Aurvana ANC Noise-Cancelling Headphones Review

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Noise pollution and creativity don’t mix well. There’s nothing more frustrating than attempting to work on the go while surrounded by constant distractions. On the plus side, such scenario creates the perfect opportunity for analysing Creative Labs’ latest Aurvana ANC Noise-Cancelling Headphones. So how does this headset compete with the frenzied chatter of early-morning Starbucks patrons? Let’s find out!

Creative Labs is no stranger to sleek presentation. The Aurvana ANC headphones are beautifully designed, and their luxurious appearance carries over to the accompanying carrying case. The case makes it easy to transport the headset anywhere as it’s built to withstand quite a beating. The matte black/blue palette combined with the silvery earcup plate ensures the headphones appear inconspicuous when on the go. After all, wearing flashy headphones in public isn’t practical.


"Creative Labs is no stranger to sleek presentation. The Aurvana ANC headphones are beautifully designed, and their luxurious appearance carries over to the accompanying carrying case."

For a headset of this size and weight, the 40mm drivers deliver a substantial punch. Music sounds rich and deep, and the audio performance is powerful enough to handle action-heavy video games with surprising results. The frequency channel-balance impresses regardless of how extreme the tonal shifts are. Minute details can be heard as clearly as the thunderous bass. Most importantly, Aurvana’s 87% active noise cancellation provides further sound clarity when the (ANC) switch is enabled. 

I’ve used plenty of noise cancelling headphones in my lifetime, and I can confidently say that Aurvana’s active noise cancellation technology rivals some of the best models on the market. That is as long as you know what to expect from noise cancellation technology. New users expecting a miracle might be disappointed to know that even the best noise-cancelling headphones don’t  work like earplugs. Having said that, Aurvana subdues enough noise to prevent surrounding disturbances from impacting your listening experience.


"In the end, the Aurvana ANC Noise-Cancelling Headphones are a great piece of tech completely let down by the absence of a volume control knob."

Aurvana’s biggest issue, however, is the lack of a volume knob. Sure, there is a switch to mute the volume/mic, but no knob to actually tune the volume. This alone may impact people’s purchasing decision, and frankly, it would likely be the only reason I’d personally seek another model if given the choice. I honestly feel that this is a devastating mistake on the engineers’ part, and I can’t wrap my head around the possible reasoning behind this silly decision. It’s like asking a car owner to use an external gas pedal if they want to control their speed. It’s 2016 people! Don’t exclude basic and essential functions from tech products. 

In the end, the Aurvana ANC Noise-Cancelling Headphones are a great piece of tech completely let down by the absence of a volume control knob. While this may not be an issue for some people, the whole point of on-the-go headphones is to provide portability and accessibility. But, if your only concern is effective noise cancellation and quality audio performance, the Aurvana don’t disappoint! 

Review by: Tin Salamunic

B

SteelSeries Apex M500 Review

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We’re not strangers to SteelSeries at this site. We’ve reviewed plenty of their products including everything from headphones to keyboards and we’ve come to expect a certain bar of quality from SteelSeries. Today we’re going to look at the M500 which is part of the Apex line of keyboards, and the quality of this device is certainly in line with a lot of the other SteelSeries products we’ve reviewed. SteelSeries markets the M500 as a “tournament-grade backlit mechanical gaming keyboard” which is a bit of a mouthful. But what exactly does the hundred-dollar price point get you, and how does the M500 compare to the previously reviewed M800? Let’s take a look at where the M500 fits into the Apex lineup. 

Upon opening the stellar packaging the first thing users will notice is the M500’s minimal design. There are no flashy bells and whistles, there’s not any extra space in its layout. There are no volume knobs, brushed aluminum surfaces, or overtly contoured keys. Instead users will find the M500 to be a compact black keyboard that focuses on practicality over extravagance. We’ve seen comparable designs by companies like Corsair with their K70 or Razer’s BlackWidow, but the M500 feels more comfortable and its priced more aggressively than the aforementioned comparisons. Everything from the pressure required per keystroke to the spacing between keys just feels good, making it an optimal choice for both everyday use and gaming. The versatility of the keyboard definitely extends beyond just gaming, and part of that is due to its minimalism.


"Instead users will find the M500 to be a compact black keyboard that focuses on practicality over extravagance."

