Review: Homefront: The Revolution (PS4)

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Title: Homefront: The Revolution
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (33.55)
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Dambuster Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Homefront: The Revolution is also available on Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
To say the road to store shelves has been a rocky one for Homefront: The Revolution would be putting its journey lightly as the game has been in limbo for years. The troubles began when THQ filed for bankruptcy in 2012 which left many franchises with unknown futures including Homefront which previously only had one poorly received entry to its name.

Eventually this IP found a home with Crytek, who purchased the property from the THQ IP auctions. When they were well into the development cycle Crytek reported financial troubles which forced work on Homefront to stop and developers on the team to exit the company. This would lead to the acquisition by Koch Media and Deep Silver who would hire Dambuster Studios to finish and bring us the game we have today.

Homefront: The Revolution is a reboot of the franchise which now takes place in 2029 Philadelphia where North Korea (KPA) has invaded the United States after the U.S. found itself indebted to the KPA.

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In this alternate reality, North Korea is a technological force thanks to a company called Apex. Due to Apex’s advances in technology, the United States hires them to produce their military equipment which, over time, puts the U.S. in major debt.

Eventually it is time to pay up, which the U.S. is unable to do, so the KPA uses a backdoor built into the military equipment to weaken the U.S. making way for their invasion.

In the single player campaign players take control of a man named Ethan Brady who finds himself working with a rebel group hoping to take back their country piece by piece. Unlike the first game which was linear, this one has an open world set in Philadelphia.

… build an army for a revolution …
The map is broken down into a handful of zones that are classified as Red Zones or Yellow Zones. In the Red Zones it’s an all out war where the KPA are under the orders of shoot to kill. The Yellow Zone is a KPA controlled area where soldiers and the conquered people try to coexist in a prison like city.

The Yellow Zone is fairly interesting as the people here, despite being ruled by the KPA, are doing their best to live a safer life as opposed to the people in the Red Zones. You will often hear people in the Yellow Zones complain about the rebels making life harder for them even though their current situation is a terrible one with many hardships.

Missions play out in a fairly predictable way with Ethan tasked to run errands like finding intel or carrying out sabotage missions in hopes of both damaging the opposition and winning over the “Hearts and Minds” of the people to build an army for a revolution.

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Each zone has a “Hearts and Minds” meter. To fill it Ethan will have to destroy propaganda speakers, help random civilians from abusive KPA police, or take back strategic locations occupied by the KPA. Once the meter is filled in a zone the people rise up and that section becomes a neverending riot where people fight with you against the KPA forces.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the game is the Far Cry-like mechanic of taking over strategic base locations. The in-game map is colored red to show the KPA’s hold, but each base taken will turn sections of the map blue to show your control of the land.

Once you have control over a section of the map the KPA will have little to no forces in that particular area. That section will then turn into a safehouse for you to use to find recruits, supplies, or fast travel terminals.

This is by far my favorite part of the game mostly because taking over bases is fun and the game does give you multiple entry points into a base that can lead to different strategies. There is something satisfying about taking over a video game’s map though a lot of open world games do the same.

… a logic issue with the KPA …
Now while I did have fun taking back Philly it does have some flaws, the first being the way bases are taken. In order to take a base there is usually something you have to do to claim it. This can be hacking a system, destroying a truck, or turning a valve to blow something up.

These objectives usually have a ton of soldiers surrounding them and taking them out would seem essential. That is not the case though as I found that you can just sprint past all the soldiers ending the mission as soon as you hit the objective making all the enemies vanish from the location.

This might be due to the game’s poor stealth mechanic being taken into consideration, but it makes little sense if the mission starts with a firefight and one would imagine more of a fight from the KPA.

My other issue is mostly a logic issue with the KPA just abandoning an area once it has been taken over, especially since they outnumber the rebels and have better weapons. You can take a base over right across the street from a major military base and there will rarely be a firefight or anything of consequence happening between the two.

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I know video game logic should kick in, but the game could have done a better job throwing in random occurrences or fights in these scenarios that would make the KPA seem less passive in their hostile takeover.

Speaking of passive enemies, the game features stealth elements that are paper thin. The KPA soldiers have terrible line of sight, and most that spotted me were easy to elude by sprinting from them or simply ducking behind something, even if it’s just a couple yards away.

They either have poor vision due to their protective helmets or are the laziest guards ever. Regardless the reason, I found most situations taken care of by just sprinting. Getting to missions, escaping trouble, and even completing missions can usually be solved by just sprinting full speed, making stealth or fighting a secondary option.

… riddled with issues that can sometimes make it unplayable …
You will want to sprint though because your character is easily put down by the enemies, which I actually respect. The frailness of Ethan is one thing the game is realistic about and rarely deviates from even after upgrades.

It makes sense that the rebels would be easily killed by the KPA since they lack proper armor or weapons. This means you will want to approach a firefight more carefully or look into abusing the stealth mechanics. The only real penalty for dying is the loss of valuables which is the game’s thin scavenging mechanic that’s used to produce currency for upgrades.

