Homefront: The Revolution (Xbox One Review)
Revolutions are always a time of change, time for the underdogs to rise up and fight against oppression, and most importantly time for perceptions of normalcy to be overthrown. So you would think that Homefront: The Revolution would present itself as something ground breaking. Something to aspire to be. Yet, it’s stuck in a purgatory in which not only does Homefront: The Revolution look dated, it almost feels archaic in terms of design.
When it comes to troubled pasts, Homefront: The Revolution is at the forefront of current gen examples by a longshot. Originally published by THQ, Homefront received a tepid reaction from press and had enough promise to merit a sequel. A sequel that would unfortunately suffer greatly at the hands of THQ’s attempts to prevent liquidation when THQ closed the original developers, Kaos Studios. After the closure of Kaos a vast array of developers were attached to the project, including THQ Montreal and Crytek UK. Homefront was once again struck by monetary issues as rumours of Crytek UK withholding wages and bonuses for its employees who refused to work any further. Once again the fate of Homefront was up in the air until Koch Media and Dambuster Studios stepped in to save the day, employing the previous design lead, Hasit Zaiba, to assist in completing Homefront: The Revolution.
Set in an alternate timeline in the year 2029 Homefront: The Revolution takes place as the US racks up a tonne of debt to North Korea, and over time the North Koreans – affectionately called the Norks – become dissatisfied with America’s failure to pay back their debt and invade. In theory Homefront: The Revolution’s story has a lot to offer, especially since the narrative of our time is that America is a super power, an unrelenting and almost unstoppable force. Seeing America on the back foot, a scared and almost timid nation, would provide a great underdog story as they struggle to regain control through the whole endeavour. But instead we are given a po faced attempt at fighting back with characters that I really struggled to connect with. Even die hard, gun toting, proud Americans would struggle to back their own as a series of less than likeable NPCs are trotted out and forced to jump through hoops that we couldn’t care less about if the Norks were holding a gun to our own head.
As far as generic shooters go, Homefront: The Revolution could be the epitome. With load outs and crafting that feel strangely similar to Dying Light, a series of poorly designed jumping stunts for your motorbike that feel like they have been pulled straight out of an early Grand Theft Auto, and some questionable auto aim/poor shooting that feels like it was dragged kicking and screaming straight out the 90s there isn’t much to claim as revolutionary. In a genre where sticking out has become key to a games survival there is little to really promote Homefront above all others. In a slightly open world, and I do mean slightly as large areas are quite clearly segmented off by doors/transitions that act as loading screens, you wouldn’t be wrong to draw comparisons with a lesser Far Cry as you scale buildings to cut off transmitters and conquer bases to free local areas from their oppressors. Thankfully a large part of the grind is cut short by displaying everything on the map, and from the time I played Homefront: The Revolution there seems to be a moderate understanding of placement and pacing when it comes to collectibles. As well as enough to keep you occupied should you wish to achievement hunt or take a break from the story based missions. There are also stealth based approaches in Homefront, but I found these sections to be fairly infrequent and wholly erratic as the peripheral vision of NPCs ranged from Pan’s Labyrinth’s Pale Man – that’s the dude with eyes in his hands – if his hands were in his pockets and omniscient watchers who wouldn’t let oxygen in the compound should they even infer it knew what “resistance” meant.
Should you venture in to the open world of Homefront: The Revolution you will notice that the greys and browns of a city in turmoil feel all too familiar. Unlike its predecessor there isn’t quite as much focus on the colour red and personally it goes to the games detriment. Textures slowly pop in as character models animate as convincingly as Daleks tackled stairs in old Doctor Who episodes. Frames pass you by, usually slow enough to count them individually, as you load in to almost inescapable areas after completing objectives. Conversations start, but abruptly end as everyone starts to talk over each other and whatever the objective was becomes lost in a sea of text on your mobile phone. A mobile phone that freezes in mid-air as you try to take it out of your pocket, just long enough for you to question if you need to restart the game or delete it all together. What I mean to say is, visually Homefront: The Revolution is a mess, a mess that could have been avoided given another delay and a few months in the oven. In amongst the horribly inconsistent frame rate and poor animations there are a few great ideas, as picking up personal journals and them instantly being transcribed to your mobile phone, and these ideas don’t get to shine at all. Even the little flips your character does with his phone while taking it out could break up the monotony if they didn’t cause some horrendous slowdown. It’s something the developers have addressed and promised a fix as soon as possible for, but my concern is that the damage may already be done for Homefront: The Revolution.
If you were looking for solace and a breather from the story of Homefront it would seem logical to jump in to the online section, Resistance Mode. In Resistance Mode you can create your own character, trick them out with some gear and then level them up through various skill trees available. The online isn’t terribly complex, and playing through 6 levels on varying difficulties may prove testing for a great deal of players. Especially when the driving force behind prolonged play on the online modes only really benefits the grind for better loot that has no real impact on any other mode to play the same missions, missions that have been sourced directly from the campaign map, will wear players down slowly but surely. The only real enjoyment you will get out of this mode is with friends, and even then the 15 minute missions will not keep you all entertained for too long.
Homefront: The Revolution started with troubled development and has obviosuly suffered greatly with changing teams, developers, and ultimately publishers throughout it’s lifetime, an issue encountered by a great many games over the past few years. In amongst a largely broken and unoptimised game I was still able to find some fun, albeit it shortlived. Hopefully Dambuster Studios will be able to rectify the ongoing issues with framerate that Homefront: The Revolution and sort some of the frequent animation bugs, but until that day it would be best advised to avoid Homefront at all costs.