Let’s talk about some of the prominent features of the M500 aside from its practicality: Cherry MX keys, full anti-ghosting N-Key Rollover, and extreme durability. Most mid-range mechanical gaming keyboards boast the quality of their Cherry MX Keys. Hardcore gamers are familiar with them and Cherry’s proven technology is an industry standard for a reason. What a lot of them may not feature is N-Key Rollover. The anti-ghosting on the M500 is no joke. It’s amongst the best I’ve encountered and it supports true N-Key Rollover via USB which is fantastic, no need for PS2 input. I tested the keyboard over a period of a month with a variety of games like Dota 2, Overwatch, Counter-Strike, Doom, Fallout 4, and The Culling.

Not once did I run into a situation where my keys ghosted, either in the traditional sense or otherwise. Not one false key input was logged and any mistakes were entirely my own fault. I even used the Microsoft Applied Sciences Group’s tools designed to detect keyboard ghosting and it definitely confirmed that not one false keystroke was detected. Impressive.


"Not once did I run into a situation where my keys ghosted, either in the traditional sense or otherwise. Not one false key input was logged and any mistakes were entirely my own fault."

Considering durability is such a marketing point for SteelSeries in regards to the M500 I decided to put it to the test purposefully dropping it outside… on concrete… from a height of about 6 feet (what a madman!). Aside from an impact blemish on the left corner people honestly wouldn’t even be able to tell the keyboard had been dropped, and the keyboard still works flawlessly. The hard alloy shell is lighter and more durable than traditional aluminum, and the steel plate in the back of the keyboard protects it from any additional wear and tear while serving as the foundation that keeps everything held together so solidly. I wouldn’t dare try a test like that with any other keyboards, especially my cherished M800.


"That being said, the M500 is probably the best option I’ve encountered for a mid-range gaming keyboard. You really can’t beat the build quality, performance, and design."

Speaking of the M800, how does the M500 stack up? Well, as it turns out they’re kind of hard to compare. Both the M500 and the M800 shine in entirely different circumstances. Sure, they’re both marketed towards hardcore gamers, but the M800 strives to innovate while the M500 creates a new pillar of quality from tried and true technologies. Both of them feature a wealth of customizability options due to the SteelSeries Engine 3, both of them are comfortable enough for everyday use while making gaming a breeze. I still prefer my M800 because of the color options, lack of “click” which each keypress, and low-profile keys, but the price point for the M800 creates a barrier of entry that may not be accessible to all gamers, while the M500 remains modestly priced packing immense value.

That being said, the M500 is probably the best option I’ve encountered for a mid-range gaming keyboard. You really can’t beat the build quality, performance, and design. One thing is for sure: if you’re looking anywhere other than SteelSeries for gaming keyboards, you’re looking in the wrong place. These folks are the epitome of comfortable, practical peripherals and the Apex M500 adheres to that standard flawlessly. 

Review by: Palmer Sturman

A+

Edifier e255 Review

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If you walk into a room brimming with top audio manufacturers and their devices, there’s no doubt your attention would quickly turn to Edifier and their unique approach to product design. One can argue that Edifier’s craftsmanship serves as the industry standard for aesthetic innovation among audio hardware engineers today. One can also argue that Edifier’s latest e255 active speaker system, a surround sound version of the superb Luna Eclipse HD speakers, is the company's finest accomplishment to date.

The Edifier e255 surround sound system is an artistic marvel. It’s a piece of tech that doesn’t shy away from breaking norms. Who needs old-fashioned, boxy speakers when Edifier’s futuristic “eggs” provide so much more flexibility for differently sized entertainment setups. Whether you live in a 5000 sq ft villa or a 400 sq ft apartment, the audio performance is phenomenal across both wide and narrow spaces. 

One thing to note is that the Edifier e255 system isn’t advised for audiophiles due to a lack of HDMI support, which is necessary for lossless surround PCM audio. Its optical connections are limited to compressed Digital Dolby and DTS, as well Dolby Pro Logic II for converting stereo to 5.1 surround. You can only get lossless stereo PCM via optical, but that’s rather pointless considering that this is a multi-speaker setup.


"One can also argue that Edifier’s latest e255 active speaker system, a surround sound version of the superb Luna Eclipse HD speakers, is the company's finest accomplishment to date."

Having said that, the audio performance is far beyond what’s normally expected from a compressed signal—not to mention wireless Bluetooth connectivity. I’ve been testing audio hardware for a few years now, and to put things in perspective, the e255 has the most impressive Bluetooth audio delivery to date. I have about half a dozen active Bluetooth devices laying around the same area as the e255, yet the audio signal has never been affected by distortions. So far, I’ve clocked at least 75-80 hours with the e255, and I never experienced a single audio hiccup—not a single time.

