*I've never written a review for TA before, so I figure this might be a good start for me. I've also no idea if there's a certain format or rubric that I have to follow, but I doubt winging it would make this review any less relevant. If you downvote, please explain why.*
I thoroughly enjoyed the first Homefront, no matter how far-fetched its backstory may be or how short its campaign was, mainly because it portrayed America no longer as the omnipresent military and cultural force it is, but just as susceptible to corruption, economic collapse, civil unrest, and, subsequently, invasion and occupation as any other country. So you could imagine how hyped I was to discover that a sequel was in development. However, I made myself a promise to tame my inherent love for the license and to be as objective as possible upon release.
In this review, I'll start out by briefly covering the game's lore and plot, followed by what I consider to be the game's stronger points, where I feel it's majorly deficient, and a couple of minor gripes that don't detract from the overall experience.
PRELUDE TO WAR
Initially pegged as a direct sequel to the original Homefront, as evidenced by VERY early multiplayer gameplay test footage between the KPA and EU, this game was eventually reworked as a reboot with few, if any, similarities to the original lore. Gone is the speculative fiction, Red Dawn-esque scenario we were given in the first game, where Kim Jong-un successfully reunifies North and South Korea and begins an empire-happy annexation of Southeastern Asia and the Western United States with the European Union deliberating sending forces to assist the Americans.
Homefront: The Revolution is set in an alternate history where, in retrospect, the premise actually bears some resemblance to the original draft of 2012’s Red Dawn remake.
Joe Tae-Se, born to a North Korean woman and an American GI during the Korean War, founds the APeX Corporation in the 1970s, which would become responsible in creating the world’s first personal computers, tablets, and smartphones, essentially becoming the single most economically powerful nation on Earth. Following Joe’s death, son John Tae-Se assumes control of the company and decides to invest in weapons and military tech, of which the U.S. becomes an avid consumer. However, courtesy of their endless wars in the Middle East, they end up $14 trillion in debt to North Korea; their economy in tatters and mass poverty, civil unrest, and martial law now the norm for most Americans. By the 2020s, fearing that the U.S. may never repay their debt, now-North Korean Premier John Tae-Se literally turns off the U.S. military via a backdoor embedded in all Apex tech. By 2025, KPA forces then occupy the beleaguered America, asset stripping whatever they can in order to repay America’s debt and ruling the country with an iron fist.
As Ethan Brady, your resistance cell is expecting a visit from the titular “Voice of Freedom” himself – Benjamin Walker. (Remember the man speaking on the radio in between cutscenes from the first game? They even wrote a tie-in book about him.) However, KPA forces quickly descend on your location and, after interrogating your comrades, make off with Walker. You must scour the Orwellian Yellow Zones and lawless Red Zones of Philly in order to get any leads on Walker’s whereabouts and reignite the flames of revolution for all.
If there’s one thing that The Revolution ultimately succeeds in, hands down, it’s its dystopian representation of the city of brotherly love. Whether it be the blown out walls and roofs of buildings and apartment complexes, the collapsed highways, the threat of KPA “peacekeepers” and drones interrogating innocent civilians, or the 50-foot high metallic barricades separating the city into multiple districts, it’s hard not to feel like your home is under siege and your sole purpose is to reclaim it. It was for this reason the developers didn’t feel like using some random small town like Montrose, Colorado from the first game; a familiar locale should be more than enough for players to want to fight for their nation. Add in the fact that over two centuries earlier, Americans declared their independence from the British Empire in the aptly named Independence Hall, now future generations must fight for theirs from the Koreans in the Second American Revolutionary War.
The combat system is also to be commended, as gameplay no longer feels like the original game, hyped up as one of many "CoD killers" and then playing exactly like a run-of-the-mill, linear first-person shooter. In here, you are outgunned, outnumbered, but not necessarily outmatched. All those old stories your father or grandfather told you about the Viet Cong or you or a close friend may have experienced against insurgents in the Middle East have never been so true; hit-and-run tactics are the mainstay of combat in The Revolution and very rarely will you ever have those intense, scripted, in-your-face action sequences that Call of Duty is known and lauded for. You can craft an IED-strapped RC car and drive in the middle of an enemy convoy. You can toss a hack tool at locked gates to gain access into restricted areas or at KPA drones and turn them against their masters. Firecrackers can lure soldiers away without having to engage (not necessarily, at least), and Molotovs are a must-have for Korean BBQ.
