I spent a cosy little week with Homefront: Revolution, a first person sandbox shooter, and I came away from it with mixed emotions. I was attracted by the premise of romping through a post-independent USA where the main goal is to start shit stirring and sticking it to the man. Unfortunately, the execution left a lot to be desired. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.
The game actually has an awesome story, which ends up as it’s strongest feature. You play the typical silent protagonist type and you’ve found yourself all caught up in the United State’s second battle for independence. The story goes that back in the present day (the game’s set in the future) things have always been a bit edgy between the US and North Korea. That is until the North Koreans get seriously into the technology market, releasing high end smart phones and tablets. The US consumed them and that popularity caused the North Koreans to branch out into developing highly technological military hardware for the US. Thing is, they designed a back door into all their technology and at the push of a button were able to bring the entirety of America’s military might to it’s knees. Then the bad guys came a knockin’. North Korea conquers America and their rule is harsher than Judge Judy on a coffee high. The leader of the underground resistance was all keen to welcome you into the fold personally when he winds up getting ambushed and captured, saving you in the process. You start the fight to spark a revolution whilst saving the enigmatic leader along the way. Deep Silver Studios did an amazing job at setting the tone of the game in the opening title sequence and created a fight with a cause that you could really get behind. Your actions drive the story as much as the story drives you and that is a balance that is very difficult to achieve. The story is nice and long too, so you really are getting your money’s worth out of this game. Story 100%.
It’s here that I am really torn. This game is fun, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s largely unpolished. The game revolves around you stirring up trouble through acts of vandalism, giving to the poor, saving people’s lives and taking key positions around town. Each act builds a “Hearts and Minds” stat. As that stat increases you start to notice the people around you grow more agitated. The resistance’s presence grows and people begin acting out against their overlords (who could easily pass as cosplayers that look like the Peacekeepers from the Hunger Games). You engage in futuristic guerrilla style combat with a range of tools at your disposal. These include carefully modded firearms made from whatever the resistance could get their hands on, home made molotovs, pipebombs and hacking devices which can be thrown, set as a proximity device or even strapped to an RC car and driven behind enemy lines. There are an array of weapons in the game but you never feel like you have so much ammo that you can shoot your guns without a care in the world. Your ammo is limited. You need to loot the bodies of your victims to get enough and more often that not you’re left having to bring a knife to a gun fight. When it comes to ammo supplies, it’s not Halo but it ain’t Dead Island either if you catch my drift. The game assumes mostly that you’re going to use stealth to avoid being taken out by the overwhelming force of the enemy you’re up against, but just in case you’re insane they also provide motorcycles for you to hoon around areas brazenly attracting attention with nary a stuff to be given.
It is motorcycling (and RC car controlling for that matter) that brings out the games first flaw. It is stupidly hard to control a vehicle in first person. The game is very rigidly stuck in first person mode and never leaves it, not even for story cut scenes. The whole story is told Call of Duty style as all of the action takes place right in front of you. It is damn near impossible to ride a motorcycle at speed in a first person perspective. On a real motorcycle you have this thing called peripheral vision. You can see out the sides of your eyes, you can turn your head freely and in the context of a video game that ability is represented by going into 3rd person so you can analyse your immediate surroundings and get a better idea of where your bike is in relation to other important factors, like say… the ground! Also for some insane reason the same controls for steering are also used to look left and right which throws me off in my judgement when I’m trying to line up a ramp for some crazy-ass jump. Otherwise all of the other controls are more or less what you’d expect.
Another problem with the game comes from loading times. They are unforgivably long! Not just when loading into the game or when transitioning from one area to the next, but quite often you can enter a menu such as the gun lockers found in every secret base, do your thing and as you back out you have to wait for the game to unfreeze after five seconds. It can also happen sometimes after completing a task as it loads the sound grab where some resistance big wig says for the umpteenth time that “the resistance needs more people like you!” Overall the gameplay is fun, it just needed more love before it was released. Gameplay 70%
First up I was impressed by the visuals. The opening cutscene was incredibly well directed and visually set the tone for the fight you were about to enter. Everything was gritty, visceral and stripped back to its bare essentials. You might be 20 years or so into the future but make no mistake, you’re a part of a grass roots movement and it shows. None of the characters in this game look like supermodels (not even the Korean Newscaster on the TV). Most of them look like 40 year old homeless people who haven’t taken a shower in weeks. It’s like they got a cast of characters and sourced them from Boganville rather than Hollywood, but it all fits into the realism they are trying to sell. The revolution ain’t glamorous. No one looks ripped, no one looks sexy. They all just look normal and I have to say it was a bit of an adjustment, mainly because it is such a rare choice for game developers to make these days (say what you will about how this reflects the industry). Whilst it has an appropriate visual style for the story it’s selling, the visuals also look largely unpolished. The graphics aren’t exactly pushing the Xbox One to its limits and there are moments of glitches to be found. One example was when I caught a civvie spray painting a wall, except that she was facing away from the wall… and spray painting the air… yet the paint was still appearing on the wall behind her. The future huh? However the characterisation of the NPCs in this game is very good and does a lot towards making me want to care about these characters, especially during the conversations that drive the plot along. Visuals 80%
The music in this game certainly lends to the intensity of its gameplay. You know a game is good when your shoulders tense up when things have gone scrappy and you’re having to desperately take down an enemy before it gets you. The music really helps to take you there. During other moments the music is happy to take a back seat to other audio cues, such as public service announcements from those “Goddman Norks” as they’re called, the rabble of the crowd or in more quiet areas the footsteps and unintelligible conversations of the Korean forces and the ominous humming of the zeppelins flying overhead. Again, sadly, this game needed that little bit of extra polish. Balancing sounds is often an issue in this game. The rabble of the crowd gets louder and louder the more shit you stir and it gets to the point that the people in your ear telling you what to do and where to go are drowned out by the raucous crowd. Whilst the character voices are an out of sight improvement compared to their previous games like Dead Island, Deep Silver still can’t manage to get voice acting to work for them properly. All of the main characters you deal with are spot on, but the randoms all sound fake and contrived and it can be off-putting. Audio 75%
It is in this section where this game comes to a crashing halt. Firstly the good points. The campaign is long. Very long. It’s compelling and keeps you wanting to come back to it, so in that sense there is replayability. Ironically if the campaign was all there was to that game, I actually would have scored this game slightly higher in this category. However, for some reason Deep Silver felt they had to tack on a multiplayer mode because, you know, it’s the done thing. The multiplayer mode is simply a bunch of four player co-op missions. Apparently so good are these co-op missions that it warrants building a character for and developing it over a long career of completing this series of co-op missions. No joke, each play through nets you gold, experience and other forms of currency in order to better equip yourself to tackle the same missions over and over. So unpopular was this game mode that on my first attempt to play it I joined the last two minutes of a game, only to unlock three achievements and sit in a lobby for fifteen minutes while it failed to find me another player for a game. Fail. Replayability 30%
Overall this game is fun. I love games where the idea is to buck the system and stick it to the man, but this game is a classic case of close but no cigar. If this game were an assignment it would be one that was handed in before it was proofread. I’ll definitely keep playing it because I want to see how it ends (surely I’m close) but after that I’ll probably delete it off the hard drive and not touch it again.
Reviewed On: Xbox One
Playtime: 8.5 Hours