Published on May 31st, 2016 | by Scot Mackay0
Review: Homefront the Revolution
I have been waiting to get my hands on HTR for a while now and jumped at the chance to review it. I had played the original Homefront and whilst HTR isn’t a sequel, it’s more of a reimagining by Dambuster Studios, I still wanted to explore more of a game that doesn’t show America as the heroes of the world.
Now before you think I am anti-American, I’m not. I just get bored where they always seem to come out on top. Whilst there are significant elements of flag waving and Independence Day style speeches running through the very core of the game, it’s always done from the underdogs point of view.
Homefront the Revolution is available for Playstation 4 and PC with this review being done on the Xbox One.
So let’s take a look.
North Korea and South Korea have joined forces and become the world’s biggest producer of microchips and computer software components. Slowly more and more of the technology based in the US is upgraded to the superior Korean models. Everything from civilian mobile phones, video cameras to on board computers, military software, satellite technology, digital market management and pretty much every dam thing the American infrastructure relies on is provided by the Unified nation Korea.
In each and every part of this technology is a built in back door to allow the UNK to effectively switch it off and send the United States back to the dark ages, which is exactly what they do.
Now as many of you know, when you have a power cut, you are never prepared. You amble about your blacked out house looking for a phone charger only to find it, plug it in and then curse at yourself for being stupid enough to do it. Long story short, people become less and less civilised and basic survival supplies begin to dwindle.
Over the following years, the USA is in a weakened state and is urgently needing international assistance. The first country to lend a helping hand (yep, you guessed it) the UNK.
It starts with aid packages, food supplies, power generators and other utilities. It then progresses to military field hospitals and military police providing security for the aid workers and the vulnerable. It’s not long before shanty towns appear where people are penned together in the ruins of their old homes and apartments. The security forces become more brutal, and savage in nature. Not just focusing on the criminal element but the population as a whole. This isn’t a hand offering peace and aid, this is a boot to squash the remnants of the US and leave it open to a full scale invasion.
Pockets of the hard pressed civilians gather together what little supplies and weapons they can and thus, plans form to start a revolution. All it needs, is a leader.
Up steps our John Connor…I mean, Benjamin Walker. Whist meeting up with one of the Philadelphia resistance cells (Currently consisting of you and two other rebels) recently apprehended by the KPA, Walker frees you but in turn, is captured and hauled away leaving you to run for your life and meet up with other resistance cells.
Playing as Ethan Brady you are tasked with capturing various KPA strongholds, assassinating KPA VIP’s but most importantly, finding the whereabouts of Benjamin Walker aka the Heart and soul of the resistance.
Single player Gameplay
Homefront is primarily a first person shooter but there are RPG elements in the terms of collecting materials to allow you to upgrade or create new weaponry.
Starting off with your basic pistol, this can be upgraded to a machine pistol which gives you that extra stopping power when needed. I progressed quite quickly to the assault rifle as it gave me the range that I required. Coupled with a red dot sight, it became my ‘go to’ gun for most situations.
You can customise these weapons on the fly by pressing Up on the directional pad and then interchanging various parts to make sure you have the right tool for the job.
Navigating Philadelphia is made easier with a GTA styled map at the bottom of the screen. This quickly becomes littered with Icons of interesting locations, resistance tunnels, weapons caches, KPA strongholds and the locations of skirmishes that seem to randomly break out across the map and require your attention.
Most of the time you will be on foot, scurrying through derelict buildings and sewer pipes avoiding the unmanned drones, ever vigilant airships and patrolling KPA soldiers but sometimes you just want to cut loose and go on a mad dash through the city streets and you are given that ability with the ever helpful bike stashes. These are incredibly helpful to traverse the map quickly but does so at the expense of stealth. You can even spend time finding the ramps that have been constructed for the bikes to take part in some quality Trials HD moments.
Another nice inclusion to HTR is the fact that you do not have to work alone. You can recruit NPC’s that are wandering around having their own battles to follow you as you attack each of the strongholds and use them as bullet sponges whilst you get on with the busy job of sabotaging fuel pumps and gas refineries.