Another unique element of gameplay is with regards to your arsenal of weapons. You are unable to pick up enemy weapons, due to biometric locks, courtesy of Apex, but that doesn't mean you're left wanting. As you purchase weapons from the Gunsmith Locker (a la Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4), you can also spend KPA Tech points (which are earned from completing Hearts and Minds criteria and capturing Strike Points) on conversion kits that range from turning your M4 rifle into an Ares Shrike LMG, or your M9 sidearm into an MP7-type SMG. A personal favorite of mine is converting the crossbow into a flamethrower and turning all nearby KPA grunts into an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ buffet. (Well, now, that actually sounds quite disturbing, doesn't it? Meh, who cares?) A fairly small yet straightforward selection of attachments are also available to you, from optics to underbarrel mods; surprisingly though, the suppressor is available only to the Pistol and SMG even though in one instance, I've witnessed my AI teammates wielding suppressed M4s. All conversions and mod swaps can be done on the fly (a la Crysis), but you may need to get into cover as the process will take a few seconds, leaving you unable to retaliate, particularly on Deathwish difficulty.
But fancy gadgets alone won't win the day; otherwise, there wouldn't even be a resistance. Like the VC and Mujahideen, you need to use your environment to your advantage, force the enemy to play by your rules. Resistance traps are scattered all over the Red Zones, should you plan to ambush the enemy or lure them to their death. In the Yellow Zones, using the civilian populace as cover is crucial to move about, but should you be spotted, there are dumpsters and portable toilets to hide in. (I'm half surprised the KPA don't subsequently spot you from foul odor alone.)
As quoted by Jed Eckert, Chris Hemsworth's character in the Red Dawn remake, "We're the bad guys, and we create chaos."
At first glance, you may be thinking that Homefront: The Revolution sounds like a barrel of monkeys, right? Well, you're right. It is. A enticing container that holds several opportunities for shit to be flung in your face and you wanting to be nowhere near it and cleaning yourself up from it. That is what this game truly is.
The single most unforgiving trait of this game is that, considering Deep Silver stated in March of 2015 that they wished to delay the game's release into 2016 so as to give The Revolution "every opportunity to turn [it] into a best-selling title," the game was released with a plethora of bugs, glitches, and poor design choices. All following gripes in this category can be attributed in some way or another to this.
After every single completed mission, accepting and completing jobs, accessing the Gunsmith Locker, and even respawning after death, the game hard freezes for upwards of ten seconds, as it tries to process what just happened a few seconds prior. There have even been cases of enemies randomly disappearing even in the middle of a firefight. I couldn't help but feel that every time I started to feel even a slight sense of immersion, the constant freezing and loading just takes it and breaks it over my head.
And it isn't just with basic gameplay either; several of the game's achievements are still unable to be achieved. Upon completion of my first run on Deathwish difficulty, the game's hardest setting (which isn't even THAT hard), I was unable to unlock the Home of the Brave achievement. And there are other examples of glitched achievements, such as performing takedowns on 30 KPA snipers, distracting 30 KPA from their guard posts without being detected, killing 20 Heavies, and killing 20 KPA with proximity-based GTK items.
There are several opportunities to earn extra money and restock ammo and health from random Flashpoint events, which sound intriguing in theory, but variety of such missions is so lackluster; there are only three instances: defending a resistance stash, eliminating three KPA snipers, and destroying a KPA drone launcher. A greater variety of missions would have been nice additions, like ambushing enemy convoys or escorting injured resistance fighters to safety, among other ideas.
And despite being called an open world game, the game somehow manages to convince you otherwise as each district on the map is locked off from the other, accessible only either from taking a gated tunnel or fast travelling between locations (which also takes quite a bit of time itself). And within each section of the map, there isn't really much to do or explore. If you were expecting a wide open world like that of Fallout or Far Cry, then you will be disappointed.
It also doesn't help that the main story missions are so boring and repetitive with not much else in the way of innovation. Quick summary: go to this district, raise Hearts and Minds to 100 percent, attack police station to save prisoners or grab intel, rinse and repeat. A couple of outlandish Far Cry-esque solo missions, but nothing too over-the-top, could have helped break the monotony, like assassinating a high-ranking KPA general or infiltrating a base to steal supplies all covert-like. And one thing I cannot stand in open world games, much like in Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, or Mafia II, once you complete the main story, that's it. There is no endgame content and you cannot go back to finish whatever side missions you had remaining.
