bring something to the game. It just made the game more personable I think then the Modern Warfare series. Speaking of MW, Bad Company 2 has a few zingers towards that game which are incredibly funny if you're paying attention. The story is pretty cool too. Not as dramatic as Homefront, but certainly good enough. This may sound crazy - but towards the beginning I was reminded a bit of "Lost". I won't say why as it would be a mild spoiler, but maybe those of you who played will agree with me. (Or just call me crazy - go for it. ;)
As I said when talking about Homefront, the graphics are really well done. I'd say even better than MW, but as I don't have both right in front of me now it may just be the BC2 is more fresh in my mind.
I can't speak to multiplayer. I tried - multiple times - but the game simply kicked me out to the title screen. I hate it when a game does that without some kind of message. Certainly BC2 isn't along in "tricky" multiplayer. I can't tell you how many problems my friends and I have when playing Black Ops, but at least freaking say something if a game connection fails. To me, it's like throwing an error in ColdFusion and not actually providing exception details. Useless. I'm going to give multiplayer a try again, but so far, that's a big fail for me.
So - that's it. Do I recommend both games? Heck yes. Which do I recommend more? To be honest, Homefront. As I said, it seems like everyone else hates the game but I found it to be one of the most unique, and daring, games I've seen in a while. I think it deserves a lot of respect for some of the choices it made. As always though - I know my readers have lots of opinions, so let's hear em!