The 255’s powerful drivers deliver crystal clear detail and depth, and manual decibel adjustments for each speaker allow for more balanced volumetric shifts between quiet whispers and loud explosions. The audio is top-notch without the need for advanced calibrating. This makes the system perfect for users who seek high-end audio performance, but don’t have the technical know-how when it comes to advanced audio tuning.


"The 255’s powerful drivers deliver crystal clear detail and depth, and manual decibel adjustments for each speaker allow for more balanced volumetric shifts between quiet whispers and loud explosions."

Unboxing the Edifier e255 system is just as exciting as hearing its sound for the first time. Each speaker is wrapped in a protective cloth, and there’s a sense of grandeur and luxury when revealing the spherical design for the first time. Typical speakers are much larger and made out of wood to improve acoustics, but Edifiers engineers have found a way to preserve the audio fidelity while completely redefining long-standing speaker design standards. 

During my testing, I’ve set up the system in three different environments: a large, open space equivalent to a medium-sized conference room, a larger gaming room/office where the speakers are placed close the listening area, as well as a typical living-room environment with speakers placed around 6 feet away from the center listening area. With some careful speaker positioning, it’s possible to achieve balanced audio performance regardless of room size and speaker placement. As expected, the larger space provides a little more room for the audio to spread, but the sound clarity at lower volumes and within tighter spaces is what truly sets the e255 from other surround systems. 

The center speaker is the heart of the system. Front left and right speakers are connected directly to the center speaker, while everything else links up wirelessly once the Bluetooth signal goes live. This makes the setup process more liberating. As long as there are enough power outlets for each speaker, you can really play around with creative positioning without worrying about running out of wires. There are three optical inputs and a 3.5 mm audio input in the back of the center speaker. For testing purposes, I decided to stick with optical only as it delivers superior audio quality and will most likely be the go-to connection for the average user.


"Even without uncompressed PCM, the Edifier e255 delivers DTS with impressive precision and clarity."

Since all of my media apps are on PS4, I decided to use Sony’s console for most of my testing. Video games are great for pushing a system’s surround capabilities, especially competitive titles where audio locationing is imperative for success. Like everyone else lately, I’ve been obsessively playing Overwatch and figured it’d be the best way to get a taste of what the e255 offers. Five minutes into the game, and my way of playing the game changed entirely. Overwatch in surround sound is an otherworldly experience. 

Even without uncompressed PCM, the Edifier e255 delivers DTS with impressive precision and clarity. I personally prefer DTS due to lower compression and better surround balancing, but whether you choose DTS or Dolby Digital, you’re in for a real treat. The Overwatch audio engineers have implemented carefully tuned audio cues that only become apparent once a proper sound system is in place. Enemy footsteps, for example, are heavier and louder than your team’s, and being able to differentiate the running weight between characters during a heated fight is inexplicably helpful in a game like this.


"Shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones sound marvelous in surround. The e255 system makes Ramin Djawadi’s iconic soundtrack even more impactful and mesmerizing."

Little details like this stand out regardless of what game I throw at the e255. The Witcher 3 is another great example of a transformative experience. When you’re out in the wild, you can hear the grass crunching underneath your boot, you can hear the wind cutting through trees, and most importantly, you can hear wild beasts rummaging in the distance, giving you a better window of opportunity to prepare your potions and gear.

When it comes to movies and TV shows, things get a little trickier when testing because the surround-sound quality isn’t solely depended on hardware, but rather how much effort the creators’ put into balancing the different channels. Shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones sound marvelous in surround. The e255 system makes Ramin Djawadi’s iconic soundtrack even more impactful and mesmerizing. 

When watching Raising Hope on Netflix, on the other hand, the center speaker carries most of the weight. The audio, particularly the dialogue, is too centered and makes the show sound more hollow compared to audio mixed to 2.1 channels. This isn’t a speaker criticism, but a surround-sound criticism in general. It’s an issue a lot of audio connoisseurs face, and it’s a problem that’s been plaguing the industry for decades. I decided to have a little fun with the settings, and found that the e255’s Dolby Pro Logic II feature can be used to mitigate the problem. Since Pro Logic II creates 5.1 channels from a 2.1 channel signal, I changed the console audio source to 2.1 PCM, and then enabled the Pro Logic II to split the audio across all the speakers. In a way, this partially fixes the problem with center-heavy audio in certain media. While the surround accuracy doesn’t translate as well, it still sounds better when watching media where the surround sound implementation is handled sloppily.


