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Bad reviews of Homefront send THQ shares tumbling

The company's newest big-budget action video game earns a relatively weak average score of 72 out of 100 from professional critics on its first day of release. Its stock falls 21% to $4.69.

March 16, 2011|By Alex Pham and Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times

Spooked by disappointing reviews of THQ Inc.'s newest big-budget action video game, Homefront, investors pummeled the game publisher's stock Tuesday, pushing it down $1.25, or 21%, to $4.69.

Homefront, the most expensive project undertaken by the Agoura Hills company, takes place in a dystopian future in which North Korean forces occupy the United States. The game, based on a script by John Milius, puts players in the shoes of a civilian resistance fighter.

The game garnered a relatively weak average score of 72 out of 100 from 28 reviews by Tuesday afternoon, according to Metacritic, a site that aggregates reviews. A score of 80 is considered the minimum required for a "shooter" game such as Homefront to be commercially successful.

So far, players seem eager to see for themselves. On Amazon, Homefront was the No. 1 selling game, trailed by Pokemon Black Version and Pokemon White Version, two popular titles from Nintendo. Strong preorders, or customers who paid in advance to have a copy of the game sent to them on the day it is released, have put Homefront on Amazon's top 100 list for 28 days. THQ has said it needs to sell 2 million copies to break even.

Homefront is the first of several new game titles by the struggling game publisher, which is attempting to reinvent itself from a maker of lightweight games to a company that competes in the high-stakes arena of big-budget titles. It hired a former film and TV scriptwriter, Danny Bilson, to head up its creative efforts.

THQ Chief Executive Brian Farrell said in an interview that he was not concerned about the review scores.

"The game seems to resonate with consumers," Farrell said, noting that Homefront received the most preorders for any title in the company's history. "It's a mass-market title. Let's see what players think."

Among professional game critics, however, there seems to be little consensus on the title.

Reviews ranged from a low of 50 to a high of 93. Twelve of the 28 reviews gave the game scores of 80 or above, and many gave the game's multiplayer portion decent marks. The harshest review, from Destructoid, said, "For all of the campaign's missteps and missed opportunities, there is a silver lining for Homefront: its multiplayer."

alex.pham@latimes.com

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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