Homefront: The Revolution is not a very good game. There’s no getting around that. The game is a technical mess, with shoddy frame-rates and odd hitches, poor animation and silly bugs. It doesn’t tell a particularly engaging or engrossing story, relying so heavily as it does on stereotypes and gung-ho, stick-it-to-the-man bravado. The characters have all the personality, charm and wit of an administrative law textbook.
The whole game seems to have been made from a checklist, ticking off the boxes that would make it a Blockbuster AAA Experience (TM) and it succeeds at very nearly none of them. And yet, there’s something about it, buried deep in its core that I found fun to play – but that just makes it doubly disappointing. Homefront: The Revolution could be better, and dammit it should be better.
Set in an alternate reality in which North Korea has become a technological and military powerhouse, Homefront: The Revolution takes place in the subjugated city of Philadelphia, four years after the Korean People’s Army have taken over the United States. It puts you in the shoes of the silent Ethan Brady, a freedom fighter who – like other members of the resistance – wants to liberate the beleaguered, enslaved American populace from its Korean masters.
The story is both predictable and boring, serving only to guide you from one location to the next as you shoot at hundreds of North Koreans (Norks, for future reference) in a well enough realised post-war Philly. And although it’s built like an open world game, it isn’t. Not really. Instead, it’s split off into segmented zones that you’re free to hop in and out of when you’re not busy doing main story missions.
It’s filled with the echoes of better games. It looks a little, with its crumbled buildings and oppressive invading forces, like Half Life. At some points, it even feels a bit like Metro: 2033. It plays, and feels mostly like a neutered Far Cry. The Red Zones within Homefront’s city – areas of open conflict where citizens aren’t allowed – are littered with outposts and buildings that require liberation. Doing so opens them up as little bases where you’re able to stock up on weapons and ammo, and head out to free up more of the map – in between shooting up all of those Norks, their tanks and the bloody drones that fly around everywhere – alerting a great big flying death machine and nearby patrols of you presence whenever they scan you.
Exploring Homefront’s broken Philadelphia is a challenge because of this – and your traversal of the open areas is likely to end in engagements, the challenge increasing exponentially as waves of soldiers storm your location. So you’re meant to employ a light touch of stealth if you don’t want to end up riddled with bullets. Thankfully, as in GTA, if you stay out of sight for long enough, enemies lose track of you and the heat dies away. If it all becomes too much, you can easily exploit the AI though, hiding behind a corner and taking the silly chaps down one by one as they take turns to engage.
In amongst the rubble you’ll also find lootable consumables, which you’ll use in the game’s pretty good crafting system that takes a page out of The Last of Us’ book. Find some chemicals, craft it together with a battery and you’ve got a hacking device which lets you bypass security gates or turn weaponised AI vehicles against their masters. You’ll craft other things, like incendiary devices, distractions or explosives, all of which can – should you choose to spend upgrade point to unlock them – be turned into proximity devices, or attached to RC cars so that you can trigger them from afar.
Gunplay, however, isn’t great – with too many of the game’s guns feeling loose and inaccurate – so I spent a lot of my time trying my best to avoid open conflict in favour of a semi-stealth approach. It would have been nicer if there were more stealthy tools at your disposal.
There are two elements to the game that I thought made it shine a little brighter. Yellow Zones – where the citizenry lives and works under heavy guard – require far more stealth, and are also where you’re able to incite something resembling revolution. Starting out all pristine and shiny, as you start to win over “Hearts and Minds” by completing objectives, you’ll start so see appreciable changes to the environment, and growing dissent amongst the populace. Fires start raging, citizens start beating guards and there’s a real, tangible feeling of revolution in the air. It feels like you’re achieving something, like you’re working for a greater good.
The game’s also home to a fantastic weapon modding system. Though you’ll be using the same sorts of guns that you’ll find in any shooter – pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles et al, here they can all be modified for on-the-fly conversion in Homefront: The Revolution. A few button presses and your trusty pistol is now an SMG, or a silent (but very, very deadly) pneumatic gun. Your Cross bow can double as a flamethrower, while your assault rifle does double duty as a limpet-mine projector. It gives the base guns a bit of flair, and being able to switch between all of these options adds a welcome bit of variety.
The Revolution also hosts a pretty competent, if barebones co-operative multiplayer mode that distils the core game in to a smaller, more focused experience. Six maps offer an hour or two of solid, co-op fun but there’s little to keep you coming back.
It’s such a pity the game is a technical disaster on the PlayStation 4 (and by accounts, other platforms) with the frame-rate regularly dropping below 20fps – and worse, grinding to a complete halt (yes, 0fps) whenever the game autosaves, which happens with jarring regularity. A frame-rate, however, can be fixed with patches – but the underdeveloped single-note characters, aloof tone-deaf look at politics and middling story are baked in there for good.
Last Updated: May 25, 2016