Homefront: The Revolution Review
North Korea has invaded Philadelphia and protagonist Ethan Brady combines forces with the local resistance movement to drive back the forces of oppression so that once again America can be called the Land of the Free. Check out this Homefront: The Revolution review for our verdict on Dambuster Studios’ attempt at reviving a franchise we all thought dead in the water.
I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of the original Homefront. It was a mediocre game with an interesting concept and game mechanics that lacked any real conviction but with open world games truly beginning to flourish – the idea of immersing myself in a Red Dawn-style scenario in a Korean occupied America is something I couldn’t pass up. The game takes place in a district-divided Philadelphia (so not really open world at all) occupied by Korean forces with a small cell of Resistance fighters driving to inspire the populace to rise up and fight for freedom. The opening cinematic sets the tone perfectly and truly creates the feeling that America is in dying need of a revolution – and you’re the one to make it happen.
That’s a mere few minutes into the game…. and that’s the best it gets. Given the opportunity I’d strip away the game itself and just bundle a few of the cut-scenes together with some meaningful narrative and pitch it as a short movie. The premise was set, the atmospheric design of the game world and individual districts is great, but it all crumbles to nothing within a few hours. Despite the obvious effort to create a believable and realistic occupied state of America, Homefront: The Revolution’s potential to be a worthwhile experience is all but washed away thanks to a huge list of technical problems, poor AI, bugs, glitches and broken missions.
It only takes a few minutes of play for the more serious problems to emerge. Homefront: The Revolution wants to make sure you don’t become frustrated and annoyed at repeating specific segments of the game so it automatically saves your progress at every possible opportunity. Each time you interact with a weapons cache, any time your mission objective is updated, reaching a new area, introducing a new mechanic, it saves as much as possible. That wouldn’t be a problem if the game didn’t completely freeze for 2-3 seconds during every save. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of important dialogue or fighting for your very survival, if the game decides to save your progress you’ll be waiting that 2-3 seconds for it to unfreeze so you can continue.
After a few hours I found myself intentionally avoiding anything that could potentially result in the game saving my progress just to avoid smashing my face into the TV screen. Purchasing new weapons, upgrading attachments, discovering new locations, I avoided it all as much as possible just to have a smooth experience. Although sadly the automatic saving isn’t the only performance problem.
I don’t expect my PlayStation 4 to perform at the level of a top gaming PC but I do at least expect a playable frame rate, something that the game could not deliver on multiple occasions. Several times during the 15 hour campaign I found myself struggling to survive because the frame rate dropped well below the minimum expectations of 30FPS. It’s not something prevalent towards the latter parts of the campaign but early on, it’s definitely a problem.
Building on the technical shortfalls are a myriad of bugs, poor AI and other elements that completely destroy any hope of keeping yourself immersed in the experience. I was scouting an enemy stronghold from a distance before attempting to make my move, carefully scanning the perimeter for enemy movements and patterns. Imagine my surprise when two of the soldiers suddenly became less of a threat as they walked aimlessly off the ledge of a high platform and vanished. This was topped only by a mission towards the end of the campaign where I was tasked with escorting a SAM turret on the back of a truck – a truck that was completely stopped in its tracks by a single cardboard box. It was obvious the AI driver was frustrated as he refused to reverse, drive round, or otherwise avoid the box and instead continued to floor the accelerator thus halting my progress and forcing me to reload a previous chapter.
Upon my return to the poorly trained Resistance driver I was relieved to discover the box had disappeared. Eager to continue with my progress I once again marched ahead in this vital mission…only for the damn truck to get stuck on yet another prop – this time the remains of a military Humvee. Several minutes of cursing at my TV, followed by every possible effort to manipulate the situation with any explosives I had in my possession resulted once again in reloading a past chapter – which eventually fixed the problem nearly 2 hours after my first attempt at starting the mission.
Any of these problems alone would be a minor annoyance, something I could overlook and forgive in an industry pressured to deliver results time and time again but hours of constantly fighting the same bugs and glitches, it was too much. The entire experience felt like a relentless assault intent on forcing me to utilize the disc in some form of outdoor sport.
Opting against using the game as a poor and rather dangerous Frisbee I did manage to complete the campaign and the game isn’t entirely barren of some good ideas – although again executed in a way that was frustrating and counter intuitive. Upgrading guns with various attachments made the combat more enjoyable – although that was mostly because of the ridiculous level of recoil on all the default weapons. But even the weapon customization features became frustrating and needlessly time consuming. Instead of simply attaching a grenade launcher to an assault rifle you completely detach the top half of the weapon and replace it with the modification – totally removing the weapons original function. As if that wasn’t bizarre enough, if you decided to revert back and remove the grenade launcher modification, you’d have to individually place every attachment back on the original weapon every time.
So, deciding against wasting my time replacing attachments in the heat of battle I just stuck with the assault rifle and a few accessories. It didn’t really offer a lot of variety but it was enough to deal with the majority of the objectives throughout the game – another element that felt poorly executed. In a very Ubisoft-esque style way each district is home to mini-objectives that must be completed in order to win the hearts and minds of its inhabitants – but these very quickly become repetitive and predictable.
Reach a new district, turn on some radios, take down a couple of strongholds, save a few civilians, rinse and repeat. Thankfully there’s often shortcuts to complete these objectives although I’m not entirely sure that’s even a positive. You can save a civilian from an overly aggressive guard, go to a safe house, and then return to see the exact same guard – and the exact same civilian – in the exact same place – doing the exact same thing. Rescue the civilian a few times and it provides rewards every time.
The more challenging objectives, such as assaulting an enemy stronghold filled with well trained and well equipped soldiers, appear to offer more of a challenge on the surface but more often than not, they don’t. You can run straight into the stronghold avoiding all the enemies, turn a wheel and claim it for the Resistance, resulting in all of the enemies disappearing without a trace.
Homefront: The Revolution is a collection of good ideas ruined by a rushed release, lack of polish and hugely disappointing technical performance.