Review: Homefront (PS3)

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Red Dawn, a film released in 1984, channeled Cold War thrills with an invasion of America by the Soviets and their allies. While it might have stretched the limits of plausibility, it was still a fun piece of fiction that imagined how it could have gone down and how ordinary people became heroes in defense of their homes.

Games have also gotten into the act ranging from IO Interactive’s third-person shooter, Freedom Fighters, to Massive’s RTS epic, World in Conflict. But there are no more Soviets, right? Well, there are always ultranationalist Russians if you follow Modern Warfare 2.

Instead, THQ has settled on North Korea to take on the United States.
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Homefront goes gold

“Homefront,” the upcoming FPS that puts players in a world where the Communist “Greater Korean Republic” occupies the United States has gone gold. In other words, the game is now in production.

It would probably be impossible for any military to execute a transpacific invasion of the United States – given that this country has satellites and missiles that can be shot at big surface ships or transport jets carrying troops – but who cares about realism? “Red Dawn” screenwriter John Milius wrote Homefront’s single-player campaign, and anyone who ever saw Red Dawn knows the movie asked its audience to believe that a Soviet-invasion of the United States would result in Soviet paratroopers attacking a small town in the Colorado Rockies, thousands of miles from supply lines or the military realities of the 1980s.

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But  … Red Dawn was still an entertaining movie with a relatively high quotability quotient, so Homefront may turn out to be a fun game. The under-rated Freedom Fighters (2003) featured an equally unlikely Soviet-invasion scenario in New York City, but it was fun to play the role of a patriotic urban guerrilla fighting commies alongside heavily-armed NPCs.

Homefront, developed by KAOS Studios and published by THQ, is set for a March 15 release in North America for PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.

Kim Jong-il doesn’t exist in Japan’s version of Homefront

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He’s gone, really, according to gaming blog Andriasang, because of the rules that CERO has in place for every game. CERO is the Japanese equivalent of the ESRB, the ratings board over here in the States, though their requirements are a bit different from ours. For example, two of the rules they have against “scenes deemed malicious to an existing person/country” have apparently replaced North Korea with “A certain country in the North” and Kim Jong-il with “Northern Leader”.

If you’re not sure what Homefront is, it’s THQ’s new shooter that’s headed to retail in March. It features the somewhat sketchy premise of North Korea’s successful unification of the peninsula and its preparation in the years since for war, culminating in half of the United States falling for a surprise invasion. The story puts players in the shoes of a grassroots resistance movement in occupied America as they take up the fight. With the tensions between Japan and North Korea, it’s probably not too hard to understand why this might be a somewhat sensitive topic.

It’s also not the first time a game coming in from the States has had to go through the wringer in order to enter certain markets. Australia’s somewhat draconian rules have made headlines over the years for their handling of titles such as Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 which only entered the country via a German version that was already edited for content. Typing in “video games banned” in Google brings up “video games banned in australia” as an auto-complete term.

Even the United States has its own funny rules on censorship. One example that jumps out is how the NES’ port of Bionic Commando originally pit the player against Nazis complete with Hitler at the end – until it was whitewashed when it came over here. The Japanese fought a vast, neo-Nazi empire while we got – Badds and Master D. Now, more than twenty years later, it sounds as if they’re getting the Bionic Commando treatment. Of course, the difference is that one game was based on history and sci-fi; the other more on speculation on current events.

Things have somewhat relaxed a bit since then, even for Nintendo, and I’m also sure the Japanese audiences looking at the game know exactly who Homefront’s story is really pointing to. THQ is also apparently okay with it leaving it to Spike in Japan to handle the distribution there. As long as the gameplay itself proves to be just as interesting, a relatively small change like this shouldn’t keep Japan’s gamers from finding the same amount of fun that other gamers elsewhere are hoping to get from Homefront.

E3: A look back on Day Three

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Day Three was a relaxed day for us. Only a handful of appointments and the crowds were a little thinner as quite a few people decided to head home once they’ve gotten their fill of news. I don’t blame them. My feet at this point were turning to mush from all of the standing and walking, but the end was in sight. Almost. Today was a catch up day for anything interesting that I wanted to see for myself so we weren’t under any pressure to run from one booth to the other.

Then again, the Lakers were defending their title at the Staples Center that evening making getting out early something of a priority. When Angelinos tell you to go home instead of hanging around to see burning taxis win or lose, it’s probably good advice.
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