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Homefront

Can Kaos Studios find room on a crowded battlefield?

When a brand new FPS is announced it's probably no surprise that it's greeted with a pinch of scepticism.

It's competing with the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty after all. Not only have they pretty much got every inch of the FPS war zone covered nicely between them, but they're a couple of the biggest names in gaming today.

That's some tough opposition for a fresh-faced IP without a solid history to back it up. While we'd never condone resting on your laurels, it must be nice to have a springboard from which to launch a title.

It's an even bolder step for the likes of Kaos Studios, a relatively new company set up specifically for the FPS genre, but with only one to its name so far in Frontlines: Fuel of War.

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But Kaos was set up by publisher THQ which, although not really considered a behemoth in the FPS arena, saw some success recently with Metro 2033; a more fantastical FPS, which aimed to stick its head above the pack with an offering of narrative depth and atmosphere and emotion.

It's a mantra that THQ and Kaos are keen for this latest FPS to carry as well; the Homefront single-player campaign - a unified Korean invasion of the US in 2027 - is written by John Milius, who co-wrote Apocalypse Now and wrote Red Dawn, so there's been no expense spared on scribe duties at least.

A campaign only lasts so long though and in this genre particularly it's the online multiplayer that propels a game to the status of a fifteen-hours-a-day must have. You don't need us to tell you that there ain't no room for atmosphere and narrative online and the only emotions is anger/smugness .

Making a mark in the world of online frag-fests is a toughie then, but that doesn't seem to bother Kaos. In fact, "a mark" is considered small time.

"When we set up Homefront, our goal was to be the number one large scale, mass market, multiplayer shooter" says senior designer Brian Holinka. Wowzers! Now that's what we call aiming a dirty RPG for the Moon.

The basis for Homefront's multiplayer features (as if we needed any greater depth over and above "shoot the opposing team") is it represents the early conflicts of the invasion as the scattered US military attempts to fight off the encroaching Korean forces.

For that reason the two maps we were given access to - carrying the gripping labels of "The Farm" and "Cul de Sac" - were typical icons of suburban America complete with white picket fences and verandas, albeit with a chaotic, blown-out quality to them.

The pair represent the scale Homefront will offer; Cul de Sac is essentially a small arena with houses and shrubbery for walls and all the trimmings of a middle-class lifestyle to hide behind, whereas The Farm is much bigger, split into two halves of buildings with a space in the middle and a sniper's wet dream at one end in the form of a bridge.

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The Farm isn't quite the size of some of the bigger maps you'll navigate in the likes of Battlefield and COD - strange seeing as Kaos is placing the focus on "large-scale warfare."

MORE KILLING LESS FILLING
Kaos has a very specific definition of the phrase though: "For us it means Infantry, soldiers, vehicles and aircraft, big air-strikes falling down from the sky, drones all on this really large mass with up to 18 players. That's what large scale means."

See, vast open spaces usually mean running for miles to find a bit of action only to be rewarded with a spray of bullets about the head and body and a taunting Kill cam.

The plan with Homefront, conversely, is to gear everything towards keeping the experience fast-paced and the player a part of the battle. To that end the maps are perhaps more concise.

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