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Homefront Review

Homefront struggles to live up to its aspirations as the Red Dawn game in our review but finds some redemption in fun multiplayer action.


Homefront wants to be thought of as the Red Dawn game. Seventeen years later and without Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Gray, and, yes, Charlie Sheen, I'm not 100 percent convinced that "from the writer of Red Dawn" works as strongly as its promoters hope. That might be to Homefront's advantage, though, because the game barely manages a hollow caricature of the movie.

Homefront follows in Red Dawn's footsteps as if they led the way to freedom. A unified Korea replaces the Cuban/Russian coalition of the movie, but other than the change in uniforms, the divide-America invasion strategy looks the same. And like the movie, the story picks up with a band of rebels in a small Colorado town. We do get to be adults this time, with the player taking the role of a pilot who the resistance breaks out of captivity for a special mission.

In the journey that ensues, Homefront goes out of its way to depict a soul-crushing vision of the horror of occupied America. If Red Dawn served as a measure of Cold War era fears, the fact that the brutality and ruthless mass-murder in Homefront doesn't immediately come off as implausible makes a saddening commentary on the modern state of the world.

It's all over soon enough, though. I'm not one to watch the clock, but many will breeze through Homefront in one sitting. Besides feeling short, that brevity undermines its ability to give the characters or their story much depth. Homefront seemed content to take the brute force approach anyway, clobbering me over the head with its imagery of the violence and atrocities being visited on America. Then, just as it seems to find its stride, the game ends. I felt like I'd finished a prologue.

Be that as it may, the bigger issue with Homefront comes from the fundamental difference between a movie and a game. Regardless of how well it aged, I can sit back and watch Red Dawn; I have to play Homefront to see how it unfolds. Mediocre execution as a game ensured that whatever campy fun there might have been to be had never got much chance to develop.

From the moment I grabbed a gun, I knew something was amiss. Homefront feels less like seeing things through the eyes of the game's character and more like watching a remote video feed, guiding a camera through the world. The clump-clump of each step makes matters worse. It's hard to imagine myself walking around when it sounds like I'm dragging a broken wheelbarrow along.

It didn't get much better when the bullets started flying. Despite the detail in the guns' appearance, none of them delivers a satisfying punch; nor is there much to differentiate them beyond a scope or their rate of fire. Homefront also lacks any sense of ballistics. Each pull of the trigger results in the clinical modeling of the impact of a bullet wherever the crosshair happened to be at that moment.

My well-meaning fellow freedom fighters who came along on every mission also wound up getting in the game's way. Several times when I needed to follow our leader, I wound up waiting around for him to arrive and then carefully moving around to find just the right spot that would get him to move forward. Closed doors were also fun. We'd stack up and if I happened to stand in anyone's way they plowed through me, sliding me out place so they could hit their mark. At least they didn't need babysitting. No one died, unless their script called for it.

While I expected better, I went into Homefront thinking of the single-player as a tune-up for multiplayer. The game's developer, KAOS Studios, formed out of the team that made the legendary Modern Combat mod for Battlefield 1942, and their first game, the multiplayer-only Frontlines, showed plenty of promise.

Multiplayer pits American military forces against the invading Koreans in team-based combat. And like many modern online shooters, it features an experience system for advancing in ranks and unlocking new gear. Homefront tackles how all the toys get used in the fight a little differently, though. Vehicles and special items cost 'battle points', a currency earned in each match by killing enemies and accomplishing goals. Everyone starts with a base amount of points but at the end of the match any unused points are lost.

This set up a two-tier strategic decision making process for me. In game, I faced an ongoing dilemma of whether to spend my battle points as soon as I had enough to use an item or to bank them and save towards something more expensive like a vehicle. Once I got a feel for the way I wanted to play, then I needed to start tailoring my loadouts to fit how I planned to spend my points.

This system works because KAOS got the cost-to-impact ratio right for the most part. For instance, an armored vest costs very little--it can be equipped right away most every time--but using it every spawn will make it hard to build up points for a larger purchase. On the other hand, saving up to spawn in a tank or helicopter can take a while and puts the pressure on to earn the points lest the match end without ever using anything.

Coordination among teammates also becomes tremendously important as a result. For a team to win it needs some players burning the cheap upgrades as soon as they can to keep a constant watch on the enemy with spotters while others save up to bring heavy weapons and vehicles into the fight. When it works, it creates a satisfying sense of being part of an orchestrated attack. When it doesn't, or worse yet does, but only for the enemy, it leads to frustrating defeats.

With so much going on multiplayer matches escalate pretty quickly. By the middle of a game it's common to have a couple of light vehicles, maybe a helicopter, roving the battle, supported by remote drones spotting targets from the air, and all manner of ordinance raining down from larger predator drones. All of which sounds like a lot of fun, but, like single-player, problems hold it back.

Lack of bullet penetration and destructibility in the environment significantly detracts from the tactical value of having so many weapon options. Ducking behind a wooden fence offers as much protection as a concrete wall whether against a 9mm or a .50 cal. And teams will hole-up in houses because even direct hellfire missile strikes won't do any damage. I've also faced crippling lag in most every game I played. THQ has promised additional server capacity but be aware that getting a good game could be hit or miss.

I don't see myself staying with multiplayer that long, though. For all the thought that went into its systems, it surprised me to only find team deathmatch and hold the control point modes to play. An interesting AI 'Battle Commander' gives them a clever twist by offering a bounty for taking out priority targets. But once that novelty wears off, the lack of modes make an extended run unlikely.

Still, that's longer than I would recommend spending with the single-player. It came off as a disposable copy of Red Dawn unable to tap into any of the film's charm and less satisfying than similar games judged solely on its merits as a shooter. More than any of its individual shortcomings, though, or maybe as a result of them, Homefront left me wondering where the game I'd been promised went.

[This Homefront review is based on a retail version of the game provided by the publisher, THQ, played on an Xbox 360]

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 21, 2011 12:00 PM

    Comment on Homefront Review, by Garnett Lee.

    • reply
      March 21, 2011 12:04 PM

      Follow Connor

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      March 21, 2011 12:09 PM

      Glad that I skipped this one.

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      March 21, 2011 12:14 PM

      The last sentence of the review sums up my experience with the game perfectly. It had all the makings of a great game with a story I really wanted to like as a fan of Red Dawn, but Kaos missed the mark by a long shot.

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        March 21, 2011 12:21 PM

        I agree. It wasn't a BAD game, just felt like it could have been MUCH more if they had done things a little differently.

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          March 21, 2011 12:23 PM

          I'll agree with this. I had fun with it, but it had the potential to be much more.

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          March 21, 2011 12:35 PM

          I agree. Tons of potential with the story/setting, but it wasn't quite good enough.

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          March 21, 2011 1:23 PM

          Agreed, so much more could have done with this premise, its said that it was accompanied by a poorly executed game. Like others have said it was alright, but it could have been great.

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          March 22, 2011 8:41 AM

          Yep, that's how I feel. I still had fun with it but it wasn't nearly as interesting as I was hoping from the pre-release stuff.

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      March 21, 2011 12:25 PM

      I know many here loved Modern Combat, but it was buggy, horribly unbalanced and ended up being less fun.
      KAOS has always had great ideas, the implementation of those ideas has always fallen short of the mark, IMO.

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      March 21, 2011 12:27 PM

      My favorite part: "This is our base of operations. We have these giant camo tarps that hide our base. Oh, there's a windmill on top of that house that gives us power."

      I was like.... So you hide the settlement with green tarps and then you put a windmill up!? AND THEN, 1 block later there is a god damn giant sentry.

      Derp derp... The Koreans must be stupid not knowing where your homebase is...

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      March 21, 2011 12:32 PM

      I'm disappointed in the single player. I thought the storyline of a Korean invasion was at least interesting (if implausible) and could generate a great single player campaign. I'm a bit confused about why they even bothered with all the promotion and Red Dawn comparison if the single player was so short as to make it inconsequential. Without a great single player story that was engaging, then the multiplayer could be any two teams fighting anywhere... Anyways, I'm a fan of single player generally (never have the time to get good enough to enjoy multi), and was very curious how this would turn out. too bad :(

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      March 21, 2011 12:50 PM

      Its quite a bad game i have to say far to buggy short and just bland to be worth buying at full price and by the time the price drops to a level its worth buying it would have no one left online.

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        March 21, 2011 1:03 PM

        I'll wait for it to hit the $5 mark.

