Developed by the newly created Dambuster Studios and published by Deep Silver, Homefront: Revolution presents an alternative history for the player, where North Korea, not the United States, becomes the market leader in Information Technology, handheld devices, and military hardware. As a result, North Korea essentially becomes the new super power, and the United States is relegated to underdog status, with you as one of the revolutionary mutts, so to speak.
After North Korea’s meteoric rise to the top of the technology ladder, America becomes somewhat dependent and all too eager to buy as much top-of-the-line military hardware as they can get their hands on. Unfortunately for them the North Koreans, or NORKS as they are often derogatorily referred to in-game, left a technological ‘back door’ and quickly shut down the US military and invade. This is where you come in as a member of the Resistance, eager to take back America from a dominant and tyrannical oppressor. It’s a great concept: a modern interpretation of the American revolution against the British, with early missions being reliant on speed and surprise, instead of brute force, much like your historical counterparts, this time in 2029 Philadelphia.
The game kicks off with you (Ethan Brady) waiting for Benjamin Walker – the man at the top of the national resistance movement – to visit your resistance cell, but the KPA (Korean People’s Army) attack before he arrives, taking you and your colleagues prisoner before the interrogation begins. After redecorating the walls with revolutionary brain, Walker arrives just in time to prevent you from being added to the décor. Things then go from bad to worse after you head off to make contact with another resistance cell and Walker’s safe house is raided by the KPA, who take him prisoner.
As a concept, Homefront: Revolution stands out as an alternative to the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo, as it’s not an out-and-out shooter, but for me therein lies one of its biggest problems. It lacks a clear identity. While the game does provide plenty of FPS opportunities, it’s also mixed with elements that might be better placed in a more adventure-related environment, especially with an open world at your disposal to explore, as long as you don’t mind being shot at if you’re spotted in the more unfriendly zones of the partially devastated city of Philadelphia. Homefront: Revolution is a mix of FPS moments, fetch missions, and events that all lead towards garnering public support for the revolution. The missions themselves are fairly straightforward, but are often repetitive, ensuring the player feels alarmingly undervalued despite the encouraging comments from other members of the resistance.
Navigation around the varied zones of Philadelphia is also a little confusing at times. With most titles offering almost sat-nav like direction in-game, Homefront Revolution instead opts of a more vague indication of where you’re heading next – presenting you with a single icon in the direction you should be heading, instead of a choice of highlighted routes – with little indication of what’s between you and the destination. After all, you are meant to be local to Philadelphia, and familiar with the surrounding area. Instead, my many ventures into the unknown usually concluded with encountering multiple KPA patrols with no alternative but to engage them, instead of using stealth to bypass a typically more advanced and more capable military force that is quick to reinforce.
The gameplay itself is fairly repetitive, and the review copy I had (physical disc for the Xbox One) constantly froze. The aiming is twitchy, resulting in frustrating firefights against a superior enemy, and the graphics are a little disappointing in parts. The enemy AI is also fairly predictable and often undeserving of the ‘I’ in AI. The opportunities for utilising stealth are woefully isolated and underused.
However, you can modify firearms to make them more effective, despite the twitchy aiming, and the only mode of transport other than running around is a motorbike, which is easy to control.
The acting and story is as repetitive as the missions, resorting to tropes and clichés throughout, instead of offering a more emotional and resonant alternative to the typical brash, cigar-chomping stereotype. The result was a resistance movement that seemed unintelligent and rash, instead of calculating, intelligent and ruthless. More distracting and alienating, though, was the game’s lack of perceived involvement. You constantly find yourself being ‘talked to’ instead of conversing with fellow resistance members. I don’t expect to be the ‘best thing since sliced bread’ but at least have my character reply to comments other characters make, instead of sitting me in the corner like a naughty child who daren’t talk back.
That’s not to say that this is a terrible game, because it isn’t. There are ‘golden moments’ where you can enjoy the environment around you. The trouble is that these moments are lacking in number. If Dambuster Studios are to carry on with the Homefront series, they first need to establish exactly what type of game this is. I often found myself thinking various element would work superbly in something similar to the revamped Tomb Raider series, where the choice between out and out attack or stealth are easily distinguished but are almost always available as options. I just don’t think the first-person element helps. Otherwise, make it a dedicated FPS, drop the repetitive missions, and ramp up the tension. This title would benefit from a bespoke identity in a big way and the premise is a great foundation for that, but unfortunately it’s something that is lacking in this iteration of the series.
If you tire of the single player campaign there is also a multiplayer option, albeit via cooperative play. unfortunately it’s quite short in length, with the number of missions failing to reach double figures. I think more time spent on single player would have paid off, instead of trying to squeeze in what I feel is an unnecessary addition. Why not have an alternative take on multiplayer for this? Such as KPA vs. Revolutionaries in multiplayer.
The KPA would be better armed and equipped but are unable to utilise tunnels beneath the streets, and have to get from point A to point B with their ViP alive. Or they could have featured an alternative on CTF gametypes with KPA players trying to infiltrate heavily defended tunnel sections in order to find and kill various resistance leaders.
All in all Homefront: Revolution isn’t a bad title. It features open world exploration, to a degree, and you can modify weapons and improve your arsenal along the way. But it’s reluctance to identify as a bespoke style of play is a noticeable hindrance. Any future iteration would benefit from a clear identity, varied mission types and enemies that provide a greater palette of opposition instead of being fairly generic.
On a scale of 1-5 Homefront: Revolution scores: