Although it released to middling reviews back in the day, I was a fan of the original Homefront. While it may not have been the most polished game, and had a few rough edges, there were plenty of memorable moments in the (short) campaign. The multiplayer, with its focus on large scale battles and vehicle-based combat, was also an excellent alternative to genre stalwarts at the time, and remains one of my favorite competitive experiences of the last console generation.
For those who have been following it over the years, Homefront: The Revolution has gone through a long and protracted development process. While the development team has largely remained the same since production began back in 2011, the publishing arm behind the game has changed hands over the years, and the general lack of hype or attention paid to the game leading up to its launch hasn’t exactly inspired confidence.
Having now gone hands on with the final version of this sequel, I’m afraid to say that most of my fears were indeed true. While Homefront: The Revolution does have the inner workings of a solid shooter, it’s stitched together very poorly, to the point where the game’s age and dated design begin to damage the entire experience.
That’s not to say the title doesn’t have its highlights, though.
Kicking off with a rather slick cinematic, the intro does an admirable job of explaining how things got so bad in the first place. In the alternate universe in which the game is set in, North Korea has positioned itself as the new Silicon Valley following World War II, while America has fallen on hard times due to crippling wars in the Middle East and a failing economy. After defaulting on a debt to the North Koreans, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) invaded the US, while simultaneously shutting off all of the tech and weapons we had purchased.
It’s an interesting setup, but it quickly becomes apparent that unlike the original game, Homefront: The Revolution takes a wildly different approach to storytelling. Rather than directing players through a more linear and directed story, the action unfolds in an open world setting. At its onset, this design decision shows promise.
You take control of Ethan Brady, a lowly member of the resistance movement, who narrowly escapes being slaughtered by the KPA, while having to endure watching his team being brutally interrogated and slaughtered in a moment’s notice. After the resistance’s leader is captured, you quickly meet up with other resistance members and are thrust into the world, tasked with slowly picking away at the KPA’s forces, which have taken control of Philadelphia.
The city is broken up into three distinct areas, aptly titled the Green, Yellow and Red Zones. You first emerge in the city’s Red Zone; a war torn area that is essentially off limits to civilians, meaning you’ll get shot at upon being noticed by enemy forces. Exploring the Red Zone at your own pace is initially very liberating and rewarding. After outfitting myself with a pistol and a few explosives, it wasn’t long before I was traipsing around town, taking out enemy strongholds and sniper nests, all while establishing new bases of operation for the resistance movement.
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Yellow zones are more toned down in nature. They are essentially the slums of the city, where civilians reside in poor conditions, and are tormented by the KPA on a daily basis. Here, you are tasked with completing side missions that are aimed to change the “hearts and minds” of the citizens, in an attempt to incite anarchy and overthrow the KPA. Green zones, on the other hand, are where the KPA have set up operations, and where most of the city’s monuments and notable buildings are. These sections do allow for some stealth elements, as you can walk around the city unnoticed, assuming you keep your weapon holstered and stay a distance away from nearby KPA soldiers.
Unfortunately, the entire concept of liberating Philadelphia bit by bit falls flat, when you begin to realize just how generic the open world structure is. Quests lack variety; Red Zone missions usually consist of taking out enemies, clearing out certain locations, or retrieving important items. There’s cell towers to hack into and buildings to clear out, which reveal more of the map and help establish influence over the area. In the Yellow Zone, saving civilians, altering and shutting down propaganda, and freeing prisoners helps to sway civilians to your side, and when you reach 100% control in an area, you can incite anarchy and rise up against the KPA. In short, the entire open world is pretty boring, and it’s been done better in just about any open world Ubisoft game, from standby franchises like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed to Watch Dogs and The Division.
In fact, Homefront: The Revolution really relies on you to chase down all these side missions, because the main ‘story’ missions (the ones that move the plot forward) can be completed in less than 10 hours. Speaking of which, the story largely falls flat on its face. Unlike the original game, which is largely linear and featured some satisfying and emotional moments and story beats, the plot here is loosely connected by the aforementioned story missions, rounded out with a fairly boring narrative and uninteresting and poorly written characters. It’s clear that much of the development time was spent on the open world, and the narrative really suffers from it.
Combat doesn’t fare much better unfortunately. Gunplay is fairly standard, but doesn’t feel as tight or fluid as in other shooters. A fairly basic upgrade and customization system also exists, wherein you can exchange money and other points for weapon and gadget upgrades. Weapons can also be customized on the fly, in a menu that is very reminiscent of the later Crysis games, and it is certainly useful to be able to swap out parts while on the go. In a quick second, you can convert a pistol to a submachine gun, or add silencers and scopes to a rifle if need be. There are also a handful of gadgets at your disposal, from explosives like Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs, to distraction gadgets and throwable hacking devices which take control of automated turrets and security cameras. The gunplay and combat is serviceable, but that’s all it is; it does little to elevate itself from the competition or make itself feel unique or innovative.
The lack of competent AI doesn’t help either, as for the most part, the AI will stand around until they catch sight of you (signified by a vision meter that fills up as you become ‘noticed’). After that, they will engage in combat, but with a quick dash into a side alley or by hiding in a dumpster, they will quickly lose track of you and continue doing… well, nothing. The highly exploitable (and lacklustre) AI does the game no favors, and only drags the combat down further. Coming off of titles with more competent enemies (most notably Uncharted 4), the entire combat loop in Homefront: The Revolution falls far short of today’s standards.
Unfortunately, the game’s performance also leaves much to be desired. Running things on a GTX 970 (which is miles ahead of this title’s recommended GTX 960), The Revolution fails to run at a constant 60 frames per second, even when dropping all of the settings to low or medium. There are times when the game does reach 60 frames per second, even on very high settings, but the frame rate inconsistencies can cause it to plummet down to the high 30s or low 40s in an instant. It’s a shame to see it run so poorly in this regard, especially since the visuals aren’t exactly mind-blowing. While there are some nice surface reflections, alpha effects, and lighting elements at times, Homefront: The Revolution does look like a game that was conceived during the last cycle of consoles.
The truth of the matter is, most people have probably already played a more polished, competent version of Homefront: The Revolution. Rather than capitalizing on its unique setting and gameplay opportunities, this sequel comes off as a much weaker and less interesting open world game, packed full of mission and side quests that aren’t even worth completing. If you’ve played a Ubisoft game in the last few years or so, there’s no reason to jump into this affair, unless you’re really hard up for an open-world shooter of this nature. It’s tough to say at this point whether its lack of mission variety and technical shortcomings can be fixed through patches and updates, but as it stands, Homefront: The Revolution is a massive disappointment.
This game was reviewed on the PC version of the game, which was provided to us. It was played on a system sporting a GTX 970, an i5 6600K, and 16 GB of DDR4 RAM.
Author’s Note: While we had very limited opportunities to test it, Homefront: The Revolution does feature a cooperative mode of sorts. Rather than allowing you to tackle the main game with a friend, there is a separate Resistance mode. Working with up to three other players, you can tackle standalone missions online, with a perk and levelling up system to add a sense of progression. During our brief time with this mode, we had the chance to play a few missions and walked away rather unimpressed. For the most part, the missions were rather unexciting and there wasn’t much to draw us back for more, considering how disappointing the game’s core mechanics are.
Homefront: The Revolution has plenty of potential with its unique setting and premise, but it's completely let down by dated design, unengaging combat, a boring story, and performance problems to boot.