Homefront – Review (PS3)

Homefront was one of the titles on my Most Wanted list of late last year and with a heap of marketing around the release date I was really looking forward to the game.

For a start it had a great premise for the single player: that North and South Korea had united and invaded the USA, taking over the majority of the country. You would play as a member of the resistance, with the game set in a burnt out and occupied US.

The well documented opening scene packs a real punch and sets up proceedings brilliantly but from there on out every part of Homefront feels like a mis-step.

What could have been an involving and emotional title quickly descends into a heavy handed war drama that would be better suited to a late night TV movie. It’s a real shame because the story was the aspect I was most looking forward to in Homefront.

The game is very much in the vein of Call Of Duty, so you’ll be right at home if you’ve played that series. My main gripe gameplay wise was that half the time you had an onscreen prompt of who/what to follow but at other times it went to the opposite end of the spectrum and I was left wondering what I was actually supposed to be doing, until I lucked out by finding the right path.

The campaign is pretty short, between 3 and 4 hours – which puts it in the Kane and Lynch 2 bracket as one of the shortest campaigns around. Being completely honest it’s about the right length, as it may have dragged if it had gone on longer.

Homefront’s campaign is not terrible in my opinion, just disappointing. It looks like the game has sold well enough to earn it a sequel so hopefully they can build on this and improve it for the next game.

What turns out to be the games saving grace is the multiplayer. Pitched between Call Of Duty and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, it feels familiar but has enough tricks up it’s sleeve to bring you back to it.

For a start the Battle Points system feels fresh – essentially your actions during rounds earns you Battle Points which can then be used in-game instantly to give you equipment (depending on your class). So after killing a few opponents pressing up on the d-pad may give you a remote controlled drone, or pressing down may give you a rocket launcher etc.

You can also use your Battle Points to spawn in a vehicle rather than on foot when you die. All of this is a nice touch that brings another dimension to multiplayer.

The maps are well designed and while I found the weapons, in single player as well as multiplayer, to lack the weight and ‘feel’ of other titles they at least each feel different to one another.

I didn’t expect to enjoy the multiplayer as much as I did – mainly because while I enjoy COD online it’s not one of my FPS’s of choice. However I’ve already been drawn back to Homefront quite a few times so I suspect I’ll dip back in and put some more hours in!

I would say rent Homefront if you’re interested in the story, it’s worth playing through but I find it hard to recommend it due to it’s length, disappointing story and gameplay issues. Having said that if multiplayer is your bag then you’ll find plenty to get stuck into with Homefront and it feels different enough to other shooters to warrant some serious play.

Rating: 6/10

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The Expendables – Review (Film)

I remember hearing more and more casting news on The Expendables – with an ever expanding list of action stars added to the list we were expecting something special.

So did Sly Stallone and co. deliver on the promise of The Expendables?

Pretty much I’d say.

The Expendables are a bunch of highly trained mercenaries who take care of people’s problems, for a price.

The film tells the story of a mission gone wrong as The Expendables head to South America to overthrow a dictator.

The plot is as outlandish as you’d expect and with a cast list featuring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis you know what’s in store. Explosions, gunfire and shouting.

But it’s not just about that. Some of the banter between characters is excellent (usually featuring the great Jet Li) and the feeling of togetherness the group has is portrayed well.

It’s not without its share of mis-steps though. The ’emotional’ scene with Rourke and Stallone was ridiculous and could’ve been handled with a lot more subtlety. As much good banter as there was between characters it didn’t stop other parts feeling stiff or just too cheesy.

Overall then The Expendables is well worth a watch if you like action films. There is enough going on and plenty of explosions to keep you entertained, unfortunately it’s when Stallone tries to dig a little deeper that things fall a bit flat.

Rating 8/10

‘By The Light Of The Moon’ by Dean Koontz – Review (Book)

‘By The Light Of The Moon’ tells the story of Dylan O’Conner, his autistic brother Shepherd (Shep), and a comedian named Jillian Jackson.

Dylan and Jillian are targeted by a doctor who takes them, seperately, hostage and injects them with an undisclosed liquid while they are staying at a motel.

While the two characters are unaware of each other they bump into one another shortly after escaping their bonds and are faced outside by a number of unmarked SUV’s. They manage to get away with Shep in tow and so begins a wonderful game of cat and mouse.

This book has plenty of great twists and is really well written. You got a great feel for the characters and while there is a supernatural element to proceedings, everything is well grounded.

I read recently that ‘By The Light Of The Moon’ is the most requested book by Koontz’s fans to receive a sequel. I have to say it’s not a surprise – whether it’s because the book is genuinely great or perhaps because of the unexpected turns it takes – this is probably the best Dean Koontz novel I’ve read.

It’s not perfect but highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10

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Dead Space 2 – Review (PS3)

As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the first Dead Space, despite not being a fan of jumpy horror stuff, I was really looking forward to the follow up.

Continuing the story of Isaac Clarke it picks up three years after the first game was set, with Clarke now finding himself as a citizen on the Sprawl – a huge space station development on one of Saturn’s moons.

Sadly for Clarke he has no knowledge of the last three years and discovers a situation has arisen that only someone with his expertise can deal with.

The game itself plays similarly to the original but Visceral have upped the pace slightly, which make sense because not all of the Sprawl is as narrow as the Ishimura was.

Dead Space 2 starts with one of the most impressive openings I’ve seen in a while – I remember feeling the same way about the first game.

As you get to grips with everything that is going on around you there will be twists (some I saw coming and a few I didn’t) and plenty of scares.

Visceral continue their great job of creeping you out by NOT throwing stuff at you – I would’ve liked to have seen slightly more of the insanity that featured in NPC’s during the original game but on the whole the Sprawl is definitely somewhere you wouldn’t want to find yourself.

The combat remains the same, with a few new weapons thrown in. Essentially the aim is to dismember as opposed to going for headshots on enemies.

Playing through the first half to two thirds of this game I was certain Visceral had topped the original, such was the craftsmanship on display. A strong story, coupled with superb graphics and atmosphere had me immersed completely.

Unfortunately it seems the developers threw everything into that part of the game as Dead Space 2 loses steam in a big way – resorting to cheap design in the shape of large open areas where you face off against a much bigger number of enemies. While this is called for on one or two occasions due to the plot, it really does become tiresome and frustrating at other times.

Thankfully it picks up again in the final few chapters and finishes with a flourish.

One of the questions when they announced Dead Space 2 would have multiplayer was ‘does it need it?’

The answer is no.

We’ve seen predominantly single player games include multiplayer in impressive and interesting ways (Uncharted 2 and Assassins Creed: Brotherhood to name two) but Dead Space 2 tries to moves the single player to multiplayer – giving one team the human experience and the other team the necromorph experience. It doesn’t really recreate the feel of the single player.

Let me just clarify – it’s not that this is a bad multiplayer, it just feels unnecessary and I suspect the free 48 hour trial will be more than enough for most people.

As a package Dead Space 2 is a slightly lopsided beast – on the one hand you have a bloated but generally excellent single player and on the other an average multiplayer experience.

Despite the fact the single player loses its way for a spell, with a better implementation of online this could’ve been a 10/10 game.

Rating 9/10

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