Oh and while there might be a better chance of selling Squaddies lifetime subscriptions to The Watchtower, Homefront now has a multiplayer demo on Steam. After the fact and on PC, it’s one of the finest bits of multiplayer I’ve played this generation. Slightly slower pace than CoD, big emphasis on drones and electronic countermeasures, has bested Bad Company 2 for me in terms of intricacy and nuance. Worth checking out if you need a little time in the thick of it.
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@feenwager Chances are pretty good, given that it’s Maxis, right? Really dug what I’ve played of the beta.
Also, been indulging in Homefront. Funny thing, that. Imported the US version, required Steam to install – as in, being online – and hit a brick wall with “this game is not yet available in your region”. So, I was allowed to preload. This was a few weeks ago now, and after a little searching, I found out the Japanese versions – console only, it seems – were being released on the 14th of April. Incidentally, given the long-standing politics of Japan and North Korea, the localisation Japan is or has received completely strips any notion that the “invaders” are North Koreans. Wonder how that all turns out.
Anyway, long story short, I’m able to bypass the damn Steam region restrictions (one gross insult, Steam!) by finding the game within the Steamapps folder and booting straight from there. Hilariously, or sadly, Steam is still logging my playtime and achievement unlocks.
I’ll concede (and this might bring a knowing, prescient “told ya so!” smile to @RedSwirl’s dial) that I probably was in love with the concept more than the reality of what might come of this game’s campaign. It’s got an incredibly strong opening, but from there, it kinda loses its impetus and becomes a bit of a “coulda been” experience. I do hope there’s a sequel, because there is so much potential here. There’s sadly all too little of those quiet moments in the game…the safe haven known as Oasis being one of them.
Kaos Studios are fantastic at the mechanical side of the game, though. They manage to craft more technical multiplayer experiences than most, create levels that actually feel like places and a slew of intelligent game choices within that, probably to their detriment, confuse and irritate the fast food CoD junkies.
Let me state, though, I love the concept of military shooters. Objectively, I see military-themed games as having the capability to be excellent vehicles for narrative and conveying the full range of human emotions – only for the fact that, since we first started picking up rocks and flinging them at our slow-brained Australopithecine cousins, we’ve been shaped by conflict. There’s a gaping deficit in military-themed games. It’s either highly-nuanced and mechanic-centric (your simulation titles) or it’s a frat-boy “power fantasy” (which I’ve never quite subscribed to, as I think it’s triggering something much deeper in our evolutionary psyche) where it seems the inertia stems from strange cocktails of 20th Century nationalistic jingoism and thematic overtones from 80s action films.
Perhaps Brothers In Arms is closer to the mark, but even then, the emphasis lies with the technicalities of squad movement and management than on Baker and his men, even though Gearbox did an admirable job with the series.
So, after Homefront’s faltering first step, I await Spec Ops: The Line. The developers made that awesome Xbox/PC arcade flight-sim Yager, but this looks like it’ll be a little more…er…narrative-driven. Maybe it’s overly optimistic, but going by their last game, I’d like to think these guys have a good shot at crafting something with a little more headspace than the usual fare. Out in August.
I hope we can get some seriously thought-provoking, morally-interesting games in the military set.
@RedSwirl I’m kinda interested in it, but I think I’ll follow your lead and wait a good long while before meandering to the digital checkout with it. I played the Dead Space 2 demo, by the by, and thought it was…I dunno…*alright*, but I’m not really sure what the massive appeal of Dead Space is, outside of it being a solid horror-themed action franchise. All for new IPs, though. Good sound design, though.
I’ll take one for the team on the Homefront…er…front. Preordered. We’ll see how it goes, narrative-wise. Gratuitous, probably. Deftly handled? Only time will tell. The multiplayer will be terrific, regardless.
Really sad to see THQ becoming something I thought it wasn’t with the recent Kaos Studios “Work ten hours+ a day to get this Homefront game out the door, then relocate to our Montreal studio…or, get the hell out. Keep up the good work!” shenanigans.
@RedSwirl The same could be said for a rejected Viennese architect, but we’ll never agree on this I suspect. If only the college had said yes to the son of Alois and Klara. However, historical structuralism suggests there would always have been such a man in that situation.
