North Korea has utterly decimated the US army with the push of a button, and invaded the country under the guise of humanitarian aid. Four years later, North Korean forces still hold most of the East Coast, and the people of this once great nation live under an oppressive military occupation. Small resistance cells are fight back in an attempt to take back some sort of control over their lives, but to no avail. While not a completely fresh premise, you must admit it is an intriguing one that can lead to some very interesting takes on military conflict and what it means to fight for your way of life against a much more powerful adversary. Unfortunately, Homefront: The Revolution decides to use this setting as the stage for a mediocre, derivative and unbalanced shooter no one will remember three months from now.
The game starts off promisingly enough. You’re introduced to three nameless characters, they die horribly and you remain on your own to explore the small starting area and complete some minor objectives before moving on to the game proper. This starting area looks pretty darn good, with the city’s lights beautifully reflected by the wet pavement, and a true sense of oppression in the streets as soldiers harass civilians at every corner. There are a few visual oddities that might make you chuckle, but all-in-all it looks good.
Then you are transported to what the game calls a Red Zone – an area where the KPA struck the hardest. These zones are essentially piles of indistinguishable rubble, which I found hard to navigate and tell exactly where I was without resorting to the inaccessible map every few minutes. The color scheme of gray and slightly lighter gray didn’t help either. It’s only in the more populated Yellow Zones (like the one you start in) that you can see the deep and interesting world the dev team has crafted. Each Yellow Zone looks and feels different, ranging from refugee camps where KPA soldiers patrol the streets with armored vehicles and march prisoners down alleyways, to well-kept rich neighborhoods where the American collaborator live. No matter where you are, that sense of oppression is always there, whether it’s the armed soldiers in the streets or the propaganda banners hanging from city landmarks.
The game’s world might appear to be rich in lore, but it lacks all the things that would have made it fun to explore. While it is technically an open world game, Homefront: The Revolution is divided into eight or so smaller zones you reach in a very linear manner through the story missions. Once you get to a new zone, you need to complete all sorts of repetitive side objectives, like destroying armored vehicles, rescue prisoners or hack KPA equipment. Only then will the population rise up against the KPA and you unlock the next story mission. It’s as boring as it sounds, especially since you have to go through the whole ordeal in every new zone you unlock. That’s the extent of the game’s open world nature; it’s only open in the sense you can freely move between the zones you unlocked, and decide which monotonous activities to do first.
Even the story fails to capitalize on The Revolution’s promising premise. Instead of drawing from the relatively unique settings, the game goes with a by-the-book action movie plot, complete with a betrayal you see coming a mile around, a supporting character sacrificing herself to save the hero and other groan-inducing “twists”. The characters themselves are also taken from the same book. You have your all-american, blue-collar leader; your tough and edgy chick, and your wise and pacifist doctor. None of them stray too far from their designated roles, and you can guess the fate of each and every one of the them from the very beginning. To its credit, the game does try and raise important questions about the line between civil resistance and terrorism, but since the player has no say in the matter, they can only continue blowing up one military facility after the other.
Speaking of blowing stuff up, The Revolution’s single-player campaign does feature a lot of explosions and shooting, just enough for the silent protagonist to fit into the square action-hero mold. However, and that’s a big “however”, most of the action is slow, clumsy and at times unbalanced. Both your movement and health regeneration are slow, making moving out of cover a risky venture. You can always use a medkit, but you can only carry 5 of those, and the enemies never seem to have any for you to loot off their bodies. Luckily, the KPA soldiers aren’t that smart, and you quickly realize all you need to do is stand around a corner and let them step into your shotgun blasts. This technique got me out of every sticky situation, and it quickly ruined the little sense of realism or challenge the game had to offer. The poor AI also extends to your allies, and I personally stood and watched them run into a burning tire one by one, until an entire squad was dead.
The Revolution does manage to add one unique aspect to its combat by solving the “infinite pockets” problem we see in many shooters. Instead of carrying an obscene amount of weapons, or being confined to just two, the game lets you convert your weapons on the fly, mid-combat. The system is very similar to the one first introduced in the original Crysis, and lets you attach individual components to your gun, or completely change its function. For example, you can add a grip to your shotgun to improve your accuracy, or convert it to a fully automatic shotgun. In the same way you can turn your crossbow into a flamethrower and your pistol into an SMG. The assembly animations are nice to watch, and it’s a clever idea all around.
I feel obligated to mention the Resistance cop-op mode, even though I didn’t play it all that much. This mode lets a group of 4 players to complete special missions together outside of the single-player campaign. Right now there are only 6 missions to do, but Dambuster has promised to add more in the near future. The Revolution is much more fun to play with friends, and Resistance mode mostly made me wonder why I couldn’t play through the boring story with a friend or two. It could have enhanced the sense of camaraderie and unity a civil uprising needs.
2011’s Homefront wasn’t a great game, but it had the potential to spark an original and intriguing franchise. Unfortunately, Homefront: The Revolution squanders this potential on a derivative military shooter with a cliche story and repetitive gameplay. The world the developers have created is indeed an impressive one, and there are one of two clever ideas to be found, but revolutionary it ain’t.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.