It’s not all run and gun though…unless you are like me in which case it’s all run, gun, grenade, Molotov, reload and gun some more. There are areas on the map known as Yellow zones which are more stealth related. With a heavier military presence, you stalk lone soldiers and VIP’s to dispatch and use items such as firecrackers to distract them whilst you sneak by and aid civilians who are at the mercy of the KPA. If you do play like me (with all the stealth capability of a cat in a blender) and the alarm is sounded, you can hunt down routes to the rooftops or find large bins to hide in. These routes and bins are all coloured blue in the same way the Division gives you visual cues to let you know there is somewhere to climb.
The multiplayer works in a way that Destiny does, you can come across other players and decide to get involved or you can leave it alone and continue on your merry way shooting and looting whatever you come across. What I find strange is, it allows you select a character and pick their appearance and in a weird way allocate them a background in what their last job was. This could be things like Personal Trainer, Electrician, Postal worker, Personal shopper and even Videogame developer (coincidentally, this seems to be the best all-round class). These classes give your character boosts for certain skills although how much these skills actually alter the gameplay itself is fairly negligible.
The major Pro of this game has to be the story. It feels as if a lot of work has gone into researching and developing this elaborate setting and it really tries to breathe life into each of the characters. The supporting cast gives a nice variance to the typical 2nd line NPC by giving them motivations and their own quirks which really shine through in the vocal performances.
Like I said at the start of this review, it’s good to see America depicted at the bottom end of the food chain and it helps build a sense of urgency and scrappiness.
Okay here it is, as much as I have given the good points of Homefront, there is quite a few downsides.
The overall look of Homefront does look like a game that is running on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 hardware. Many of the character models are edgy not really refined and wouldn’t look out of place in Fallout 3. The gaming world in Homefront, while a decent size, is not anywhere as graphically intense as other 5yr old open world games. This lets it down somewhat and is not what I expect from a game that has poured a lot of money into advertising and exposure when it could have been better spent in the art department.
Next we have the horrific frame rate. Looking down the sight of your weapon and tracking a target is (in my humble marksmanship opinion) nigh on impossible. I actually reduced the controller sensitivity just so that I would be able to follow targets without what feels a jumpy, twitchy movement. It just lacks a certain smoothness that more often than not, forced me to fire my weapons from the hip so I could run close and dispatch the enemy with my trusty knife. Also, directly after a loading screen, the game would actually freeze for 3-4 seconds. This doesn’t sound long but it’s still bloody annoying.
Other problems I encountered was being trapped in the environments unable to move which forced me to restart at checkpoints several times. This just became downright annoying after the 4th time. It just needs a tweak to fix this and it would a much less infuriating experience.
The last major problem I had was repetition. After blasting my way into a KPA refinery for the 9th time and shutting of the gas valve, any remaining opponents are instantly wiped out and after a small fade to black, the base is instantly under the resistant command and I jump on the bike to go look for another. This can get a bit boring after a time and once you suss out your best tactic which tends to be, recruit a bunch of resistance guys, assault the base, leg it through the gunfire, twist the valve, save the day. It becomes less of a challenge and more of an inconvenience.
With these issues, it’s hard to get fully involved in Homefront as it does let itself down on many levels that frustrates the gamer and creates an additional challenge. Whilst it does have SOME pretty elements, these only highlight the areas where extra work is needed. This could range from NPC characters actions for example – Npc whispers to my character “shhhh, they’re close by” before firing a rocket at a parked burnt out car and thus alerting the entire bloody KPA to my location, this kind of thing is too bloody stupid to ignore.
I think, with a graphical upgrade and some serious patchwork, this could be a fun game. With a serious premise and plotline, it had the true groundwork to be a thriller more so than a straightforward, unthinking shooter. In a time when COD, Battlefield and other high class shooting games are flooding the market, Homefront really had to explode onto the market….and it has done but only in its advertising. Unfortunately, the content does not live up to its expectation.
This is a game that struggles with its own identity, bridging the gap awkwardly between a hard story driven shooter and a slow drawn out stealth RPG. Whilst it talks about fighting for the freedom of the common man, all is pushed aside for the rescue of its founder. Turning a story about an entire nation into one about a really good PR person. It seems to have lost its way at some point during the development process and really needed someone to take the reigns and focus its core mechanics.
Summary: Wishes to be more but it feels cobbled together using scraps of unfinished games lying around in developer’s basements.