There seems to be a fixation on identifying the current North Korea with the one in Homefront – but that might be a product of comfortable status quo-ism for you NA pundits. On one hand, yes, it’s a popcorn geopolitical what-if, but imagine the ridicule you would receive in the 60s if you pointed out China – a backwards mess of milling quasi-theocratic agrarianism – would become the world’s second largest economy within forty years? How the southern part of Korea would go from a subsistence farming populace to a technological powerhouse to rival that of the Japanese within fifty? Even more localised, and perhaps more poignant; the great military might of the United States defeated…not by their Soviet adversaries…but by peasants with cheap surplus firearms from their communist benefactors.
I’m merely using Homefront as an example…regardless of the outcome and its alleged repetition, the passage of time and its transformation into history has a habit of smacking the haughty and taking us all by surprise. But of course, you know this.
I am all with @beige on this one. As soon as I read the premise for how North Korea becomes powerful enough to invade the US in Homefront I lost interest right there.
Sure the game might get the little things right in the setting, but Modern Warfare 2 had the same virtue, and look at where its story went. Because these war games mostly have no goddamn stories it’s just matter of the devs trying to figure out “well what are the enemies gonna be?”
@beige, I don’t know if you’ve read this, but the whole “second American Civil War” you suggested is basically the setting of the DC Vertigo comic book series DMZ.
Basically, it takes the current situation in Baghdad and transplants it to Manhattan – a still-populated demilitarized zone in a stalemated near-future American Civil War. The main character isn’t even a soldier, but a journalist thrown in the middle who dodges bullets while exploring the city and slowly gains its trust. It’s by far the best example of a “war-torn America” I’ve seen so far.
@beige I’m with you on certain elements of your argument. It’s true to say the boogie-man in Korea is hard to swallow when it comes to being able to project force when sandwiches are hard to come by. I think @RedSwirl and I have warbled on the topic a bit here. I personally think it’d be easier for NA’ers to accept if it were the old Russki threat. Even the Chinese don’t seem to sit well as aggressors for Yankies, it seems.
But the one thing to remember is…we only need to look back at just how fast things can change. Imagine saying to an Ottoman or the English at the end of the Nineteenth century that their empires would, essentially, collapse within thirty years. That a sleepy, relatively isolationist once-colony on the other side of the Atlantic would go from a lethargic collective of rather individualistic states to a nuclear superpower – capable of putting men on the moon and controlling every ocean in the world by the middle of the twentieth century via vast atomic battlegroups.
Also the fact a bedraggled and financially-stricken nation went from the disastrous Weimar nightmare to a military powerhouse that went on a rampage that steamrolled Europe and only ground to a halt with the onset of a blistering Russian winter. Were it not for the Napoleonic mistake, Europe would be a very different place – ala “Fatherland”.
The previews I’ve read of Homefront keep reiterating it’s not the rah-rah cheesefest it has the propensity to be. But I’m keeping cautiously optimistic, if only for the detail. One thing’s for sure, I’m willing to at least give the story some credence – given the fact security structures within East Asia seem to pivot on the lynch pin of the US fleet remaining in Yokosuka and Okinawa/Guam housing a decent force. Recent developments in a boat collision between a Chinese trawler and Japanese coastguard near some territorially-disputed oil-rich islands seem trivial, but without a US presence could spark some sort of incident. Remove the US from the region and what do you have? You’ve got a high-tech but primarily anti-pirate Japanese SDF naval force, a growing Chinese green seas fleet, an Indonesian and Indian naval force that prefers to mess about in the Indian ocean and a fairly pathetic Australian contingent that’s only really good for deploying troops to settle island squabbles in the Solomons and Fiji.
There’s reunification ideals coming out of Beijing for Taiwan to return to China, an ailing Japanese nation with dreadful age issues and drain-circling commercial sector, paper tiger “soft power” economies all throughout SE Asia, a communist monarchy change imminent in the PRK – with the son an enigma of intention – and the oft-forgotten rising nuclear power of India. And that’s just a broad sweep of the surface level of it. Not going into the powderkeg idea of the RMB being undervalued by Beijing to stem the avalanche a continuation of 8% annual growth will bring down upon the world’s largest population if the GDP turnover grows tumorous.
I guess what I’m waffling towards is as laughable as the story is – and probably will be if not given credible context OR lacks a certain subtlety – stranger things have happened before. You want to know the most ludicrous thing I’ve read about the US recently?
That a country that prides itself on self-determination and man being free to speak his mind had an 11% voter turn-out for the under-30 demographic. What makes me sick is that people would state its their democratic right *not* to vote. That kind of lazy political apathy affects the rest of the world, sadly, and only perpetuates a feeling of self-stoked political disenfranchisement.
Quite frankly, that’s more bizarre than any greater Asian power projection onto the western seaboard of America.
