The following game was reviewed on Xbox One; the reviewer of this critique purchased it.
The story of how Homefront: The Revolution finally made it to store shelves has almost as many twists and turns as the plot of the game itself. The original Homefront was developed by Kaos Studios and published by THQ. When THQ declared bankruptcy, Homefront was one of the franchises that was sold off. Crytek picked up the IP and commissioned Crytek UK to develop a new game in the series. When Crytek ran into financial difficulty and stopped paying the people at Crytek UK, several left the studio and eventually all of the key players closed the studio and formed Dambuster Studios. Having developed the majority of the game already, Dambuster Studios managed to get Deep Silver to buy the IP, and everything that had been done towards the game, so that they could finish what they had been working on for the last few years. So now that the game has finally been released, what is it actually like?
Homefront: The Revolution once again pits Americans against the North Koreans, however the story has changed a little bit from the original game. Having taken all sorts of technology and other products from North Korea, the US ends up buying weapons as well. When the US reneges on its debt to the Koreans, they set-off a fail-safe that deactivates all of the weapons and technology. To cut a longer ‘pre-game cutscene’ short, the US is soon under the control of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Playing as Ethan Brady, a new recruit to the resistance movement in Philadelphia, you work with other members of the resistance to try and liberate the city, one area and district at a time.
This time around the game is set in an open-world, which means that there is more freedom to tackle the city as you see fit. The missions still have to be completed in the exact same order, however you are often required to have already liberated certain areas and you can choose when and how you do that. Capturing a zone can be done by taking control of a strikepoint, hacking a transceiver, activating a radio, destroying a facility, or something similar. Taking control of these zones reveal secrets on the map including collectibles like radios to re-tune, or items to destroy, motorbikes to get around the map quicker, and stashes of ammo or items to construct gadgets. Once you have captured an area it also significantly reduces the number of KPA troops and cameras in the area.
This new game may have moved over to an open-world layout, but it is still firmly a first-person shooter. All the usual weapons are here (pistol, assault rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, and a crossbow) but now you can mod their functions and add attachments. For example, once you have enough upgrade credits, you can transform your assault rifle into a light machine gun or a limpet mine launcher, and back again. The parts or attachments are the usual array for a game of this type, silencer, muzzle brake, hand-rest, tripod, and a selection of scopes. All of these upgrades and parts can be swapped out on the go so you do tend to find yourself going for the more adaptable weapons as you can only carry 2 weapons and a pistol. The first-person viewpoint in this open-world works for the most part, despite there being basic platforming and the ability to play in a more stealthy style. My only real issue with the viewpoint is that when riding one of the numerous motorbikes littered around the map, you can sometimes get stuck on a small object/bump and it’s very difficult to see what the issue is to be able to free yourself from it.
Getting stuck against objects while riding a bike may be annoying but it’s not the most annoying part of the game. There are various issues with the framerate of the game, particularly when riding fast on the bike. The biggest technical glitch in the game is that when the game saves it just freezes up for a second or two. This might not sound like that big an issue, but the game autosaves a lot. This glitch isn’t an issue when you’re accessing the weapon store or when you capture a zone, but it can be incredibly frustrating when you’re moving between different zones in a map. There were several occasions when I stormed towards a group of enemies to take them out, with a Molotov or some heavy weaponry, and the game just paused for a second while it saved because the group of enemies was on the border of a zone. I came across the same issue during some of the scripted events of the main story as well. While I appreciate never having to go too far back in the game after a death, this glitch was incredibly frustrating and impossible to ignore.
Visually the game is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some nice vistas, lighting effects, and a couple of nice character models, but others look decidedly last-generation and some of the textures leave a lot to be desired. I understand that this game went from a kind of AAA level production to something with a much more modest budget but the differences in visual fidelity can be a little jarring.
Fortunately, while the game can be a little lacking on the graphics front the gameplay is solid. It’s always fun sneaking up on the KPA guards and performing a takedown or blasting away at one of the enemy vehicles and watching it explode. What’s more, even though some of the missions can be a tad repetitive, I found the level design and the story to be engrossing. I’m not saying that the plot of the game is perfect, you can spot a few of the beats of the story from a mile out, but I enjoyed it a lot more than the stories tacked onto most of the first-person shooters of this generation.
I feel terrible for what everyone at Dambuster Studios went through while making this game, but at the end of the day as a consumer throwing my hard-earned cash at this game, I have to judge the game purely on what is put on the screen in front of me, and it is a game of flawed promise. The gameplay, level design, and the story that the team have come up with are great. Unfortunately, these are coupled to a game that has some issues with the game engine (something you can’t help but think that Crytek would have ironed out if they had continued to finance the project). It is certainly possible that these glitches could be optimized via updates, but as it stands the game is let down by these things. However I can’t criticize this game too much as throughout my time with the game (almost 50 hours), I generally had a huge grin on my face. The team at Dambusters Studios clearly know how to design great levels and give us a story that enhances the gameplay rather than disappearing into the background. I also have to say that this game has one of the best easter eggs I have come across. It was totally unexpected, kept me occupied for about extra hour, and not only made me smile but got me talking to my friends about it.