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