"Since Pro Logic II creates 5.1 channels from a 2.1 channel signal, I changed the console audio source to 2.1 PCM, and then enabled the Pro Logic II to split the audio across all the speakers. In a way, this partially fixes the problem with center-heavy audio in certain media."

While the Edifier e255 doesn’t boast advance equalizer settings, it’s packed with a handful of neat surround modes when Digital Dolby Pro Logic II is engaged. You can choose between music, movie, emul, matrix, virt and game modes. Each setting is designed to convert stereo to surround differently based on the media. For the most part, the labels are self explanatory. Music mode, for example, makes you feel like you’re surrounded by the performers. Movie mode increases the dynamic range, which makes explosions and action scenes particularly loud.


"If you’re someone who’s seeking practicality without any sacrifice in sound performance, the Edifier e255 is the most luxurious-yet-affordable option for surround sound in 2016."

The quirky Matrix setting, on the other hand, splits all audio evenly across every speaker, making it seem like you’re entirely enveloped by whatever you’re watching. While this setting doesn’t work well in movies and TV shows, it’s a fantastic feature for nature documentaries.  Game mode is equivalent to Scout Mode found in most surround sound headsets, but I’m still not sure I can see a benefit ( or much difference for that matter) between the emulation and virtual modes. But aside from these two settings, I found the other presets to be surprisingly useful when switching between different content on TV. 

It’s been about two weeks since I installed the Edifier e255 in our office, and I can’t  imagine using any other audio device for our gaming and movie testing going forward. The lack of 5.1 PCM support is definitely a big letdown for audiophiles, but if you’re someone who’s seeking practicality without any sacrifice in sound performance, the Edifier e255 is the most luxurious-yet-affordable option for surround sound in 2016.




Review by: Tin Salamunic 

A

Plex Announces First All-In-One Plex Box with NVIDIA SHIELD

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Today, Plex announced some significant news from both a consumer offering, as well as a tech advancement that offers an even greater (and easier) experience for organizing and streaming your personal media collections. In short, Plex is heading toward the mainstream.

Coming in late June, people will be able to use the popular Android TV entertainment device, NVIDIA SHIELD, as a Plex Media Server, which means you no longer need an always-on, dedicated PC, Mac or NAS to use Plex (although it still works great with these!). Already used by millions of people, this new development is a step toward serving a more mass audience. SHIELD will offer the easiest, most simple way to use Plex to-date and opens up the appeal of the service beyond the group that feels comfortable running a PC/Mac or NAS 24/7. This is the first all-in-one Plex box that combines the power of the Plex Media Server with superior playback capabilities, such as supporting 4K video at 60fps, and it can even support multiple simultaneous streams. Not only does this come pre-installed, it’s free to use, just like all other Plex Android TV apps.

Plex is already available on more than 40 platforms, including SHIELD, but the technology accomplishment of turning this device into a Plex server for an even greater entertainment experience cannot be overlooked.

Rewind DVDCompare - Interview with Cinemassacre’s James Rolfe, Mike Matei, and Bootsy

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Unless you've been living under a rock, you're probably come across one of AVGN's hilarious let's-plays of terrible, old games. James Rolfe, aka The Angry Video Game Nerd, has become a Youtube phenomenon since the channel's launch in 2006. Together with Mike Matei and Bootsy, James and his crew quickly rose to cult status among gamers, and their work has inspired some of the biggest gaming YouTube personalities today.

Our good friend from Rewind DVDCompare, James-Masaki Ryan, recently had the opportunity to interview the entire Cinemassacre team. The interview covers the team's entire history - what inspired the crew when they were younger, how they got started and the many challenges they faced as their popularity grew...and most importantly, there's plenty of talk about games, movies and the challenges movie collectors face when trying to find the right versions of their favorite films. You can read the full interview on Rewind's site

Creative iRoar Rock Review

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Every tech enthusiast faces a similar dilemma when new, innovative products hit the market: “Do I really need this latest piece of tech, or do I just want it?” It’s the kind of question you’ll face when trying to decide whether Creative Labs’ latest iRoar Rock, a subwoofer addon for the superb iRoar, is an immediate necessity. The Creative iRoar is a stunning-sounding speaker with more features than most users will ever need, so is the extra bass boost alone worth another hundred fifty bucks?

