This week, after months of hype and a multimillion advertising blitz, “Homefront” finally landed on store shelves everywhere. Much has been made of the game’s provocative premise, which has the United States being invaded by an exponentially more aggressive North Korea in a decade’s time. Add in the fact that legendary screenwriter John Milius (“Red Dawn,” “Apocalypse Now”) contributed to the story and people were expecting a gut-wrenching, red-blooded shoot-em-up of the first order. It rang up 200,000 in pre-orders, not a shabby number for a new IP in these uncertain times.
Except that “Homefront” isn’t that. Oh, it’s okay. The multiplayer portions set up massive, chaotic battles and have won nods for their quality. However, in the single-player campaign, lackluster shooting gameplay finds an unwelcome partner in narrative that values shock over character development. But the world-building is superb, floating the consequences of a horrible event all around you and making you want to play–that is, to say get revenge–in ways that the narrative and mechanics do not. The problems muddy up what’s enticing about the game.
Many critics agree that “Homefront” is a middle-of-the-road experience and their opinions got pulled into Metacritic, generating a Metascore of 72 for the game. Here’s where things get dramatic. That score caused THQ’s stock price to plummet more than 20%, from $5.94 to $4.69 per share. Yet, THQ issued a press release yesterday asserting that “Homefront” moved 375,000 copies at retail, a number that they’re pleased with. This comes after earlier statements by execs that the game would have to sell 2 million to break even.
It’ll likely take a month or two before the verdict gets delivered on just how successful “Homefront” is. But, it’s ironic that game centered on a sociopolitical clash has generated a battle of dueling narratives. Is it a success or not? Did it go too far or not far enough? Will it have a negative effect on THQ or bolster its efforts to grow new franchises? Of course, some of these answers can only come from corporate decision-makers. It’ll be enlightening, however, to see if THQ does move on with the purported sequel if “Homefront” doesn’t wind up being a blockbuster hit.