War. War never changes- but only because it doesn’t need to in order to sell 14 million units.

I pen this journal on scraps of paper in my parent’s basement reinforced bunker, far underground. The bombs from battles above shake dust loose from the floorboards and give the entire room a dull brown haze. The pallet is quite familiar to me, as I’ve seen it dozens of times over the last few years.

This is because we are at war.

No, I’m not talking about the war the wealthy in America have successfully waged against the other 80% of the country, or the war the current iteration of the Republican party has waged against minorities, women, free speech, common sense, and decency. I’m talking about the war fought between gamers who want more from the first person shooter genre and the majority who are perfectly fine with the status quo. For those who want more, it is an uphill struggle against the shortcomings of game journalism, the de facto 7 to 10 scoring system, and even the majority of consumers who have come into the hobby during its current boom.

It’s a bleak world, a scary one. One where everything is a clone of Call of Duty, even when it isn’t. Where common talking points permeate game reviews deeper than memes permeate certain alphabetical image boards (“I herd u lyke mentioning the phrase AAA Title as often as possible all of a sudden”) and where the same opinions seem to breed and spread across websites faster than the Quiverfull movement through the red states. A terrible, destroyed landscape where nothing is good enough unless its got the advertising budget for it, and where arbitrary and nonrepresentational scores assigned by websites-that-will-remain-nameless have the power to make kings and tank stocks. A war-torn world where we’ve come to accept that the content of a review doesn’t equal its numerical value, and that anything between 70 and 80 may as well be a zero. A world made in shades of brown and browner where mediocrity is rewarded by people with huge sales and critical acclaim all while those same people complain that nothing is challenging or original anymore.

I fear nothing can save us from this plight.

November 5, 2007

The first volley of this horrible war seemed so mild. That is how these things always start. Modern war is very rarely an instant thing, it is something that happens slowly. It’s ugliness creeping into the crevices of a culture like tentacles into an animated Japanese school girl, until one day you look up and realize everything has changed without you even noticing. The color has drained from the world, your friends and neighbors have fallen lockstep behind something you don’t agree with, and all because the ugliness around you has become the considered norm. If we only knew then what we know now…

February 25, 2008

I have begun to stock up on copies of Half-Life 2 in the event of a FPS apocalypse.

Many of my colleagues begin to fall sick, infected by the illness of the 7-10 system of scoring games. Bad games get 7s because the numbers below them have stopped existing, eliminated in an attempt to minimize damage to publisher relationships everywhere and save publications the wrath of overly opinionated internet denizens. Games that actually deserve it get 7s and people decide not to play them because they have become so conditioned to it being a bad score. The amount of enjoyment lost to gamers because of the inherent weakness of the numerical scoring system is almost enough to make me weep, if I wasn’t too tough and manly to cry.

Worse yet is how an interesting story has been relegated to afterthought status. Campaign has become nothing more than a hollow minigame for those times when the internet isn’t working right and you can’t connect to the servers. I begin to hope that some company somewhere would realize the error of these ways and learn from their mistakes. It is my hope that someday, maybe a little over three years after their last game, a company would realize that story substance is even more important than graphical style and create something that is truly remarkable. Something that develops intelligently and emotionally, all while still offering strong gameplay. If this hypothetical company could create a hypothetical game that does that, I probably wouldn’t even care if it was only around six or seven hours long either. Hypothetically, of course, since I am writing this entry in 2008 and have no knowledge of the future.


  1. very nice review, I’ve been scanning for a pc review for the last 3 days hoping to find something that would lift my hopes about buying a new fps. Your review just cost me 50 bucks!! :)

  2. That was a pleasure to read, and one of the smartest critiques of the malaise in game reviewing today, particularly the FPS genre, and the issues we face. Disclaimer – I work for THQ, on Homefront and Metro.

    Gavin, if you’re looking for that narrative driven FPS fix, I’d take a look at Metro 2033 if you haven’t already…

  3. I was somewhat disappointed by Homefront, but this was a very good review. I don’t think it can be overstated how broken our reviewing system is. There was a time when a 70% meant a pretty good game that all genre fans should probably check out. Now, it might mean a decent game (Homefront) or a totally broken turd. There’s no distinction in the score. Sites like IGN and Gamespot don’t seem to differentiate.