It essentially comes down to whether you’re seeking a professional audio tool, or whether you’re just looking for a little extra kick to your music and gaming. If you’re leaning towards the latter, the iRock Roar may be a little too much for casual users. But, if you’re a serious hobbyist or audio professional, the Rock is an essential investment. It’s yet another excellent device from a team of engineers who live and breathe perfection.   

If you’re already investing over three hundred dollars on the Creative iRoar, then audio quality and customizable features must be very important to you. With that in mind, spending a little extra for the complete iRoar experience seems like a logical next step. Then again, the iRoar Rock doesn’t pack any tweakable features, and ultimately serves as a giant bass boost and speaker charger. It enhances mid-range, bass and surround sound performance of the iRoar, but its lack of adjustable controls means you’re stuck with the bass dialed to the max.


"If you’re a serious hobbyist or audio professional, the iRoar Rock is an essential investment. It’s yet another excellent device from a team of engineers who live and breathe perfection."

And talk about intensity. The bass quality is superb, and the added depth is a notable improvement over the base iRoar speaker. When testing the complete iRoar bundle in our open office space, music via the iRoar sounded infinitely richer when connected to the Rock. However, after taking the bass box back home, I struggled to enjoy its overpowering bass when gaming in a smaller space. The iRoar Rock’s bass packs a serious punch. Its relentless kick can send pretty noticeable vibrations when placed on a small book shelf, and that’s when listening on medium to low volume. The vibrations it sends out are just too strong for apartment living, and it could've easily been resolved with an adjustment knob.

Objectively speaking, this is like deciding between a Toyota Corolla and a brand new Bugatti Chiron. The Bugatti Chiron is a beautifully designed vehicle that has more horsepower than most people can handle, or need. But, no one is going to buy a Bugatti for running daily errands around the city. It’s a luxurious asset crafted only for the most devoted (and affluent) car fanatics. The Creative iRoar Rock is a similar beast. It’s designed with audiophiles and audio professionals in mind. There’s a reason Creative Labs collaborates with the incredibly talented Wyclef Jean to promote their latest iRoar line. This is an advanced audio tool/peripheral for artists and enthusiasts who crave only the finest quality.


"Combined, the audio is unquestionably better, but the total cost is well over five hundred dollars. This is why I only recommend the iRoar Rock to serious audio hobbyists and professionals."

Aesthetically, the iRoar Rock continues Creative Labs’ sleek and modern approach to design. The Rock is constructed similarly to Creative Labs’ E-MU XM7. The exterior boasts a dark, wood grain finish with a thin glossy strip that envelopes the docking expansion port where the Creative iRoar connects. Installing the iRoar Rock is as easy as placing the Creative iRoar speaker on the dock, plugging it in and turning it on. The Rock also becomes the main charging station once synced up, so it’s no longer necessary to use the speakers’ power cord.The Rock looks great, but I’m not particularly fond of how the speaker sits on the base. Visually, the two don’t look like they snap together. Since the units don’t line up on either side, it looks like the Creative iRoar is sitting on a large subwoofer from a different setup. But, that may be more of a personal gripe, and it doesn’t really impact the subwoofer’s general sleekness. 

I tested the iRoar Rock with various media, although I personally believe that music lovers will benefit from the bass boost the most. Gaming sounds absolutely fantastic, but like I mentioned earlier, the high bass setting might be overwhelming if you live in an apartment complex and are playing action-packed titles like COD or Battlefield. Music, on the other hand, sounds beautiful regardless of where you use the device. Unlike the thunderous explosions in video games, not to mentioned the wide dynamic range setting of most audio in games, the bass in bass-heavy music genres isn’t as excessive. 

If you’re reading this review, you’ve probably already purchased the Creative iRock, and you’re clearly serious about audio quality. Audiophiles tend to go the extra mile to achieve perfect audio from their hardware, so the iRoar Rock is precisely what you need if you’re a fan of Creative Labs’ latest lineup. But if you acquired the Creative iRock as a speaker setup alternative and you’re happy with the way it sounds, the extra bass boost may not seem worth an additional hundred fifty bucks. The Creative iRoar is the best-sounding Bluetooth speaker on the market right now, but it also costs close to four hundred dollars. 

