Game Review: Homefront – The Revolution (Xbox One)

Homefront: The Revolution is great one moment, then painfully bad the next. This back and forth with its quality is noted everywhere in its design. It also doesn’t help the title that it latches onto dramatic cliches like my character’s grip on my gun during a tense shootout. For all its failings, and poorly executed visuals, Homefront: The Revolution, or as I’ve been known to call it: Homefront: Low Resolution, is a fairly enjoyable, if vastly flawed, experience.

It wasn’t smooth sailing that brought us this troubled game, as during the much talked about THQ sale years ago, the title went to Crytek, who purchased the IP for around $500,000. Publishing duties went from THQ to Deep Silver and when Crytek started to have financial problems which then lead to many of its team not getting paid, Deep Silver’s parent company Koch Media purchased the property from Crytek and turned that development team into Dambuster Studios.

There is a great game buried here in this poorly textured, and low resolution experience. While character models border on awful to not great, I started to really like large portions of this game. Characters Parrish and Dana started to grow on me, though, truth be told, Dana captivated me right from the start with her blade to my throat. Her character model has some nice subtly to her animations. Her nostril’s flare when she talks, and small animations on her mouth are well done, and her overall design is really nice. There are a few other characters in this game like Sam, who is mostly referred to as Doc and then there’s Crawford, their mole on the inside. The worst offender for their character model is Heather, who looks no different from the nameless cannon fodder you find running around the broken streets and demolished neighborhoods.

It’s also worth noting that the voice acting isn’t applause worthy in the slightest. Cheesy and predictable lines spew forth from the character’s mouth at an alarming rate. You’ll mostly meet up with the main cast during moments the plot needs them together and then where they are not in visual range of your character you’ll hear them over the radio while out in a mission. The music is really well done in this game, with certain pieces really setting a fantastic mood while out on mission or under fire.

Visually, the game is mostly mixed, with only a small handful of areas even looking remarkably decent. A lot of its destruction and destroyed areas reminded me of Fallout 4, with some areas looking as if they were simply plucked from that game and deposited here. While Fallout 4 wins out visually over this title, one element that I found superior in Homefront is its sense of being lived in. Homes are filled to the brim with realistic detail, streets littered with garbage, people are out on the street sleeping on dirty mattresses or in the back of a van, and some are just huddled around a fire for warmth. Each populated area makes a valiant effort to look as though people are actually trying to live there, and unlike most games that have destroyed cities, this one just doesn’t feel as generic as the others.

The need for revolution is apparent throughout this title as people are crying out for justice in the streets, wanting change and wanting freedom from their oppressors. This game takes place in a North Korean occupied United States, specifically Philadelphia. You play as silent protagonist Ethan Brody, a recruit who is thrust into spear heading this revolution when the face of said revolution, Ben Walker, is captured by the enemy. This enemy, referred to as The Nork’s, a shortened phrase for North Korean’s, are sadly a faceless force throughout the game, with no real villain as their figurehead. Sure, you have Mayor Simpson as some sort of face to this enemy, but he’s so small in the over arcing narrative that it makes it hard to truly fight for your side when the Nork’s themselves are not fully fleshed out. We know they are bad, the game tells us that, but never really shows us. I found this particularly odd since the rest of exposition this game throws at us is fully detailed and shown to us in full.

Armed with a vast assortment of weaponry, you’ll take back district after district until the end. Each zone will have a variety of locations to take back until a story thread pushes you through to the next area. Securing each zone is usually met with killing Nork’s until you can safely interact with a valve or a radio box to safeguard the area for your troops. I found these sections almost identical to that of Far Cry, even going as far as its time lapse moments during the capture screen. During these missions you’ll be alerted to smaller events called ‘Flashpoints’ where you must kill a few Nork’s to protect a cache of weapons and gear. Each zone has specific objectives to meet to complete the area. Partaking in these Flashpoints, killing Snipers, securing bases and a few other goals are part of these and can keep you quite busy trying to complete the checklist to completion.

You are armed with weapons that convert to other guns via weapon modifications. Your pistol can be converted into a Submachine gun, and your crossbow into a flame thrower. What’s impressive about these conversions is seeing the weapons pulled apart and rebuilt in front of you. You’ll unlock the main weapon and then purchase the kit that allows you to change it into something else. I loved turning my assault rifle into a mine launcher, which can turn hilarious when you start shooting enemies with it. The weapons are pretty fun to use and can further be altered with visual sights and other add-on pieces which you purchase at a weapons’ locker kiosk at any of your secured bases. I found the weapons to be wonderfully modeled with tons of small details to each one.

