The first Homefront game was met by a pretty mixed reception. When I reviewed it I really enjoyed it; it was a bit short, but the multiplayer was fun and having read the Voice of Freedom novel before the game was released I was engrossed in the storyline from the moment the game started. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it more than others did, looking at the experience itself every bit as much as the intricate points of the online progression. It was a game which split opinions, something which its sequel, Homefront: The Revolution, also seems to be doing.
This is a very different animal to the first Homefront game. While last time we had a linear shooter, The Revolution is an open world game, letting you carry out tasks as and when you please, with strongholds to free up and innocent civilians to save or protect. It’s a little like a city-based Far Cry game, although it’s fair to say the scope isn’t on par with Ubisoft’s efforts. What we do have though is a gorgeous version of a partly destroyed Philadelphia, split up into red and yellow zones which determine various levels of safety for the occupants, trying to keep themselves safe from the North Korean armies who have taken over the town as part of a devastating military attack on America. Unlike the original Homefront this doesn’t come about from a secret EMP blast, but from the “Norks” (yes, I know, but it’s what they get called in the game) taking advantage of the US buying most of their military hardware from them, and setting off a backdoor hack which shuts down large slices of the US armed forces. Bugger.
After escaping from your Korean captors and managing to not get shot you end up in the hands of the Resistance, a group of fighters desperate to liberate the city of Philadelphia by convincing the public to rise up and fight against the Koreans who are holding the city. Doing so will require you to carry out various daring missions, whether it be clearing out a stronghold in the city, taking photos of new patrol patterns or one of a range of other tasks. For a fair while these are very enjoyable, especially when you start getting about on a motorbike (complete with some pretty cool jumping over walls and suchlike) but, as is the case with most open world games, things get a bit repetitive and for a decent chunk of the game the action doesn’t really move on enough to give you strong incentives to press on with the samey tasks. There’s fun to be had, but in small doses when you can take a breather between sessions.
Then there’s the much discusses “racism” issue, which is frankly a bit ridiculous. Yes, there’s a derogatory term used throughout for the North Koreans, and yes some of the character can sound like self obsessed dickheads, but this is a group of fighters who hate the current regime and want to do anything in their power to get rid of them. The idea of being nice and friendly probably wouldn’t enter anyone’s heads in such a situation. So yes, some of the language is thrown about freely, but personally I just felt it fitted the setting, nothing more.
There’s also a very cool weapon upgrade system, letting you take average everyday weapons and beef them up to become powerful, customised grenade launchers or flame throwers, alongside your souped up rifle with long range sight. Completing various tasks and challenges gives various rewards which allow you to buy new weapons or unlock new customisation options, and there are hundreds of possible ways you can head round the city armed with various combinations of firepower.
But despite all this cool stuff, there are some real cutting problems. Enemies will seemingly respawn out of nowhere, leaving your nicely cleared out base suddenly full of bad guys again, magically appearing from who-knows-where. Bad guys who you’ve already stabbed and killed to save civilians will be back on their feet a few minutes later when you retrace your steps, and half of the gun fights you get into will result in the bad guys not even getting into a sensible position, instead shooting into a truck that they’ve been hiding behind. It’s all stuff a patch or two could fix, but it’s a shame to see it in the final released game. There were, additionally, some pretty epic freezes at times, but having played it more today after the latest update these seem to have been largely resolved. Either that or I’m just getting lucky at the moment.
For large periods of time I really enjoyed Homefront The Revolution, but there were also times I got frustrated by the respawning issue, the jolted frame rate at times and the weird bugs which popped up now and then. It’s hard to fully recommend this on those grounds, but also to suggest people avoid it would mean missing out on a game which is genuinely good fun at times. I’d maybe keep an eye on the developer’s blogs, watch for some updates in the next few weeks and look for a price drop. It’s a good game, no doubt, but it’s not what I’d hoped for.
Reviewed on PS4