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      March 21, 2011 12:57 PM

      It's a shame that your multiplayer review is based on the 360 version instead of the PC. I think they did a good job making it a PC game instead of a console port. At the least, I have my choice of servers to play on, so there is not a lag problem at all. There are a few issues to be tweaked, but for the most part I find the multiplayer to be enjoyable, and almost addicting. I do agree with the bullet penetration though, it would be nice to be able to shoot through plywood, but perhaps that can be addressed in a patch.

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        March 21, 2011 1:16 PM

        Any credit should go to Digital Extremes rather than Kaos - Digital Extremes did PC multiplayer and even beta tested it via Combat Testing.

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          March 22, 2011 1:07 AM

          DE did a great job. Kaos, not so much.

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      March 21, 2011 1:18 PM


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        March 21, 2011 3:36 PM

        Not for me, as I use inverted mouse y and in every driving part they ignore that setting. I had to play the helicopter and humvee parts with 'normal' mouse y, it was infuriating and very confusing.

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          March 21, 2011 5:05 PM

          There is a setting for each vehicle to turn on invert, I play the same way and was a little peeved when the vehicles were not inverted but looking back in the menu options all you have to do was make sure it was checked in the vehicle or heli menu

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        March 21, 2011 6:33 PM

        No, I noticed that you could literally drag the copter along the ground and it wouldn't blow up. Pretty dumb, in that regard. :(

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        March 22, 2011 3:24 AM

        It was neat covering them through the city. But the bridge part was pretty uninspired... sat there for 2-3 minutes just firing at the enemy spawn point.

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          March 22, 2011 8:43 AM

          Yeah, that was a pretty weak climax to that whole episode. Up to that point though I did enjoy being in the helo.

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      March 21, 2011 1:38 PM


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        March 21, 2011 5:09 PM

        I thought DE did a great job with the PC version and all the menu options, to bad it couldn't save this piece of shit game. I beat this game in 3.6 hours, how many development years for 3 and a half hours of generic gameplay? FUCK YOU THQ!

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      March 21, 2011 1:39 PM

      Could the story to Homefront have actually been better than it turned out? I'm not so convinced.

      Long story short, the premise is ludicrously unbelievable and yet the tone the game sets tells us we're supposed to take it deadly seriously. It wants to tap into the players nostalgic memories of Red Dawn, (a real camp fest if we're going to be honest here) but it also asks its audience to remember the bleak despair of Schindler's List. You can't have it both ways.

      That's why the campaign in the game Freedom Fighters worked much better. It didn't pretend to be something it wasn't or couldn't ever be. It was inspired by a big dopey movie and it played like a big dopey movie, which is another way of saying it was a hell of a lot of fun.

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        March 21, 2011 2:14 PM


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        March 22, 2011 1:08 AM

        ludicrously unbelievable

        To be completely honest, if you paid 10 minutes of attention to the story, it's way more believable than Modern Warfare 2. (Not saying much, I guess)

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      March 21, 2011 2:32 PM

      Homefront ending

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        March 21, 2011 4:17 PM

        Minute 4:06, the enemy vehicle roars! Ha! Okay it doesn't roar but it sounds like a roar.

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        March 21, 2011 4:32 PM

        That looks stupendously boring.

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        March 21, 2011 4:38 PM

        So weird how realistic it tries and all the explosions and the bridge is still intact, then again I am not a bridge builder so I have no idea if it could survive something like that

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        March 21, 2011 7:16 PM

        That's a tough bridge.

      • ArB legacy 10 years legacy 20 years
        March 22, 2011 3:22 AM

        Randy Marsh: "We turn their own guns against them!"

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        March 22, 2011 3:35 AM

        Looks like MW2 spec ops mission

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        March 22, 2011 5:15 AM

        Oh god. Turret gameplay.

        Let's see what roles you play here:
        1) ducking turret
        2) airborne turret
        3) vehicle-mounted turret

        Also, why is that last armoured vehicle screaming like some kind of animal? Ridiculous.

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      March 21, 2011 3:34 PM

      I haven't played multiplayer, but what I've seen from the single player makes me not even bother with it as I don't think it'd be a 100% different game. The engine is slow, moving is strange, everything screams outdated. Finished the single player and uninstalled.

      In other years, HF would be an average game. This year, with so many options, it's just way below the bar.

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        March 21, 2011 3:46 PM

        I don't know how long people will be playing, but the multiplayer was actually pretty good in the two matches I played.

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      March 21, 2011 4:23 PM

      A mistake in the review. Frontlines was not multiplayer only.

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        March 21, 2011 4:32 PM

        Is destruction really a big deal in games now? I feel like the only reviews where we are going to hear about destruction is Battlefield reviews and anything THQ puts out to find more disappointments. I doubt we will see many reviews complaining about the lack of destruction in the next COD or whatever.

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          March 21, 2011 4:55 PM

          Its a big deal for games that use vehicles now. For anyone that's experienced Bad Company 2 tank/heli combat, it's very jarring using a tank to shoot at a guy hiding behind a wooden fence in Homefront and not kill him. COD doesn't suffer from this comparison since there's no real need for destruction in its non vehicle, death match oriented gameplay, although it would certainly enhance the experience.

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            March 21, 2011 5:38 PM

            BC2 also has sheet metal and fences that can stop tank rounds. They weren't very consistent.
            Personally I'm not a huge fan of destructible maps, but it really depends on if the map was designed for destruction and if the map is balanced.

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      March 21, 2011 5:02 PM

      I'm right there with you Garnett when it comes to the single player. Your description of the mouse movement was instantly noticeable to me as well and that really bummed me out.

      The scripted quirks with the NPCs really annoyed me as well. I was expecting something closer to Half-Life 2, not exactly, but closer and instead got Call of Duty: Homefront, astoundingly, with a shorter campaign. 3 hours. That's atrocious.

      The multi-player is alright, but I'm not in love with the insanity of all the leveling, experience points, and just dying out of no where all the time. I'll play the multiplayer a little more then probably say goodbye to the game.

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      March 21, 2011 5:12 PM

      "Speaking of getting from point A to point B, one of the biggest annoyances in this game was the footsteps. Everywhere you travel, you'll hear the oafish "CLOP CLOP CLOP" noise of your character's footsteps, who is apparently wearing titanium horseshoes or overturned fishbowls. I was hoping I could buy some normal shoes from somebody in the game, or at least saw off my feet and replace them with pillows, but no such luck. It's even worse when you're walking on grass, because it sounds like you're stomping all over bags of potato chips and old newspapers. No sir, I didn't like it."

      From Lowtax's review of Deus Ex, almost 11 years ago:

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      March 21, 2011 7:00 PM

      i cant even get the blasted thing to launch. immediate CTD. ive tried everything, up to and including a virgin install of the OS, with no luck.

      oh well, another $50 pissed down the hole.

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      March 21, 2011 7:26 PM

      So is the 3hr campaign worth experiencing?

      Like for a meager steam sale price?

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        March 21, 2011 7:34 PM

        It's not worth experiencing for $50. Not even close. It seriously felt like Call of Duty to me.

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        March 22, 2011 12:59 AM

        You just want to play the campaign? Wait until it comes free with the big THQ release next year.

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      March 21, 2011 7:36 PM

      I finished it last night and I liked it. Not anything amazing but it was fun

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        March 22, 2011 8:35 AM

        I agree. It doesn't really bring anything groundbreaking new to the genre, but it has it's moments where it's really intense and fun.

        I loved the chopper escort mission. And I like their spin on the MP game mode to capture territory A, B, and C.

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      March 21, 2011 7:57 PM

      Did THQ nudge you guys to keep this garbage game in the news? :P This is a note to everyone out there...

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      March 22, 2011 3:44 AM

      Pretty harsh review, in my opinion. It's not a movie, so why compare it to one? I don't compare Hemmingway to Spielburg.

      That said, I think Homefront was a good effort, but obviously didn't have the mega-budget of a CoD game. The premise of the story was a cool one, and I really liked what they tried to do with it. I wish I could have spent a little more time getting to know the characters, but can you blame them for not including a lot of plot? How many dude-bro's want to watch a chatty cutscene, or lol-motion-control getting OJ from the fridge? I think Kaos knows their audience, and I think the market wants big high-budget set pieces and lots of action.

      But I don't think the single-player is completely forgetable. Honestly, I think most of the CoD games' levels are almost completely forgetable. The only memories anyone ever cites from those games are the AC130 level, and the Sniper level. I think Homefront has some memorable things in it too.

      Spoiler alert: What about the mass graves scene? That was seriously fucked up. And then having to dive into the grave to hide... and then putting the corpse on top of you? The dead-stares of the bodies? What other game do you see with that kind of ballsy story telling? Or the friendly fire incident? Or god, how about the openning sequence where that kid's parents get shot... jesus. Also, the helicopter mission was pretty memorable.