    Sure, they throw the occasional mediocre indie under the bus with a 3/10, but that’s just because they know they can get away with it with little backlash and also pat themselves on the back for not always going 7-10. Drives me crazy.

    • Exactly. I honestly don’t think it would have gotten to me as much if “majors” like IGN and such said that Homefront was mediocre or bad, which they did and which their reviews made it out to be, and then gave it a score that was at least remotely representational. The only “big” site I can think of off the top of my head that said the game was average and gave it an actually numerical average score was Destructoid.

      It’s one of the reasons I like it here at Ripten. I don’t like rating systems, but at least everybody here seems to use the entire numerical scale.

  4. Great Review, glad to see someone who can enjoy a good game, developers need to know that COD is not everything. I would rather pay 50 bucks to someone who tries, then those that just copy, paste, repeat.

    • Could not agree more. I feel like everybody just assumes every game wants to be Call of Duty, and when it comes to making money and making sales of course they do, but not not every game wants to be conceptually the same as Call of Duty.

      Call of Duty is a huge franchise that makes oodles of money and doesn’t need to take creative chances anymore. The problem is that other companies tend to see that and think “oh we just need to make our game exactly like Call of Duty to succeed” instead of going “oh we need to try and differentiate ourselves because the market already has a Call of Duty.” I feel Homefront differentiated itself and was great because of it, where as Medal of Honor for example simply tried to emulate it and was worse for it.

  5. This “reviewer” is a douche who seems to enjoy writing nonsensical drivel. The game is good, but the moron’s opinions, about the world, are clearly based on the material he makes up in his wannabe pretentious mind. If American Capitalism was really broken we’d still be “raving” about games that are at Atari 2600 levels. If you want to review video games do that and stay away from the big boy stuff. Get a real life and real job.

    • I find it hilarious that your only defense of capitalism is that we have pretty shiny things. I’ll make sure to tell the nearly 20 million ‘working poor’ in this country that capitalism is totally working for them because we have flat screens and Xbox 360s. It sort of proves my point, not that you would acknowledge it either way.

      Maybe instead of living in your bubble where nothing is wrong with our country (and I say our, because contrary to most right wing beliefs there are more people involved in America than just those that agree with your particular point of view) and keeping yourself distracted with shiny new games, you should play this http://playspent.org/

      Either that or you could stay away from the big boy stuff too, clownshoes.

  6. Good review. Would have better with out the liberal bias at the beginning. If you are going to make an attack be educated about it.

  7. I agree with most of you points. I enjoyed the game, and the multiplayer is a blast. However, the single-player length continues to bother me. Actually, it’s not so much the length, but how the world is more fleshed out than the story of your character. I never really felt like I was a necessary part of the resistance. I was just the guy with the gun that happened to tag along, and the finale was incredibly underwhelming since it blatantly leads to a sequel that may or may not ever happen. Every story should be self-contained (movie, game, tv show, etc), and not assume that the follow-up will explain the rest. Other than that though, Homefront is good. It’s not great, but you’re right. The FPS can’t be fixed overnight.

    • That’s a really good point. I can definitely understand feeling that the world was more fleshed out than the characters. I think that might be an inherent flaw in FPS design that it’s real difficult to develop characters while keeping the pace of the game high enough to stave off boredom. I thought it did a great job at it, but I can definitely see being disappointed in the lack of character development in relation to how well the world was done.

      Still, it definitely is a step in the right direction either way.

  8. This was a long but good article, but I will never read anything you write again! This entire thing was filled with liberal ideology that was completely uncalled for. The article should contain a review of the game and nothing else, if you want to convey your political views that is fine do it on a political blog, journal what ever. I do not want political ideology, and anti-American reteric forced down my throat when I go to read a game review.

    • You are entitled to your political opinion, although I’d like to point out that being anti-capitalism isn’t even close to being anti-American, but I disagree entirely with the idea that a review of a game can only be one thing.

