I don’t think there’s a single person on the planet who was super pumped for Homefront: The Revolution. A sort-of sequel/reboot of 2011’s largely forgettable CoD cash-in Homefront, Revolution was plagued with development issues and collapsing companies–announced following the original game’s release, Revolution traded hands first from THQ to Crytek after the former’s bankruptcy in 2012, then from Crytek to Deep Silver in 2014 after the latter underwent “internal restructuring.” One wouldn’t have been surprised if this unlucky title never saw the light of day. But here we are–it’s 2016, and the game that nobody really wanted is finally upon us. And, really, it’s not all that bad. No, really.
The only common thread that holds Homefront: The Revolution and its predecessor together is the storyline. It’s an alternate 2029, and North Korea has taken rule over a unified Korea, becoming a global superpower and seizing control over the United States via a huge national debt. If it wasn’t for that overarching idea, I see no reason why this game had to be prefixed with “Homefront” at all–it’s a name that doesn’t exactly hold all that much respect. In fact I worry whether or not this name might lower people’s expectations even further. It’s an interesting setting though, this idea of an occupied U.S., and one that opens up a lot of possibilities and the potential for a great atmosphere, however it’s never fully explored. What could’ve been a harrowing representation of an underground rebellion in Philadelphia is instead a largely grey, drab, forgettable cityscape filled with nameless civilians and very little to do.
That’s not really what you want from an open-world game. The world consists of two major areas: red and yellow zones. Red zones are essentially large, free-fire areas in which Resistance fighters and KPA (Korean People’s Army) soldiers fight back and forth with seemingly no consequence. You take strikepoints when you fancy it, Far Cry-esque, to get some more Resistance troops in an area, but that’s about all there is to do in the red zones. It’s not much. That said, it’s still a lot of fun–running around, trying to avoid firefights as the KPA troops are simply stronger than the player-character. This isn’t one of those games where you’re some unrealistic superhero or anything–the fact that you’re fighting in a revolution is always prevalent (except when your ammunition magically resupplies every time you visit a gun locker). Guerilla tactics come into play regularly as you need to avoid being outnumbered by the KPA, which will happen regularly if you’re not careful.
Yellow zones are far more unique to Homefront: The Revolution. They’re civilian populated areas supervised by KPA soldiers and security cameras, who’ll recognise you if you get too close. You need to weave in and out of civilians and behind obstacles to ensure the KPA have no clear line of sight on you. It’s a unique mechanic, until you realise that your time spent in these yellow zones will be just repeatedly changing the channel on radios, saving civilians from aggressive KPA officers, and sabotaging KPA equipment. That’s about it. The entire atmosphere never truly feels like a genuine revolution either, with lots of ham-fisted voice lines from civilians and cheesy graffiti popping up as you inspire the people to rise up. It all feels very shoehorned in and a little bit rushed. Again, however, yellow zones are still somewhat enjoyable. It’s a thrill running away from troops and hiding in a Portaloo, even though it might be a bit too easy to get away, and taking out a peacekeeper that’s about to kill a civilian with a perfect crossbow bolt is always fun.
There’s not much to do, though, so I found myself just ploughing through the main quest with little concern for much else. And, to be honest, it’s a fun, cheesy, overwrought romp. Maybe not the emotionally affecting portrayal of the United States in ruins that Dambuster might’ve been hoping for, but it was still fun. The supporting cast isn’t all that memorable, the voice acting is pretty mediocre, but the firefights are frantic, the guns are responsive and feel great to shoot, and combat genuinely requires foresight–you can’t just run at some KPA soldiers singing “America the Beautiful” and hope to come out alive. If you’re halfway through a mission and a firefight breaks out, you can either join in to help your Resistance allies, or just continue on your way, leading to some rather gorgeous gameplay moments that I would never have expected from a series like Homefront. It all makes for a high-quality open-world shooter, if you can get past the negatives.
There are still negatives I haven’t covered yet. I started two new games of Homefront: The Revolution. The first was on the medium difficulty. I got about two, two and a half hours in before I encountered a game-breaking bug (or at least, that’s what I assume it was) and had to start again. I was playing pre-release code–it happens, sadly. Not the end of the world. I start a new game on easy difficulty, hoping to get to where I was stuck and then change back to normal. Good good, I get there, and then realise I can’t change difficulty on the fly. Once you choose it at the start of the game, it’s stuck. Well, shit. Oh well, guess I’m playing it on easy. Revolution is not “buggy”–NPCs don’t get stuck in walls or anything like that. It’s poorly optimised, mind you, and not incredibly intuitive at times, but it runs. I had a couple more issues with key missions–another time, I had a similar problem as the first, and with no manual save states I had to restart again, this time from further on, and in one identify-and-assassinate mission there was no indication of the target I was meant to be killing. I had to watch a YouTube walkthrough of the mission, work out who my target was from that, kill him, and run away, before the game finally registered that I’d done something.
A lot of people probably would’ve just thrown in the towel altogether long before I did, but that’s more a testament to just how much I was enjoying the game for its cheap thrills than anything else.
Oh, and a headshot with a silenced pistol doesn’t one-shot kill even unarmoured targets. That was a waste of in-game currency (no, don’t panic, not microtransactions.)
There’s just a lot of potential that went unfulfilled. I know that every game has its limits, but certain features would’ve made this game an instant classic, at least for me. Destructible terrain would make the red zones absolutely breathtaking as they crumble while you go about your business, and lead for even more interesting vertical firefights. A little bit more colour apart from just the red hue of APEX (the Korean company that started the national debt) and the splotched blue paint left by Resistance members. Other than that, the vast majority of the areas you’ll visit are just grey. I couldn’t get a hang of weather cycles, it seemed to change from day to night to twilight whenever the hell it fancied it. You’d walk into a building during daylight, press a button, walk outside and it’s just pitch black.
Homefront: The Revolution is a game that didn’t really have to be made. No one would’ve been particularly upset if it just quietly vanished into a puff of smoke when THQ dissolved. That said, despite its issues–and boy, does it have issues–I’m glad it saw the light of day. I spent about 20 hours fighting my way through KPA troops and enjoyed the vast majority of it. I can’t comment on the multiplayer portion yet as I was on pre-release code and it’s not yet available on Steam, but honestly, if you’ve been looking for an open-world military shooter (and I can’t think of many others, truthfully,) then Homefront: The Revolution might just be for you. It’s pretty, engaging and, god forbid, fun. No, I didn’t expect it either.
“It was fun. Yes, it’s only a 6, and we’re getting in to the mediocre-range of numbers here, but anything rated a 6 was still enjoyed by the reviewer. It’s still got more going for it than going against it.”
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Homefront: The Revolution for PC.