It’s hard to express just what Homefront is getting wrong. The setting is kind of interesting, with an oddly powerful North Korea taking over the mainland USA and the player character working as a freedom fighter in Philadelphia to lead a popular revolt to get rid of the oppressors. The weapons are typical of the genre but have a vaguely innovative system where you can switch between different setups for each, so having a silent pneumatic pistol, or an SMG, all based on the same base weapon. There’s crafting, there’s an open-world, there’s co-op, there’s a decent amount of challenge at times, and there’s some passable voice acting. But it’s just all so boring.
The biggest issue is that the game opens up quite a lot to you very early on, and then never really goes anywhere. You pick up a few new tools along the way, and the balance of power steadily shifts to your favour, but you’re always just taking on patrol after patrol in an effort to capture bits of the map by interacting with something in a building. In the beginning you need to sneak around a little (although the stealth is weird and sometimes the enemies will ignore a motorbike going past them if you’re fast enough, but lead a huge manhunt if you’re crouching behind a bin 200 meters away), and there’s even some sections where you can try and blend in with the other citizens, avoiding camera and drone scans, but it always come down to you getting somewhere and pressing E. In the first region we found we didn’t really have to engage with whatever set up the developers threw at us, we could just walk straight up to objectives, often while being shot, and press ‘e’ to capture an area. Riveting gameplay.
It doesn’t help that the shooting is so unsatisfying. Games like Doom, Gears of War, or Halo can get away with being one fight after another because each fight is so much fun. In this many of the enemies act like bullet sponges, and there’s so few types that strategy doesn’t come into it. You just find somewhere to hide and then murder everyone. Sometimes you have to scramble around for ever-scarce ammo, and you can hack robotic vehicles or use firecrackers to distract people, but to be honest you rarely need to. As long as you can line up headshots with a marksman rifle, that’s all you ever need. You can even take down the bigger trucks with a few well-placed rifle shots turning what should be terrifying into a mundane and simple task.
Graphically the engine is pretty good, but the art design is abysmal. Everything looks washed out and dull, for a better look at how dystopia could go, try Metro or Half Life. Those depressing cities had tonnes of character and interesting little scenes to discover, this is just boring city block after boring city block. Occasionally you see a neon sign but that’s about as exciting as it gets. Sadly this bland environment isn’t to help the game run better, even on our i7, 970, 16gb RAM machine the game regularly dips down to 40fps without the screen even being busy at 1080p with everything turned up to high. Turning settings down doesn’t seem to help much, and when you do get 60fps all of the animation seems odd and rushed, almost as if they designed the game to run at 30fps instead. Due to the unstable framerate the controls don’t feel right and at no point is it a fun game to watch, every single movement and scene is a drag. This is compounded by the prevalence of bugs in the game with character models getting stuck in the ground, bikes having some of the weirdest physics we’ve seen, and a huge inconsistency in the controls when you’re trying to grab a ledge.
If there is a silver lining, it’s more of a grey one and it’s ‘Resistance’ mode, the co-op. There’s no versus multiplayer (which is a shame as the original Homefront’s was quite good) but instead there’s a series of co-op missions that can be played at different difficulties for different rewards. Playing with other people does make the game more fun and it really shows how much better the single player would be if it was co-op. Instead you’re restricted to short missions where generally you have to go somewhere, destroy something, then run away. The running away is often the most fun as the AI starts spawning a lot more enemies and the game often gives you a few bikes so you can speed away together across the city, getting more points for the more of you that reach the extraction. You end up with tense moments where someone in your team goes down and you have to pick between going back to rescue them, or moving on to escape yourself. Sadly the missions are short-lived and become repetitive quite quickly thanks to the mode relying on the main game’s poor combat and enemy types. At the end of each round you get some money and some xp. The xp can be spent on skill points but none of them give you any exciting new abilities, and the money can be spent on random ‘lucky dip’ packs as we see in games like COD and Halo. In those games most of what you get is either cosmetic, or a boost. In this it’s the only way to unlock weapons and attachments. So we spent something like $5000 (about 5 game’s worth of money) trying to unlock a sniper scope but got three shotgun attachments and two pistol attachments. We still haven’t got that scope. Locking basic weapons that suit your playstyle behind this system is incredibly frustrating and just means you need to play more missions with guns you like to unlock the ones you want. For some people they’ll get it on their first roll, for others they might never get it.
Overall, Homefront: The Revolution is everything everyone expected it to be from its tumultuous development. There’s a shadow of some good ideas here but they’re completely blocked out by a terrible engine, terrible art design, and terrible gameplay. Avoid.