Synopsis: Homefront: The Revolution throws players into a near future dystopia. Catastrophic events have brought the United States to its knees and enabled the Korean People’s Army forces to impose a brutal military occupation. Trapped in this American nightmare, Philadelphia has become a police state, where surveillance drones and armored patrols keep her once-proud citizens at heel, crushing any dissent with totalitarian force.
Developer: Deep Silver, Dambuster Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Homefront: The Revolution is a follow up from 2011’s Homefront but is in fact more of a reboot than a direct sequel. The game, and the IP, was originally owned by THQ. THQ funded the sequel and tasked Crytek UK, formerly Free Radical, with developing it. The publisher then went bankrupt and was forced to sell the IP. Deep Silver later picked it up later and bought Crytek UK, following financial trouble at Crytek which caused developers to go without pay for months, and definitely affected the game’s development schedule.
Considering the development troubles the game has experienced, it’s actually surprising that it turned out to be as good as it is. In Homefront: The Revolution, You play as one Ethan Brady, the new-to-the-fight resistance fighter under the leadership of Benjamin Walker, the resistance leader and seemingly the only man who can persuade the masses to join the fight. During a raid, you’re moments away from being executed from a traitorous interrogator when Walker comes to your rescue, only to end up being captured himself. The loss of Walker is immediately felt by the resistance and the public and you’re tasked with assisting in the daring mission to rescue Walker from the hands of the KPA.
The main portion of the game is the single-player story mode. Homefront: The Revolution adopts what I would call a “Semi-Open World” in which you complete various tasks. If you’ve played a Far Cry game of late, then you might be familiar with the style of missions that you would be doing in Homefront: The Revolution. Of course, you have the main story missions but it’s reckless to simply ignore the side-missions such as capturing Strike Points or other objectives since these not only grant you rewards to further yourself but also contribute to your taking back of Philadelphia.
So, what does Homefront: The Revolution have going for it vs Far Cry? The answer is that this time it’s personal. You’re not fighting off in some foreign land, the fight is on the “homefront” (pardon the pun) and that’s what makes missions and side-missions in Homefront feel more satisfying and meaningfull compared to a game like Far Cry where such tasks feel more mundane.
In the beginning, you’re dropped straight into what the game calls the “Red Zone”. Red Zones are war torn areas of the city where the devastation of the ‘invasion’ is most apparent. Packed with devastating airships, Omnipresent drones, packs of soldiers and enemy strongholds, this is an area where the guerilla fighters are putting up the fight. Gas leakages are aplenty and buildings are largely destroyed. It’s a fitting place to start the ‘revolution’ and metaphorically illustrates the rising from the bottom, the downtrodden to your journey of taking back your home.
Guerilla warfare is absolutely front and centre in Homefront; compared to the hugely advanced weaponry of the KPA, you’re hopelessly outmatched. This rules out any type of a direct war, instead, you take the fight to the KPA battle by battle, fight by fight, as you take small victories or small defeats in pursuit of the ultimate goal of reclaiming Philadelphia and pushing out KPA forces. Feel like you’re surrounded and vulnerable? You are. You will die, you will be forced to evade, but the sandbox nature of the game means you can always try different approaches and different tactics, which makes for some truly enjoyable moments.
The moment-to-moment gunplay definitely has its faults in that it doesn’t feel as smooth and as natural as many other FPS games and Homefront’s guns generally feel quite loose and lacking accuracy due to excess recoil. There’s one thing however that is really intriguing and unique to Homefront: The Revolution: with a press of the up directional button you can fully customize the weapon you currently have equipped, all on the fly. Want to modify your Assault Rifle into a Grenade Launcher completely on-the-fly? You’re free to do so. Each individual modification can be fully customized, so if you’ve got the parts – which you can find from scavenging or purchasing through weapon vendors then you have autonomy in equipping your arsenal to your style.
In another similarity to Far Cry, you’re also tasked with hacking ‘Transceivers’ in order to reveal smaller objectives on your map. After a hacking style that is similar to the Batman Arkham games, you’ve hacked transceivers to use to the Revolution’s advantage. However, some aren’t as easy as others. In fact, one that intrigued me was one where you had to power up a generator by revving up a motorbike in order to generate power to the back-up generator. It’s quite a common feature of open-world games nowadays but but certainly fits well in the urban environment.
One of the more annoying style of missions were the “Hearts and Minds” missions in which you were forced to complete various repetitive objectives in order to fill a bar up to 100%. These are designed to help rally that zone’s inhabitants behind the resistance to create a distraction but they’re very time-consuming and repetitive. These include changing radio frequencies, helping citizens who are being held prisoner or abused by KPA soldiers, and sabotaging pieces of equipment/vehicles. Each objective you complete incrementally adds to the Hearts and Minds bar at which point you have the people behind you and the resistance.
