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Homefront multiplayer preview: Battle Commander


THQ's Danny Bilson has said that Homefront's emphasis is on multiplayer. Having played both the solo and multiplayer components of Homefront, it's clear why: the multiplayer is a much more compelling product, thrusting an otherwise unremarkable effort into something genuinely noteworthy. Kaos Studios' vehicular take on large-scale modern warfare feels frenetic and well-balanced.

It seems Kaos is making a concerned effort to make the online experience of Homefront rewarding both for skilled players and novices. The Battle Points system, or the online in-game currency, is one way of leveling the battlefield. The system not only rewards kills, but support actions, and allows all players to respond to dynamically changing skirmishes. A newly revealed feature called "Battle Commander" is yet another way Kaos plans on making the online fun for everyone.

Battle Commander "makes large scale warfare personal [and] rewards players for having vendettas," senior designer Brian Holinka told us. It's Homefront's take on the killstreak: perks that empower players that rake in consecutive kills. But there's an important twist: with each "perk" that you receive, you become an increasingly vulnerable target, with the AI assigning personal assassination missions to the opposing team in order to bring you down.

Gallery: Homefront (1/21/11) | 8 Photos

It's a rather simple concept, but it makes for a surprisingly fun competitive experience. Earning killstreaks manages to feel even more rewarding thanks to a five-star progression system. Earning your first set of three kills will get you to your first star, rewarding you with a contextual, new power. For a run-and-gunner like myself, I was slightly more resistant to damage. As I worked my way to the second star, I was able to take on two or three people simultaneously with no problem. As I reached the third star, I felt genuinely invincible. I remember someone trying to shoot a rocket at me, and me brushing off the splash damage, continuing my rampage.

You can earn these killstreaks in vehicles, as well, earning special vehicular bonuses. Other classes should be able to earn other rewards as well (although I didn't have a chance to experience them myself). At three stars, I was very aggressively pursuing four stars, but it wasn't long before I was swarmed and destroyed by the opposing force.

How was I stopped in my tracks? For each star you get, members of the opposing team are alerted to your presence. Selected by the AI, these players are given a special "mission" to hunt you down. They will know where you are, and will earn a big boost in Battle Points for taking you down. Of course, those Battle Points can then be used to give the other team an edge, giving both sides a fighting chance to win.

Seeing these various systems balance each other makes me appreciate how intelligently designed the multiplayer is. In a room filled with random game journalists from all over the world, Homefront managed to give me close contests consistently, round after round. Six matches, across multiple maps and modes, (paired with random squad mates) all offered a challenge, and all felt satisfying.

I ended my day with a level 9 character, and I left wanting to play more.

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