A mostly unrelated rant about a video game

I write tabletop rpgs. I play tabletop rpgs. Given the proper parts, I would make love to rpgs. (Only a few, though. I’m no slut.) But I have always been an avid video gamer, especially FPS’s. (That’s First Person Shooter to the non-gamerazzi.) I have probably spent more time playing Half-Life 2 than any Savage Worlds game. Add in the fact that I’m a child of the 80s, and I was drooling over the release of Homefront.

In Homefront, Korea invades the USA. Far-fetched? Maybe, but that’s not the point. I get to be a freedom fighter for the USA! Wolverines! I imagined gunfights in Wal-Mart, hiding in abandoned malls, and taking down the Koreans who dared sully the good soil of America. Huzzah for jingoism!

But … but … heartbreak! The game sucks! Major suckage. Huge, mondo, giant, super-sized, big honkin’ pile of suckage. Even the suckage sucks. And I have to tell someone why. I have a big mouth and I must scream.

Why does Homefront suck? Let me count the ways.

  • You can shoot bad guys and … that’s about it. You can’t even open a damn door! You have to wait for an NPC with lousy pathfinding to meander over and open the damn thing for you! I feel like a 19th Century woman for Pete’s sake!
  • You are slower than Arctic molasses. A helpful little icon pops up when a grenade lands near you. Dunno why, because by the time you stand like an arthritic grandpa and take off, the grenade ‘spodes. Even arm movements are slow. Seriously, I counted. I’m in a gun battle and I have to look through some high-tech binocular thingie and drop the hammer on the baddies. It took me 4 seconds to bring the binoculars to my face. 4 seconds is long? Pretend to do that. Count slowly to 4 as you bring your hand to your face. Now you see it’s long.
  • Oh, and those binocular thingies? Although you sometimes have to keep them glued to your face and use it several times in a row, you can’t. Every time you use one to make a drone fire something that goes boom, you take the freakin’ things down–which takes another 4 seconds. Then you have to hit the key to bring them back up. I felt like I was on a military-grade pogo stick.
  • Speaking of which, your speed doesn’t match the NPCs. If you walk, you walk slower than them, but if you run, you run faster than them. Given how slow the running is, my toddler can outrun the lot of them. This is a tiny thing but it gets mighty annoying when the game’s objectives, which you MUST follow to the letter, requires you to follow somebody. I HEARD YOU! GET TO THE ROOF! I’M ALREADY THERE BECAUSE YOU SAID THAT LIKE 5 MINUTES AGO! WILL YOU PLEASE ARRIVE AT THE LOCATION YOU TOLD ME TO MEET YOU AT SO YOU CAN OPEN THE DAMN DOOR!?!
  • There’s no plot. (And a series of linked events is NOT a plot!) That wouldn’t be so bad if the game didn’t have upteen billion in-game cutscenes where you can’t do anything, not even hold a gun (which mysteriously disappears to let you know it’s time to sit back and relax because there’s expositioning to be done), and you can’t walk away either, though zombies walk faster, and you can’t stop the cutscenes so it sucks to be you if a long cutscene happens just after an autosave because you get to listen to that crap over and over and over again, and it is crap because most of the time it’s two NPCs bickering like an old married couple who talk about killing Koreans and there’s this bit in the beginning about my character being a valuable pilot that needs to be busted from an internment camp but then I keep being sent on hunt-and-kill missions …. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is the writers responsible for this thought bad stuff happening = plot. For the first time in my life, and hopefully for the last, I was bored by a mass grave. Not angered, not horrified, but b-o-r-e-d. Why was it even in the game? Dehumanize the enemy? THEY INVADED US! Is anyone buying this game really thinking the Koreans might be good guys afterall and we needed a nice mass grave scene to make sure the audience knows the bad guys really are bad? ARGH!
  • No, I’m not done with the plot yet. I get it–they wanted a dark, harrowing game experience. Makes sense because that’s what living through an occupation and resistance would be like. But throwing piles of bodies around is gross, not dark, especially when it’s not tied to anything related to the protagonist. Gore does not make a horror movie scary nor a plot “dark”.
  • Save points? Really? Is this 1996? Am I sitting in a crappy apartment drinking Wild Irish Rose and playing Playstation? (Notice no number after that.) For Pete’s sake, the damn XBox 360 has a freakin’ hard drive in it, not a memory card! There’s no reason to use save points except to exert more control over the player by forcing them to re-do parts of the game they didn’t do right the first time.
  • Pathfinding sucks, especially for the AI. I watched my “ally” literally wander in circles around a checkout lane in a store. Plus they keep running into me and literally pushing me out of the way. (Slowly, of course.) But the most egregious case? I was stopped by a bush. Here I am, hardened vet of the resistance and having killed more people in a single day than I can count, and a freakin’ piece or landscaping stops me cold? I blew up not one but two helicopter gunships but a shrubbery blocks my path? And yes, while I was trying to figure out how to get past a plant, I got shot in the face.
  • Rails, rails, rails. The game is basically on rails. Your choices as a player are severely limited, if there’s any at all. Here’s how I know this. I faced off against some evil Koreans (as opposed to the cool Koreans, of which I know a few) who were coming out of an abandoned house. Rather than go Action Hero and charge the house, I sat back behind cover and shot the SOB’s as they came outside. And five minutes later … they were still coming out of the house! It was like a clown car but the clowns were Korean communists and the car was a split-level house with a front porch swing! But when I advanced … suddenly the evil commies ran out of soldiers. In other words, if you want to survive the game, you have to either have infinite ammo (not in this game) or you have to GO WHERE THE DESIGNERS WANT YOU TO GO. Why do I even use the WASD keys? Strap my ass to a skateboard and push me around the game environment because that’s the level of freedom I have here.
  • Commands work differently in different environments. OK, that sounds fine but lemme explain. When faced with a knee-high porch fence, you press SPACE to jump it. When faced with a knee-high sandbag pillbox, you press E to jump it. Huh? I’m in the middle of a firefight, bullets whizzing past my ear, and instead of vaulting some sandbags like a badass guerrilla fighter, I’m jumping up and down as if to say, “Shoot here! Over here!” because I thought SPACE, the button for jumping over things, would be used when I wanted to jump over sandbags, what with them being things and all that. Nope. Not in this game.

OK, I think I’m done now. Thanks, I feel better.