The positive side of Hearts and Minds however is the introduction into the yellow zones. When you first enter this zone, you walk into a shanty town that displays the true despair of the foreign invasion. One yellow zone feels like a ghetto, something you might have seen in Nazi-controlled Germany during the and before the outbreak of WW2. In this Ghetto area, you have a bit more liberty in taking out KPA soldiers because the defences aren’t so high in such a downtrodden area but when you progress to a more refined neighbourhood area, any attacks on your behalf will result in a massive manhunt that are often very hard to avoid.
One of the best features then of Homefront: The Revolution is how it captures atmosphere. Between the war-torn Red Zone, the Ghetto/Neighbourhood Yellow Zone and the Upper Class Green Zone, you get a unique insight into how different areas and how different class types might find themselves living under a foreign invasion. Having never been to Philadelphia myself, I’m unable to judge just how well the game resembles its architecture and style, but the city seems impressively realistic and atmospheric. The attention to details is apparent with locale ranging from domestic, almost comfortable-looking building interiors to streets strewn with rubbish and rubble.
Graphically, the game is visually pleasing and is definitely taking advantage of next-gen (or is it current gen?) hardware. While the drab colours of the war-torn Red Zones may be less aesthetically pleasing, the juxtaposition of night time and bright neon signs and propaganda broadcasts provides an eerily pleasing image in terms of the visual style of the game. One issue that I encountered was the texture pop-in which at times proved to be somewhat distracting during cutscenes and moment-to-moment gameplay.
Overall, the general story can sometime be a hit or a miss, with some scenes really drawing me further into the world while others completely disengaged me. The characters are fine and some even have unique personalities but their development is never taken very far. The protagonist (Ethan) never speaks in the game, which is something that I’m generally not much of a fan of since it disengages me from the story in my personal experiences. There are often moments that seem very much like 1984’s Red Dawn or 2012’s film of the same name, both of which I’m a fan of and I feel that there was a lot of potential that wasn’t fully realized in the finished game.
Homefront’s ‘multiplayer’ co-op mode surprisingly has a lot more potential than my experience in the beta had made me believe. Although it feels a little underwhelming and lacking in content right now, a mix of paid and free DLC should remedy that. It’s basically a co-op mode where you can play six different game missions with up to four of your friends at three different difficulty settings. In this mode, you can create a unqiue character, choose a profession to gain a perk, and equip him or her with the loadout that best suits your style of play, such as assault rifle, shotgun, or battle rifle. As you play missions, you earn currency that you can use to buy loot crates that contain a wide variety of different items, from new weapons, boosters, consumables, gear parts and cosmetic upgrades. It’s a system that’s been used in many modern games and works fairly well here, providing a good balance between the fairness of the loot boxes. The downside with the co-op mode currently is the lack of diversity in the missions, once you’ve ran the missions a few times, they become to feel like a massive ‘grind’ and all but removes the enjoyment from the mode in its current state.
Technical Glitches and Other Issues
The frame-rate and animation issues that plagued the beta version of the game are nowhere near as bad in the final game than they were in the beta but it’s safe to say this must have left a bad taste in the mouths of some. That’s not to say that the performance is perfect in the final game; it’s not. The Xbox One version that I played is apparently the ‘best’ console version currently because it suffers less from performance issues, possibly as a result of the 900p resolution vs. PS4’s 1080p output but the frame rate didn’t feel game-breaking, even at it’s worst on motorbike journeys but it was definitely noticeable and a nuisance to say the least. I also ran into smaller glitches such as the frame rate dropping to zero for a couple of seconds after saving, animation glitches with the motorcycle, parkour glitches, missions not progressing and it was disappointing to run into these, especially at times when I was really getting engrossed in the game.
Writing in a post on the game’s official forum, community manager Craig Turner admitted the game was not yet at its best.
“We’re aware that performance – particularly frame rate – is not currently where we want it to be, and we are working on additional patches to help address these issues and more,” Turner explained.
“Patch notes per platform will be available on the community forums and on Steam when they go live.”
In the end credits for Homefront: The Revolution, developer Dambuster left a touching message acknowledging the game’s troubled development. The message is forwarded by studio head Hansit Zala. It reads, “Homefront: The Revolution has been in development for just over four years, and as some of you may be aware, the path has not always been a smooth one.
“Several reboots, the original publisher going into liquidation, the development studio changing ownership… I could go on. Thankfully, throughout all these difficult times, key people have kept faith and believe in the IP and the team’s ability to deliver a quality game, and I would especially like to acknowledge Klemens Kundratitz’ and Huw Beynon’s unwavering support, without which this game and this studio would not exist.
“Finally, for all of you that have enjoyed playing the game, I promise you – this is just the beginning.”