But you sound a little bitter, Beige! 😀
@RedSwirl I know we have our different opinions on Homefront, but regardless of the aggressor within, the more I read about it, the more the environment sounds enticing. Funnily enough, what’s described in this preview of the campaign makes me more excited to explore the detail than, say, something like Bioshock.
“The homely American setting, particularly that of recognisable landmarks and living conditions of the Western world, was very impressive, particuarly in how the visuals were cohesively integrated into level layout and design. Running through the suburban streets, we quickly found ourselves sneaking through a backyard, on alert for nearby KPA patrols. It can be hard to spot enemies at ground level when you’re surrounded by white picket fences, hedges, and homes, so we took advantage of a nearby abandoned tree house to get a better look at our surroundings. These little familiar details go a long way in portraying a really convincing and organic game world, one that doesn’t feel like it is made up of artificially constructed corridors and obvious level chokepoints.
…we found ourselves defending a boarded up store, driving back advancing KPA forces in order to give a mother and her infant enough time to make an escape. Taking cover behind shelves, popping out to take critical shots against well protected enemies, with the deafening snap of gunfire and booming rumble of explosions was more than enough to have us on the edge of our seat, but it was all this accompanied by the mother’s crying child and her pleads for help that really sold the experience. This is not a game not about big Michael Bay explosions, but one more about the people. Their lives, their plight, and their fight for freedom.”
PALGN Preview – http://bit.ly/aRJCqb
@RedSwirl Sounds great, that DMZ. I’ll have to check it out. I wasn’t trying to turn this into a pissing contest of legitimacy either, more that the non-action scenes of Homefront…some guy milking a goat, the greenhouse and cottage industries…they’re far more evocative than any of the action I’ve seen. More of the detail and quiet rumination, please!
Can I supply an artistic slice of hot shit? *grunts*
My Missus got me the Steambot Studios concept art omnibus ‘Exodyssey’ for my birthday, which was terrific of her. It’s a great assemblage of their work in a loosely-cohesive arc, with beautiful glossy pages filled to the brim with the very best in speed-painting, 3D renders, character art etc.. If you’re in the mood to just let the imagination run to the stars, I highly recommend this book. Coffee table class. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to the Terran Trade Authority handbooks of yesterday. One day, I’ll be able to afford all the TTA handbooks. Most borrowed items from my school library as a kid. Explains the Homeworld love.
@unmanneddrone Right back at you. If I wanted that, I’d just go read some more DMZ.
If you haven’t, it’s a DC Vertigo comic that basically takes the current situation in Baghdad and transplants it to New York City. It’s about a second American Civil War where Manhattan Island has become a demilitarized zone at a point of stalemate – with over a million people still living on it.
Similarly it depicts pretty amazing stories of practicality and resourcefulness set in a crumbling version of the world we recognize. More importantly though, it’s set against an earthly backdrop that, if nothing else, makes you think.
On the subject of Ken Levine games though, could anyone else not help thinking about the Riddle of Steel from Conan when playing System Shock 2?
@JeffGrubb Maybe I’m in the minority, but I can certainly enjoy involving myself within a political philosophy I hate, only for the fact it’s a fervour you can’t find elsewhere. It’s the comfort zone shattering that really makes a difference. On a very base level, it’s why I dig the characters of Kane & Lynch, they’re far from hero material, so far from the acceptable idea of protagonist that it’s abhorrent to step into their shoes. On a more sophisticated level, national socialism manifested itself in such an horrific manner and nobody would consider it a productive inspiration outside of dictators and fascists, but all its encompassing dogma and facets were intertwined with massive industrial output and technological breakthroughs within the space of two decades – which makes me head spin and marvel at what a people can do under an efficient machine with a very dark side.
I utterly despise this tea party movement, not that it has massive ramifications back in Australia – there’s already an underclass of bigots and racists, we’re essentially South Africa with kangaroos, pre-ANC – but I do find it fascinating that American religiosity finds itself a part of the neocon arsenal and that large parts of the American socio-economic groups find themselves agreeing with an ultra-right wing political position. It’s enthralling to see, especially since the global economic crisis and subsequent recession has been hijacked to bull-run resentment to a conservative cause. Sickening, considering the murky free marketeering Reaganomics attitude held prior.
But we’ll see. I’d like to some subtle balance within Infinite. I agree with Austin Williams, progress has become a slightly dirty word in the era of sustainability in certain forms. The excess of Columbia and its brilliant showcase of technology and spirit – much like Rapture – should not be seen solely as gratuitous and the product of Randian overreach. I hope the glorious ambition is showcased and recognised.