These kiosks are fitted with weapons, equipment, attachments, gear and consumables. You can purchase teddy bears that explode, RC cars that shock their victims and other fun little gadgets. I once drove a C4-filled RC car into a group of 4 guards and had it explode in front of them, taking all but one of them out, with the other coming after me only to run across Mr Snuggles whom was also outfitted with C4. You can also use the money you earn in-game to make each weapon better with boosted stats to reloading, stability and effectiveness. The gear you buy can soften your footsteps, allow you to take more damage or collect items upon a stealth kill. I wish there was more gear to purchase like being able to pick up items walking over a body or bypassing animations to heal. Having to hold X over every dead body in the middle of a firefight for 2 seconds to collect my winnings is a bit much as is the inability to heal at a moments notice.

When you are not killing Nork’s or liberating sections of the map, you are interacting with your cell phone. This keeps track of your missions, small jobs that you can take on to earn you extra cash, your map of the area and text messages you are sent by the games’ supporting cast. I kept finding it annoying that some characters would send you the same message over and over again, which I am chalking it up to just being a glitch. You can also take pictures, which is part of some of the jobs you’ll undertake, but it wasn’t until far into the game that I found out that I could mark enemies with it so that I could see their positions at all times. It’s unfortunate that this game does such a poor job at conveying these mechanics to you.

The areas you encounter in the game have some nice variety to them. Some are war torn locations, with buildings reduced to mere rubble, and then you’ll move around in cities that still stand albeit a bit worn down. One area has you fitted with a gas mask as the air is toxic, yet you’ll remove your mask for a conversation in a building.. that has windows… yeah, I was a bit puzzled by that one. I really enjoyed the level where you and Parrish go undercover to find something important to the revolution, as the level was really well designed. One of the final levels has you zip line down to a large building and then kickstarts into an extremely fun action set piece. I found that almost every building had something to explore or at least something nearby to catch my interest, regardless of it being an item cache or a container with ammo and a bike to ride.

Once you’ve finished the campaign you can play co-op with a few players through six maps that take about 10-15 minutes each to complete. These modes have a bit of variety to them, but won’t offer enough to keep players interested for long. You can create a male or female character to play as and unlock a ton of gear pieces to outfit your characters in. Dambuster Studios has said they plan to release some free co-op missions alongside their paid story DLC packs. As of right now; however, there just isn’t enough content in this mode to keep you interested for long.

Homefront: The Revolution is plagued by a large amount of bugs. I’ve had the game crash numerous times or had me load into parts of the game where characters are just standing around with their arms outstretched only to then reload me again and finally put me in the game. I’ve had weapons not fire, characters clip into the environment, parts of the level where I am to jump up to just not register my jump, and grenades just sit there and not explode. I could go on and on with the types of glitches I have experienced in my 25+ hours spent with the title, but none are worse than the auto-saving this game makes you endure. Each time the game auto-saves and it’s extremely frequent, it pauses the gameplay to save. Exit the kiosk, it pauses the game, select a job off the board, it pauses the game, complete an objective in the middle of a firefight, it pauses the game. There are numerous ways the game will commit to an auto-save and it pauses the game for 2-3 seconds each time it does this. It’s extremely distracting and unfortunately ruins any form of immersion that this game does a good job of doing.

It also doesn’t help that the game suffers from jerky animations almost consistently, or that the frame rate barely stays above 30 frames per second. I’ve had it dip into what seems like 20-25 fps during some of the more intense firefights, to say nothing of the auto-saving that occurs during these moments as well. Dambuster Studios is aware of a lot of these issues and have stated that patches are on the way.

It’s hard to recommend for someone to go and buy this game as it’s not that impressive and is plagued by numerous issues, but given the development hell this title had, I’m surprised it was even finished in the first place. There are moments throughout the campaign that are solid, enjoyable and well designed, but they are so few and far between that they get lost somewhat in the mediocrity of what is here. After completing the game, my joke of calling it Homefront: Low Resolution is now less joke and far more one of truth.

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