Homefront: The Revolution Review -- Failing to Rouse the Hearts and Minds
Homefront: The Revolution
Review copy provided by the publisher
There is a lack of vision in Homefront: The Revolution. Not only is it sleep-inducing to play, but it also does not tell a tale worth putting up with hours of mediocre gameplay to see through to the end. There is very little that I can think of that was good about this title, and those points weren’t even related to the game running well on my Xbox One, which — by the way — it didn’t. Instead I ran into numerous technical problems, as well as a failure to find a reason to continue playing after the credits rolled.
You play a character named Brady, but as a silent protagonist have no say in what is going on, even when other characters address you directly. You don’t even shake your head — instead the other major characters look at you when a decision needs to be made, and then move on as if nothing happened. I generally don’t like silent protagonists; an empty vessel for the player to occupy is still an empty vessel devoid of any characteristics or agency in the world. When all you ever do is shoot things and kill people, it doesn’t leave anything a person can project themselves onto. It’s worse here because other characters will address you by name, however you fail to do or say anything in return. You are just the mute slave, doing as you are told.
The leaders of the resistance are Dana, a violent woman; Jack, the defacto leader; and Doctor Sam, the voice of reason. Dana’s character is the only one that gets interesting, with suggested events in her past causing her actions in the present. However this thread is never addressed and instead left up to the player’s interpretation of two lines of dialogue. Same can be said for Jack, whose character background is delivered via NPC dialogue and then never brought up. Instead he just serves as a plain military leader who plans things and talks to you over the radio. Meanwhile Doctor Sam only exists to offer arguments for not killing people and be ignored. His attempt to show you the consequences of the resistance’s actions lacks any emotional impact.
As a first person shooter, Homefront’s biggest sin is failing to have solid shooting mechanics. There is an aim assist for when you are looking down the sights but you can never be sure that it will actually work, snapping you to the nearest enemy. This wouldn’t be a problem if aiming worked well, but even the analog stick failed me. I was never confident that I could take down enemies with my guns since aiming and shooting, the basic fundamentals of FPS games, were unreliable and clunky. My character felt heavy when aiming down the sights, not bad in and of itself, however the sensitivity never felt correctly tuned to allow me the precision I desire.
Firing from the hip is also unreliable as there is no HUD indicator of where your bullets will travel. Instead, the only help you will get is in a laser sight attachment you have to purchase. Even then you might miss someone who just happens to be outside the invisible hit-box of your sub-machine gun.
There is a soft cover system, that requires the player to be crouched and facing a flat surface in front of them. You can blind fire or aim down sights for more precision. In one of the game’s stranger design choices, performing the latter action will not automatically place you back into cover once you finish shooting. Instead you are left standing and have to manually re-enter cover.
Something I did enjoy about the shooting was that at any point you can bring up a gun modification menu and swap out various sight, underbelly, and muzzle modifications for your weapon. You can even significantly modify it by turning it into a completely different weapon. The pistol can become a sub-machine gun, the assault rifle can turn into a light machine gun, and so on.
Motivation to play is a big problem as the missions you embark on are generally traveling from A to B, holding X over a piece of the world, blowing something up, or killing people. The side missions — likewise — are devoid of real variety. The pieces highlighted on the map are radios to tune into the resistance’s station, propaganda speakers to sabotage, red barrels to destroy, hidden caches of items, and key buildings on the map you have to capture. This set of goals are repeated throughout each section of the overworld, because the game isn’t even open world. Instead, you have an overall map of Philadelphia broken up into smaller sections that are just full of these smaller objectives.
Finding radios and caches will usually require you to climb up the side of a building, which can be frustrating because the game will sometimes not recognize your intent. I would jump in front of an open window and the game wouldn’t recognize that it meant I wanted to exit the building.
Clearing out key buildings of enemies is a chore. You usually want to sneak around and stealth kill enemies because the gunplay is so boring, but (this shouldn’t be a shocker) stealth is equally as boring. Enemies have terrific vision, meaning the small meter that will appear on your HUD to illustrate how aware the enemy is of you fills abnormally fast. Once the enemy sees you, more will spawn, and you will have to engage in the clunky gameplay. One of the only clever instances of the outposts is when powering up a terminal. In order to complete a specific takeover, I was required to drive a bike up to the second level of the outhpost and rev the engine in a makeshift generator. It was clever, but underutilized and never built upon.
The overworld’s segments are broken up by tunnels which are just excuses for the loading screens that happens in between these portions of the world. Each section is cramped, but filled with the aforementioned side missions.