Combined, the audio is unquestionably better, but the total cost is well over five hundred dollars. This is why I only recommend the iRoar Rock to serious audio hobbyists and professionals. The iRoar combo delivers the best possible audio performance on the go, but if you’re an average user who’s just looking to spice up their current setup, you may want to look somewhere else. 

Review by: Tin Salamunic

B+

Homefront: The Revolution Review

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B movies attract a certain type of audience. They’re never particularly good, but occasionally there’s one that everyone seems to latch onto. I’m not saying Homefront: The Revolution is ever going to be a cult classic, but it does offer up an entertaining action-packed romp through a jaded world that ends up being more like a viewing of Birdemic, Troll 2, or The Toxic Avenger than anything else. If that sounds appealing, then Homefront: The Revolution is going to be right up your alley; if it doesn’t, or worse yet, you’re scratching your head in confusion about the movie titles I just named, then move along. You just won’t enjoy it. 

With THQ calling it quits, Homefront: The Revolution went into limbo. The rights were eventually sold to Crytek and when Crytek declared bankruptcy they sold the rights to Deep Silver. All things considered, this game is essentially Duke Nukem: Forever – it should not exist. Unlike the aforementioned Duke game, Homefront: The Revolution actually maintains a sort of charm about it. It wants so badly to step in line with its AAA peers that when it eventually falls flat it’s more akin to a toddler taking a tumble than it is something ugly… it’s almost cute. Trust me, there are plenty of flaws. You’ve got glitches out the wazoo, poor voice acting, choppy character animations, idiotic AI, a stereotypical story, and the game ultimately doesn’t harbor any originality, but for me, it never stopped being fun.

After about thirty minutes of gameplay it became pretty obvious that H:TR took some serious cues from the latest Far Cry titles. It seasoned itself with some Metro 2033, Crysis, and Call of Duty, then it threw itself in the oven just to see how it would come out. When it works it ends up being a half-decent blend of them all, but when it doesn’t it can be a frustrating mess. For the most part the story plays out through a series of missions that are laid out similarly to Far Cry 4. There are a number of key events the player must participate in to continue the story, but most of the gameplay comes from finding collectables, capturing outposts, and taking the city back section by section. It’s almost like Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor in the sense that it borrows liberally from several of its peers, but unlike Mordor it lacks any sort of polish.


"After about thirty minutes of gameplay it became pretty obvious that H:TR took some serious cues from the latest Far Cry titles. It seasoned itself with some Metro 2033, Crysis, and Call of Duty, then it threw itself in the oven just to see how it would come out."

As I progressed through the game I was allowed a certain level of character customization and simple item crafting similar once again to the Far Cry titles. Guns, attachments, and upgrades are all purchased from a gun smith or gun lockers that open up in captured outposts. The upgrades and attachments can be swapped out at will much like the Crysis games, offering players mobility and choice on the fly. For example: assault rifles can go from close-quarters killing machines to long-distance semi-sniper rifles by just taking cover and pressing a few buttons. But here’s the first example of where a lack of optimization rears its ugly head: the menu system for swapping out attachments is quite clunky, and takes several keystrokes to exit and enter. It’s a small nit-pick, but when you’re in the heat of battle it matters, and can definitely lead to some angering situations.

When stuff hits the fan and bullets streak past your head, the game makes it obvious that the polish isn’t there. It’s not necessarily lacking, but everything feels like it needed a bit more optimization. Gunplay feels weighty initially, similar to Killzone 2. Rifles are inaccurate, slow to aim, and require some precision, but all of that goes out the window the second you start adding your first attachments. Once you add a stock and a holographic sight the gunplay suddenly feels light and airy, almost like a Call of Duty title, offering pinpoint accuracy and lighting fast aiming speeds. It’s essentially like looking at two very different sides of a coin. Maybe this design decision was intentional, but the disparity between the weight of a bare weapon and the flowing feel of a fully equipped one makes investing in new weaponry seem like more of a chore than it should be.


"When stuff hits the fan and bullets streak past your head, the game makes it obvious that the polish isn’t there. It’s not necessarily lacking, but everything feels like it needed a bit more optimization."

Nailing the climbing and freedom of movement is essential to any sort of open world game like this. Exploring areas is one of the greatest experiences, and requires a certain development finesse to pull off correctly. Don’t expect much finesse during your explorations through Philadelphia, though. Between the choppy animations and the “sticky” feeling my character had when it came to climbing – I swear he unintentionally latched on to every ledge in the game – it can be hard to get used to. After a couple hours I found myself running freely, but there was a bit of a learning curve that probably shouldn’t have existed with someone who is as experienced with titles like Far Cry and Deadlight as I am. 