Another big complaint that had many fans of the first Homefront dejected, myself included, is the removal of competitive multiplayer. As I said earlier, pre-alpha gameplay revealed an early build of multiplayer, although this was perhaps before the decision was made to reboot the franchise, as the EU was a playable faction. Now it could be said that the decision to scrap PvP was so the development team could solely focus on its single-player campaign since most multiplayer games die off within a year, which I could completely understand, especially in an era of less-than-adequate story modes. However, there are two problems with this that I see: the first and most important being that if all resources are going into one area of gameplay, then the end result should be near perfect, with little to no major problems (obviously, this was not the case); and second, there was no reason to not at least attempt multiplayer, as the majority of players (at least, in my experience) who've played the first game played it solely for that alone. When THQ filed for bankruptcy, Homefront's online ranked servers were shut down, save for a few private servers on PC, making its worth as a game even less so, considering the lackluster Call of Duty-ripoff campaign, in terms of gameplay. Building off on the Battle Points system of the first game for the KPA faction while the Resistance would have to scavenge for materials to craft GTK items would make for very intense asymmetric gameplay moments.
They did include a cooperative multiplayer, however, where up to four players can partake in various missions in the world. Although, not much thought or resources were dedicated to this either, as the character creator is among the worst type out there, being able to choose nothing more than your character's head, with the ability to choose skin color, facial features, body type, and other attributes nonexistent, so there's no way to create a character like oneself unless you just so happen to look like one of the nine or ten preset faces. Additionally, an initial selection of 12 co-op missions were whittled down to six, with the others likely being set up as future DLC.
Now regardless of how good or bad I thought the game was, there were admittedly a few things that stood out to me that I just couldn't shake, but not in any way that would harm the overall experience of the game.
As previously mentioned, one such gripe is the fact that Homefront: The Revolution is not a true sequel to the original Homefront, but instead treated as a reboot with its own lore. While I admire alternate history in most cases, I personally abhor calling a movie or game a sequel while simultaneously ignoring or rejecting the already established lore from previous installments. After all, that is the purpose of a sequel: to pick up where the initial story left off or to create a new story based on events that previously transpired in that given universe. Some may call this new timeline of how North Korea rises to power cooler or more interesting, but I can't help but fall in love with the old Red Dawn scenario. At least that timeline simply took then-current events and speculated on what could happen in a plausible manner, rather than simply saying "in an alternate 1970s, North Korea creates the first computer and takes over the world."
For anyone who knows me, I am a huge grammar Nazi (or at least, more so than the average person), so it really rubbed me the wrong way when I saw journal entries and pieces of dialogue with incorrect grammar and missing punctuation.
Upon completing Strike Points and Acts of Resistance, you earn KPA Tech points which can be used to purchase weapon conversions and equipment types like remote hacks and RC explosives. However, these quickly stack up by endgame to the point where I had nearly 200 KPA Tech points after I had already purchased all equipment variations and weapon conversion kits. If only there were another means to use these points on aside from just having them accumulate for no reason.
Although the game's writing is by no means God-awful, there were a few instances where I felt it could have been better or maybe the voice actors could have delivered their lines more convincingly and not forced, much like Peter Dinklage's voicing of the player's Ghost from Destiny. Lip syncing also occasionally fails in this department.
As stated, the graphics do look impressive, although this is provided you don't have regular cases of texture pop-in, This is most notable when you holster your weapon and immediately pull them out.
Something that apparently we all seem to take for granted nowadays is the inclusion of multiple save slots, where we could simply save a game file as many times as desired. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with The Revolution, as you only have four autosave slots and these quickly get used up. As a matter of fact, I planned to restart the campaign to clean up whatever achievements I missed, but initially I was hesistant since doing so would essentially erase my Deathwish difficulty save file and, thus, force me to replay on Deathwish again if I wished to unlock Home of the Brave. Not that Deathwish is excruciatingly brutal, but it's the principle of things, you know?
Occasionally throughout the game, you can hear a resistance fighter say something along the lines of, "You look like the role of a fighter. Now go act like one." That statement, I feel, completely sums up my experience of Homefront: The Revolution, as well as those of many others. This game is a shining example of a wonderful idea executed horribly, much like Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. And while the game certainly has the potential to be so much more, and actually does do so in some cases, these instances are so few and far between, marred by questionable design choices and unforgivable glitches that should have been stamped out long before the game's release date.
If you didn't pick this game up at release date, don't bother unless you're an extremely hardcore fan of the license, like myself. And even then, like myself, you probably would suffer to some degree from buyer's remorse.
The final verdict for Homefront: The Revolution is, at its absolute best, when all works right, a 6/10. Otherwise, it would deserve nothing more than a 4/10, not because of any flawed concepts, but because of the game's pitiful release state and overall lack of content and long-term immersion.