      As much as I would have liked to see some more character development, I understand why there wasn't much. If I were to fall into the same trap as Garnett, and compare it to a movie... it would be to Armageddon... Not Red Dawn. Nobody watched Armageddon to see Bruce Willis or Ben Affleck tug on their heart strings... who even remember's their character's names?? It was about the events. It was about what was going on in the (game) "world" . It was about the action, and the big budget set pieces... just like Homefront.

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        March 22, 2011 8:22 AM

        I concur, even with its short length Homefront easily had more memorable set-pieces then any COD game.

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        March 22, 2011 8:31 AM

        This all made me feel like the game was going for shock value more than a real story development. Korean executors! Mass graves! Friendly fire! Civilians killed! Turn against your own! It's as if they had a great argument but didn't know where to go, and decided shocking was the only solution. "Ballsy", but pointless.

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      March 22, 2011 4:20 AM

      The review mentions "multi-player only Frontlines" but that game has a single-player campaign.

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      March 22, 2011 5:07 AM

      short not fleshed out single player always = no buy for me

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      March 22, 2011 5:37 AM

      The SP campaign was no worse than BC2. It was a fun, short, shooting gallery.

      The unfortunate part was that the general consensus was that the SP campaign was supposed to be the main draw (marketing miscommunication I guess).

      It's a multiplayer-focused game with a tacked-on SP campaign. If you treat it as such, it's a pretty good package.

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        March 22, 2011 5:51 AM

        ...and if I refuse to purchase said game?!?!?

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        March 22, 2011 5:57 AM

        Yeah that's one of the problems, it was marketed heavily for SP which was VERY misleading. When you buy a Battlefield game it's geared toward MP with maybe an SP tacked on which is fine because you are going into that purchase knowing that. With Homefront I feel we were flat out lied to plain and simple.

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          March 22, 2011 5:59 AM

          That game sounds like arse. A 3.5 hour campaign? Come on!

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            March 22, 2011 8:54 AM

            Maybe the short campaign is a blessing in disguise. Do we really want a mediocre story to be even LONGER?

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              March 22, 2011 9:33 AM

              You have a point there, monsieur bottom.

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      March 22, 2011 10:16 AM

      Battle Commander is NOT a novelty. This is a mistake by a novice reviewer.

      Battle Commander answers a problem MP has had since sniping and camping has been running rampant.

      By making you a high priority target you cannot stay put, makes the games MOBILE and it does it without crippling any one soldier type.

      IF your skills are as nice as you BOAST that they are (not K:D ratios which are averages) then you should be able to achieve level 3 or level 5 bounty and MAINTAIN it until the end of the match and get your trophy or achievement.

      This to me is perfection. Is there room for improvement? Yes.
      Is it innovative? Yes.

      If you disregard this VERY important innovation, you have NO BUSINESS playing MP games. Bottom line.

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        March 22, 2011 10:20 AM

        I agree. I really like how they mark everything for streaks including vehicles and drones. BC DM is my favorite mode to play.

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      March 23, 2011 8:02 AM

      I finished the campaign last night. Yes it was very short but I had fun playing the game.

      Multi player in my opinion is a BLAST!!!! I love the mix of COD/Battlefield style combat. Kaos did an excellent job balancing all the perks. I'm grateful that they stayed away from destruct able environments.

      I'm really hoping the multiplayer does not die off to quickly I can see myself playing this one for awhile.

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        March 23, 2011 2:53 PM

        Agreed, multiplayer is where its at.

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      March 26, 2011 11:24 AM

      The single player was ok, but it was too short, the storyline isn't that great and the ending sucked badly. It may have been better if you had time to get to know the characters. One problem with this game is it's very glitchy in both single and multi. And it seems like it takes 20-30min to get into and multiplayer matches. And when you do get into one, you seem to get a random lost of connection at any given time starting the frickin wait to get into a match again. Waiting in a lobby sucks to because you will get booted for inactivity while you're waiting for more players to show up. Again increasing wait time to get into a match. At least in CoD and Battlefield the match will go with only 2 people. The battle areas are nice and big, they look good and have lots of cool aspects. Cover can not be destroyed like in BF which I like blowing up someones cover. So all around, this game is a great idea, the graphics are great when they don't glitch, but the single and the multi make it not worth getting. I feel like I just threw $63 dollars away. I was very disappointed.

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