The concept of Homefront is an intriguing one for the both the single-player campaign and the multi-player suite. In the campaign, Kaos paints a near-future scenario in which an America weakened by stretching itself too thin in the Middle East and an ongoing fiscal collapse has just been attacked by an ascendant Korea unified by Kim Jong Il’s son. Beginning with a massive EMP blast, Korean troops have invaded (and decidedly defeated) the American military and are beginning to consolidate their hold on the West Coast – ‘consolidation’ being a euphemism for mass executions and internment camps to manage the populace.
The premise of fighting as a civilian in the resistance movement defending the homeland allows for some awesome settings, like retail stores that have been converted into ammo dumps for the Korean army. That said, no matter how the developers play up the scenario, the gameplay itself looks like a Call of Duty-clone. Weapons have very little recoil, civilians look and act like super-soldiers (despite claims to the contrary), thus lessening a lot of the emotional impact that could be had from playing as a (semi) terrified civilian whose weapons frequently hop around with recoil. Given the popularity of Activision’s franchise, it may be a good marketing move by THQ to give the game such light gunplay, but I’m of the opinion that point-and-click FPS gunplay is getting awfully tired.
At the same time, the multi-player suite tries to emulate some of the more tactical elements of the Battlefield franchise and Kaos’ own Frontlines: Fuel of War with what looks to be a hybrid of Bad Company 2’s Rush and Conquest modes. The prime selling point here is an AI ‘Battle Commander’ which will give players incentives to complete offensive and defensive missions that those obsessively concerned with kill-death ratios would not normally take the risks to perform. It remains to be seen how this will work in practice but, like the campaign storyline, it is at least an intriguing premise.
When it comes down to forecasting sales of the game, THQ has given us some guidance to work with when it recently revealed it had locked up 200,000 pre-orders. Based on data compiled by HULIQ, pre-orders for the game (led by its Xbox 360 SKU) have been surging in the last week before its release on March 15th, so that number may already be above 300,000 units across all platforms. Ultimately, despite an aggressive marketing campaign, the high-publicity releases coming later in the year will prevent a new entry in the genre from reaching a wide degree of commercial success. Sales will probably be strong enough to justify a sequel, but it is not going to be a Call of Duty killer, nor even a Medal of Honor killer.
HULIQ forecasts that sales figures for Homefront will hit 1.25 million in the first six months. Provided the game has at least one high-quality DLC release and offers a stable multi-player experience (which is potentially worrisome, considering the game has had no public beta), it will cross the 2 million mark after 12 months.
By way of comparison, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told us he expects the game to hit 1.5 million units in the first six months.
Update: A new report indicates that THQ has to hit 2 million units simply to break even on the game. Considering that, from what I understand, new I.P. crossing the 1 million mark is usually considered a sign of success, this is a remarkable amount of risk for THQ. By our prediction, they'll cross the mark they need to, but it will take a long time to reach the 'black' on the game - something investors will not appreciate.