Enemy AI is horrible, and it seems like the developers acknowledged that by artificially ramping up the difficulty via bullet damage. There were plenty of times when enemies wandered aimlessly into bullet fire, letting the bodies literally pile up without much issue, but when I managed to get hit by a stray bullet, or a poorly identified enemy sniper, it felt like a mac truck plowed into me going 110 down the highway. I found myself desperately needing to heal after taking just two or three bullets. Considering the fact that med packs are not readily available, the difficulty definitely felt ramped up, but not for good reason. More often than not, I’d find myself scurrying around a corner taking damage from unknown sources just to realize that an enemy sniper’s bullets are clipping through walls. Combat is definitely a mess, but in spite of my rage quits I’d find myself willingly returning for another session after a brief break. 

The story for H:TR is about as convoluted as it gets. It has nothing to do with the events of the first game, and instead serves as a sort of “reimagining” of the world than anything else. Still, it manages to paint an interesting alternate history that serves as the premise for the dark and dreary modern day US police state kept in line by the Korean People’s Army. Without spoiling too much, you assume the role of Ethan Brady, a new recruit to the resistance that is expecting a visit from a man named Benjamin Walker. Walker is kidnapped, and, you guessed it, it’s up to you to prove yourself as a capable recruit and save Benjamin Walker while convincing civilians to rise up against the KPA threat. Along the way a number of characters are thrown at you and H:TR attempts to make players feel conflicted about their actions, but none of it ever has much of a poignant impact. The game attempts to wrestle with serious issues about the value of life, the ugliness of war, and other stereotypical tropes, but other than a handful of unintentionally humorous scenes I won’t be remembering this title fondly for its story.

Gameplay could become choppy at times, and as of right now the title is horribly un-optimized. Every time I picked up a large amount of ammo I would receive a sudden sharp drop in framerate. When the game auto-saved, I noticed a similar issue, and whenever fire engulfed an area around me I got a framerate drop of 15-20 frames per second. Deep Silver claims a fix is coming very soon, but this is the one issue that I find absolutely unforgiveable. Smooth framerate is essential in a first-person shooter, and this problem didn’t just jar me, it completely stopped me from having any sense of immersion. Honestly, because of the frequency of the drops I couldn’t in good conscience give this game a higher score specifically because of this.


"With all the seriousness of the AAA gaming industry, this title, even with all its problems, is still something that demands to be played by those who want to experience their action served with a heaping helping of cheese."

With all these negatives, you might be asking yourself: what exactly is there to enjoy about H:TR? It comes down to one thing: fun factor. There’s a lot of heart packed into this game. It’s hard to explain, but some people out there will get it immediately, others won’t. I can’t exactly explain why I had so much fun leading the stupid AI into blatant traps, or recruiting civilians to charge into bases just to be my meat shields, but I did. I had fun exploiting the glitches, I had fun exploiting the AI, and I had fun running through the world wreaking as much havoc as I could, leaving nothing but explosions and KPA corpses in my wake. I’ve already said this several times: none of H:TR is perfect… none of it, but the imperfections can make for unintentional circumstances. Some are hilarious, some are jaw dropping, some are frustrating, but I never felt like I wasn’t having a good time.

There is also a multiplayer option, offering co-op gameplay for up to 5 people. It places you and handful of other players into one of several instances where you must take on wave after wave of KPA forces while you attempt to complete objectives before you’re either overwhelmed or you run out of time. This is where the game shines, allowing players to work together to create a masterpiece of unadulterated carnage. Finding creative ways to mow down KPA forces, exploiting motorcycle glitches, and goofing off with friends ended up being some of the best hours spent playing this game. It definitely doesn’t have much staying power, and I sincerely doubt I’ll put much more time into the co-op mode, but it’s a fun way to waste time with friends.

With all the seriousness of the AAA gaming industry, this title, even with all its problems, is still something that demands to be played by those who want to experience their action served with a heaping helping of cheese. It’s certainly not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but ultimately it offers something that is getting harder and harder to find in the industry: heart. I cannot recommend paying full price, but Homefront: The Revolution is bargain bin gaming at its finest, especially if the framerate issues are fixed down the road.

Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: PC

6.5