This now brings me to the ugly side of Homefront: The Revolution which comes in the form of bugs. This game is riddled with issues that can sometimes make it unplayable. For starters it stutters every time the game autosaves, or when you leave a shop, or when you’re given a new piece of inventory from an NPC.

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These freezes only last for something like three seconds, but it happens often enough that it is jarring. There were many moments where a story bit would be stopped because the game decided to autosave during it and either the NPC would continue to talk like nothing happened or skip whatever dialogue was missed during the stutter.

There were a handful of times an NPC would get caught up in an animation or freak out preventing the NPC from hitting a trigger spot to continue a mission. This meant I would have to reload the last checkpoint or close the game and reload in order to progress the story.

In fact, I was unable to finish the game for this review due to the game’s bugginess. I have never been prevented from finishing a game because of a glitch until I played this one. The one I came across was with a “Hearts and Minds” mission where I had to fill a meter to one hundred percent by doing a range of tasks in a specific zone.

… glitched again with more time wasted …
The problem was that the game refused to put any of these tasks on my map. Despite not having anything marked on my map I came across some objectives and attempted them only for the game to not count them towards my goal. I was stuck and unable to progress after getting ten hours into the story.

The sad thing is this glitch happened to me before, but much earlier in the game around the four hour mark. I gave it the benefit of the doubt at the time and restarted my game from the beginning. I shrugged it off and restarted the whole campaign, but then the game glitched again with more time wasted than the first.

It’s a real shame because despite the poorly written story I was beginning to enjoy some of the mechanics in my second playthrough as I was taking over Philly base by base and upgrading my character.

After checking the forums on the website for Homefront I found that this might be a common bug with this mission in particular and hopefully it can be fixed eventually, but at the time of this review it is not fixed and I do not trust the game enough to attempt a third playthrough.

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Visuals:
It’s a real shame that the game is riddled with bugs and performance issues because sometimes it can look stunning. The world has a nice mixture of a military city in the future and a worn torn country. The environments in some of the Yellow Zones look futuristic without going full science fiction and the Red Zones show the devastation of a city totaled by war.

While I do not know if they captured the look of Philadelphia (ask Josh) the developers did make an interesting world to explore and I would like to do so more when the game is less of a chore to play. (Editor’s Note: Josh doesn’t know since he doesn’t have the game, and after editing up to this point he probably won’t be getting it.)

Unfortunately the world is cut at the knees by technical issues. The framerate in particular is all over the place as it drops in major battles and even sporadically when walking around populated areas. Sometimes in more intense firefights I would find myself battling the framerate trying to shoot enemies and complete tasks. It can be a real mess and it prevents any impressive visuals from being showcased.

… constantly spewing cliches …
Even outside of that there are issues like NPCs not placing correctly during their dialogue and having them face a wall or opposite direction from the camera as if they forgot that this is an big game and not a cutscene.

Many open world games will have the usual texture pop-ins and NPCs clipping objects and other NPC shenanigans which would be given a pass if they were the only issues in the game. It’s a real shame because there could be something amazing put together here visually and it might go unnoticed due to all the technical issues.

Audio:
I have been wrestling with figuring out if the voice acting is poor or it sounds that way because the script the actors are working off of is poorly written. It might be somewhere in the middle but either way they are constantly spewing cliches that undercut the importance the story is trying to build towards.

When it comes to the music that at least sounds fine if unnoticeable most of the time. I rarely felt any impact from the music when approaching major story beats or taking over enemy bases and while I would have hoped for something epic and revolution inspiring, what it provided works fine enough.
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Online/Multiplayer:
In a surprising twist I found some enjoyment playing the Resistance Mode which is the game’s online multiplayer. This mode is a four player co-op experience where players do missions in a fairly large space from the campaign.

The missions are similar to what one would find in the single player campaign just slightly more difficult as there are more enemies present at times, especially on the higher difficulties. Your character can be customized with attributes unlocked based on your performance in matches. You can even customize the clothing or gear though random unlocks and chests that can be purchased through in-game currency.

While this mode is simple and appears to lack any long term legs, it was a fun deviation from the single player campaign and worked solid any time I wanted to play a round or connect with other players.

… it could not deliver …
Conclusion:
It’s hard to separate Homefront’s development history from the finished product we have today. I tried to cut the game some slack because of its troubled development, but after giving it multiple opportunities to change my mind it could not deliver.

I was unable to finish the campaign due to the bugs and glitches even after giving it a second chance. No one should have to restart a game three times just to finish the single player campaign.

Even looking beyond the bugs there still isn’t a great game hidden beneath them. From what I was able to complete, the overall package felt mediocre from the gameplay to the story which is disappointing for what is a cool concept and beautiful world.

I found some enjoyment from clearing the map by taking over bases, but there was nothing from a story standpoint motivating me to do that and there are better games with that exact same mechanic available.

There are patches coming to help fix the bugs and smooth out the framerate which is great to hear, but as of today there is not enough here to recommend Homefront: The Revolution to anyone.

Score:
3.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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