      The way I look at it, there are two ways to review video games. The first way is that you review them as a piece of technology- like you would a digital camera or a car. You talk about the details, you compare it to other pieces of technology like it, and you rate it based on that. This is what I would consider is the norm of video game journalism.

      The second way to do a review is to do it like you are reviewing a movie, a TV show, or even a vacation. You review the experience, what the game made you think about, and how it felt while you played it. You can mention the technical stuff, but the experience itself is far more important. This is what I like to do. I take it to an extreme by being a conceptually pretentious weirdo, but the point stands.

      You can read 1000 reviews like the former by very talented writers who do that style incredibly well if you wish. I just have no desire to be 1001.

  9. I actually like the political bias. Makes you feel that the review is written by a normal person with his own full-hearted devotion. You trust such a review more.

    And it’s much better to show this bias in an unrelated question of politics (that majority doesn’t care really about) than in the question of the game itself.

    • Thanks! That’s one of the main things I try to do as a reviewer. I feel like if you aren’t passionate about what you are doing, no matter what that thing is, there isn’t much of a point to be doing it. Every review every writer does should stand out for some reason, and I’m stoked you thought mine came through and was so noticeable.

  10. Glad to see at least one reviewer taking off the blinders and reviewing this game for more than just graphics.

    Great review. Very well written. Thanks for the read!

    • Thanks a lot!

      I really don’t get our obsession with graphics. It’s not even like Homefront is ugly, dated is the best term for it, but it’s dated to like three years ago when, as far as I remember, graphics still looked pretty good. I still play Unreal Tournament, Counter-Strike, and dozens of retro games, so I can’t really bring myself to caring about graphics. Obviously if the graphics of a game are really, really good or really, really bad it should be mentioned and valued accordingly.

      I always felt like graphics are something that can sometimes make a game better, but very, very rarely ever make a game worse.

  11. Finally a review that makes sense!

    Also, none of the reviews I’ve read have touched on this games soundtrack which is nothing short of fantastic in my opinion. It really sets the mood for the campaign.

  12. Amazing read. You’re an inspiration. Also, you convinced me to buy the game. The campaign length had dissuaded me before, but you make a damn good point with your clever sandwich metaphor.

  13. Ok, just gotta say, I came here looking to find a review of a game, not to spend half an hour listening to some wannabe writer trying to sound clever, I couldn’t even make it to the parts where you actually commented on the game, just wanted to let you know you make me sick, I imagine you are quite proud of yourself. I will avoid Rip Ten review from now on, thanks.

  14. Despite the inevitable hate that followed your review, I applaud you for having the balls to write it. I particularly liked your call out on the ratings system of modern video game journalism. I for one prefer the more insightful “No ratings number” type reviews where you actually read the review and not skip to the bottom line. Unfortunately its hard to pull off that model, but for those of us who enjoy it, its a great thing that instantly creates a bookmark entry for our browsers and rss feeds.

    I don’t know if you would be interested in this, but I wrote an article on my website that you might dig as it ties into a few of the points in your review. You can check it out at my website. It’s still the top article, addressing the current state of the PC based FPS genre.

    Enjoy and Enjoyed =)

  15. Great review man! I’m often cast out as a bad gamer because I don’t like Call of Duty as much as I’m supposed to. And now that I’m completely enamerated with Homefront, I get more flak than a WWII airplane. When I heard than Kaos had taken a cue from Half-Life 2’s approach to story, I was excited; Half-life 2 being one of my favorite games of all time. And when I heard it was being penned by the writer of Red Dawn, I couldn’t wait for it to come out. I had fun with the story mode, several moments making me want to stop and think about what was happening (one moment in particular on the bus ride at the being made me realize that Homefront was a different beast all together). And I was a bit sad that it was over so soon, and the obvious DLC/sequel was a bit of a let down. Yet I haven’t been so enthralled in a shooter story since Half-life 2 itself. I loved Frontlines: Fuel of War, so the muliplayer makes me all sorts of happy.
    On a side note, your review was amazing. I’m gonna start coming back here more often, hoping to see more like this!