@RedSwirl Interestingly enough, there were sections of the Russian criminal underworld who engaged in cyberwarfare within the Georgian infrastructure just as Russian armour rolled over the border. I’d like to know which levels of the military sought out those business channels.
It’s good you’re being inspired to research more about the international climate via games, but it works the other way around for me. There’s plenty of good podcasts, books and documentaries on history and current events that games come into it as a way to expand my understanding within novel tangibility.
Just to be clear, I’m not looking into Homefront for its geo-political story – if I wanted that, I’d break out Supreme Ruler 2010 and write it myself – I’m there for the small potatoes background. Aspects of Whitley Streiber’s Warday and that Jericho cheesefest TV show fall into it. I want to see and interact with a group of people rediscovering DIY practicality. I don’t need Megaton or a pack of zombies to be involved. If the game turns out to be tepid, but the scenery and detail alright, then I’ll be happy enough. Anyway, it’s still got a while to bake.
@RedSwirl Oh, believe me, I’m someone who doesn’t suffer any sort of geopolitical narrative nonsense lightly, and while the premise of a reunited Korea snowballing into an aggressor that somehow is able to project force into the United States is laughable, it might be worth suggesting you read some George Friedman books…while he misses the mark on a lot of things, it highlights just how fast things change despite the contrary being a prevalent view.
However, it’s not so much the exact details of who and why I’m interested in…it’s the idea. Looking at that demo, seeing some interesting ideas of survival and ingenuity is what’s seductive. Seeing one of those expensive gym walking machines converted into a bore pump is great. It could be any country, any socio-economic or minority group. I want to wander around and see this post-catastrophic society deal on a logistic and infrastructure level. You can keep your post-apocalyptic wastelands, speculative fiction makes for much more interesting scenarios. Albeit, this could go either way, but the detail seems to be there.
@JeffGrubb I’d have to disagree with not being able to enjoy something you disagree with. It’s only fair to balance political persuasions. I listen to a fair share of left-to-left leaning centrist political discourse, but only for the fact I listen to conservative and right wing viewpoints as well. The entire gamut is fascinating. One thing with games is, at least for me, if it’s not a system that examines the systems themselves – ala, most games from Paradox – it runs the risk of being a preachy mess. And as much as there’s a lot to hate about right-wingers, there’s equally as much groan-material within the left. (As a personal anecdote, I count the HBO dramatisation of the Wannsee conference ‘Conspiracy’ as one of my favourite and most poignant of films – not because I’m a genocidal Nazi sympathiser, but due to the system that produced the ideology and the political machinations therein. And the stellar acting doesn’t hinder the experience, either).
Personally, I don’t think Infinite will be a blatant mess. But I don’t think it’ll make the majority of mouth-breathers or sheer regular Joes question anything further than when to press the reload button. Infinite will provide great discussion in the Squawk, it’ll make for great articles in glossy magazines, but like most entertainment artifacts with intellectual propensity, it’ll matter to the people it was always going to matter to. Outside of that, it’ll be a wild ride for most, enforced by a distinct artistic style and ‘good story’.
I don’t want to sell pundits short, either. Undoubtedly a small section of Bioshock players found themselves wanting to check out Atlas Shrugged (although, Rand’s work is hideously overblown and sophomoric at the best of times) to see what the inspiration was. Hopefully there’s a growth of political ideology awareness to come out of Infinite for some people, but I agree with @sinfony that the medium would work much better as a retrospective, rather than a contemporary mirror.
@unmanneddrone I read a little bit about the setting and story for Homefront and it just comes off as one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. Typical video games making up fake wars that sound like they come out of a comic book. Pass.
@RedSwirl Now now, I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. Subjectively, indeed, you’ve predilections. One is a cyberpunk horror game, the other a strange steampunk thriller opus. The vanilla System Shock 2 has its faults, especially in regards to weapon degradation and perhaps an even more sloppy last third than what people accused Bioshock of having.
But when all is said and done, to have a slick, smooth and stable System Shock 2 again – with mod support, plus the user-created Ponterbee Station missions etc. etc. – I would be pleased as punch.
By the by, is anyone looking forward to Homefront? Red, weren’t you looking for games involving that against-all-odds freedom fighting aspect? I’m really intrigued by the hometown America fightback, moreso for the level design and nailing the same attention to detail as Alan Wake, Mafia II and K&L2 (the latter simply as a gauge for incredible detail). Maybe a more subtle Freedom Fighters spiritual successor?