Review: Homefront (PS3)

50927-homefront_4-thumb-480x270-50926.jpg

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.
Continue reading

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

49817-Homefront_1-thumb-200x141-49816.jpg

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

42345-E3_EA-thumb-480x105-42344.jpg

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.
Continue reading

E3: A look back on Day Two

42179-E3_SouthHall-thumb-480x360-42178.jpg

Day Two started off earlier, mainly due to the first day starting at noon. A few appointments were penciled in including another one with Activision who had given us a chance to check out the new True Crime. My brother was ready to hit most of those leaving me to wander the floor to take a look at what else was being shown. The first day was a brief tour in the West Hall. Now it was time to hit the South Hall where the third parties, and Microsoft, was lurking.
Continue reading

Red Faction: The Movie

40309-red_faction_guerilla-thumb-200x160-40308.jpg

No, really. According to Broadcasting & Cable, THQ’s game franchise, Red Faction, is getting its own two-hour movie…on Syfy.

Now before you start groaning at hearing that Syfy is involved in this one and can’t wash the memories of such notable films as SS Doomtrooper or The Black Hole (not to be confused with the fine 1979 Disney movie of the same name), the network is also known for its very gritty reboot of the Battlestar Galactica series as well as the long-running SG-1 series (now evolved into Stargate Universe) based on the Stargate film.

I’m guessing that it’s going to take its cue from the most recent game, Red Faction Guerilla. The franchise is chock full of potential story ideas depending on how they play the whole “rebellion on Mars against Earth” thing with the potential for colonial lines being drawn in the red sand, factions vying for supremacy, a bit of Mad Max in the wilderness, and making it as gritty as Battlestar.

But if they ever do it that way, only one request: retire the shaky cam “reality” thing. It’s done. It was done when the Blair Witch did it. Thank you.

This is not Spawn

Vigil Games’ Darksiders has been laying somewhat low for a title that has been compared to as a cross between Devil May Cry and God of War, but with E3 approaching, a teaser or two courtesy of Gametrailers have come out to remind players why they should care about the game.

If you don’t know what Darksiders is, the game pulls a page from the Book of Revelation by tweaking the coming Apocalypse into having it occur much sooner than had been expected by either Heaven or Hell. The Four Horsemen ride out to do what they do best, but War is betrayed and loses most of his powers for reasons as yet unexplained. Now it’s up to him to discover who is responsible for the early arrival of the End of Days while he works to regain his former powers. And now that the Apocalypse is here, both angels and demons will be around to make War’s day even worse without having to wait for Dan Brown to expose them.

Early thoughts on UFC: Undisputed

27992-rampage-n-forrest-final-thumb-480x344.jpg

I’m not what you’d call a hardcore fan of the UFC, but I’ve seen enough of it to know who the major players are, how it generally works and how fights can range from long, technical grindfests to flash knockouts within 20 seconds. I have a ton of respect for MMA because it requires its fighters to be in outstanding shape or to train endlessly (and opposed to some of the sloths one can sometimes see in a lower-level boxing match).

I’ve put just a couple of hours into UFC: Undisputed, and I’m hooked. Aside from the visceral rush of catching your opponent (computer-controlled or not) off guard and then raining fists on his forehead for the knockout, I also enjoy how it retains a lot of the basic tenets of good fighting games — the mixture of knowledge, practice and technique needed to become a better fighter.

I’ve found Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to be the most beginner-friendly fighter since he’s the strongest dude in the game and practically has wrecking balls for hands. He’s got one of the more impressive character models in the game, with his trademark “God’s Street Soldier” tattoo adorning his right arm. All of the character models are well done, with the slight exceptions of Brock Lesnar, who looks a little on the small side, and Andrei Arlovski, who looks like an action figure.

The personalities and mannerisms of the fighters are also close to spot-on, with B.J. Penn licking the blood off his hands after a win or Rampage’s slightly insane gaze into the camera during intros as well as his post-win werewolf howl. Forrest Griffin always seems to be bleeding and sweating, and Anderson Silva’s kicks are as lethal as they are in real life.

I’m trying to get my standup game up to par, but there are a ton of moves, holds, guards, throws and other techniques to figure out, so I’m running into a little paralysis by analysis sometimes. You even have to think about transitioning from one position to another, defending punches and submissions, and even getting the ref to initiate a seperation when the match goes to the ground. It’s good stuff all around.

I’m also getting into the career mode, where I build a fighter and have to manage his time among training, matchmaking and publicity work. It’s actually more in-depth than I expected, so I’m not sure how far I’ll get by the time I have to file the review, which should be coming out in the next week or so.

All right, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll be in the virtual Octagon.