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Homefront: A real FPS multiplayer contender?

Multiplayer mode flips tables on jammy online 'gods'...

Come for the story, stay for the multi-player. That's the way we're looking at Homefront, Kaos Studio's FPS that plays out the 'What if...?' scenario of an occupied United States of America.

Why? Well, the detailed setting and intriguing story are clearly the main reason to play through this game, but the multi-player - which we recently played an early version of - is a fine reason to stick around, too.

Spiritually, Homefront's multi-player is closer to Battlefield than Call Of Duty: it's team based, and there's a big emphasis on vehicles and drones.

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However, because of the deep choice of load-outs you can easily craft a bespoke soldier to cope with the specific demands of each map.

Getting hammered by helicopters and flying drones? Pick the air-burst launcher as your secondary weapon - a solid assault rifle for taking out quicker drones, and a support ability to keep you off enemy radar.

EVEN THE ODDS
Balance has been a key issue for the developers, and this has lead to a new feature called Battle Commander. "What battle commander does is to bring in this player-versus-player tension, and really accentuate the rivalries that can already exist in the game," explains Homefront's lead multiplayer designer Erin Daly.

"So what you get in a typical first person shooter is that a few players start dominating and begin doing really well, and get themselves on a streak or something. What Battle Commander does is identify those players, and indicates them as a threat to your team.

Then it assigns people to go after them." Sounds good so far. Battle Commander works as a GTA-style Wanted system. The better you do, the more opposition players will be assigned to specifically hunt you down (you stand out from the crowd as a gold dot on their radar).

Killing a highly wanted enemy isn't just a prestige thing either, as there are rewards for being both the hunter and the hunted, as Daly tells us: "Players that are on a streak are getting rewarded, they're getting additional buffs for being on a streak, and if they're in a drone it doesn't necessarily have to be a kill streak.

They can be marking guys from a recon gun, they can be on a streak - as long as you're doing really well that means you're a threat. And so they're going to be getting rewards, but at the same time the enemy's AI commander is going to be assigning people to go after them.

So they're going to know that more and more people are coming after them the higher they rank up."

TANKS VERY MUCH
In practice it works extremely well. Nail a highly wanted enemy gunman and you'll be awarded a slew of extra Battle Points (Homefront's in-match currency) to spend on goodies like drones, tanks or helicopters.

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Taking out a three-star Wanted player in his tank, for example, will probably gift you enough points to buy your own. But then you're the guy on the kill streak, and your opponent will be looking to return the favour.

It also has the pleasing side-effect of preventing too much class-spamming - you know, that phenomenon in gaming when everyone wants to be a sniper and no-one picks the close-assault class to actually complete objectives.

As Daly explains: "If you're too good a sniper then you're going to start ranking up, and you're going to be marked as a priority threat by the enemy team and then you're going to have people hunting you down".

Homefront's multi-player is undoubtedly ambitious, and thanks to the Battle Commander and Battle Points systems it feels incredibly well balanced.

Right now it might lack the polish of a game like Battlefield Bad Company 2 online, but this could still change before release. And if you really can't get to grips with Homefront online, the single-player should still be worth the admission price alone.

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