In yellow zones, which just means its not an open warzone yet, you also have additional pop ups for building the “hearts and minds” of the people in that district. These consist of killing KPA soldiers, killing KPA officials, and the same map targets from every other section of the overworld. Some sections attempt to switch things up visually; instead of a war torn district you’re in a war torn downtown district, or in one that has deadly gas. Even then the gas isn’t a part of gameplay, as you just put on a mask at the beginning and take it off when you leave. Enemy visuals will change a little, as KPA archetypes will now be in bodysuits complete with oxygen tanks on their backs.
Homefront is in desperate need of more enemy variety too, since they can be broken down to four types: sniper, assault rifle, shotgun, and heavy LMG. Drones will often appear as well, with two variations: the flying version that does nothing, and the vehicle drone that shocks the player for some damage. The vehicle version of the drones is susceptible to hacks which will temporarily turn it against the KPA and help out a bit during firefights before reverting back to a hostile.
The hack tools you use to turn drones against the enemy is part of the crafting menu, which uses some rudimentary materials you gather to create a remote hack, a Molotov cocktail, an explosive, or a distraction. Each has the same variation that are unlocked with special Resistance points: a proximity version, a remote version, and an RC car version. None of these are necessary for combat, as I never used the distraction tool, and used the proximity explosive once on a heavy LMG soldier who was slowly making his way towards me.
Expanding your character’s capabilities means you will be spending both money and special points for weapons, upgrades, attachments, gear, and consumables. You can sell valuables for money, but the amount you receive is so small its nearly insignificant unless you want to purchase some low level consumables for crafting. Instead you will want to focus on completing missions for the big bucks, which is then used to buy more weapons, more attachments for weapons, and gear that increases your characters abilities. Despite these gear upgrades, even after I purchased the armor that improved my damage resistance I was still dying just as much as before.
Performance on the Xbox One is poor. The game is far from stunning with its graphics, as the color palette is unimpressive, textures are decent but nothing to admire, and character models swap between robotic stiffness and overeacted waving of arms. I understand that having someone who is constantly in motion as they speak shows energy, but real people are not waving their arms in grand gestures every time they speak.
Whenever the autosave kicks in, the game will just freeze what you are doing for several seconds before starting up again. This happens frequently whether you are mid-mission, mid-firefight, or just while walking around. Straight to the point, it gets in the way of actually playing the game. Many times character models would clip through the environment or fail to find their way in the world. Once a NPC was just levitating a few feet in the air, engaging in their idle animation like nothing was wrong.
Two times the game just stopped working and required me to restart the software. Once was when I attempted to load into my save game (while livestreaming) and it sat at the loading screen for a time that was obnoxious even for Homefront. I restarted the game’s software and it returned to normal. The second instance was near the finale where a cutscene ends and the game loads me into a black screen. The audio was still working and I could hear my character react when I moved and jumped or switched weapons, but all I could see on-screen was black. So I restarted the checkpoint and it did it again after the cutscene. So instead I restarted the game itself and it returned to normal.
Thematically, the game is shallow. The premise is interesting, with an alterate history where technology was jumpstarted not in Silicon Valley but in North Korea. They basically created Apple, got an economic boom from it, and began selling us advanced military technology. Eventually our debt became so great that we couldn’t repay it, so they turned off our weapons through a backdoor that was installed on every piece of military hardware. They did this on July 4th, just to drive the patriotism home.
Invading under the guise of giving aid, the KPA took over the country, though for what reason? Does taking over the United States lead to getting their money back? Or did they just want to rule over more land full of people who either actively fight them or live as homeless people contributing nothing? While I like the premise and the way it is presented at the very beginning, it goes nowhere with it. Instead we are given undeveloped stereotypes to work with as the silent protagonist.
Multiplayer is a forgettable affair, carrying over all the same problems that plague the single player: bad shooting mechanics, a lack of variety in objectives and enemies, except now you can do it with random people or friends. There are very few missions and maps, and even the skill tree and randomized loot aspect aren’t interesting enough to make this worth your time.
There is simply not a lot to like about Homefront: The Revolution. It is hard to divorce this game from the development hell it has been through, which is even acknowledged at the opening of the credits. Having gone from THQ, to Crytek, to now Deep Silver, this was a game plagued by development teams that stopped working before it was finished. Despite all of their work, the game does nothing worthwhile, and isn’t something I would recommend to anyone.