Home­front: The Revo­lu­tion

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PC, PS4, Xbox One

Out­side, an APC was fir­ing on our po­si­tion, hav­ing some­how spot­ted us through the walls

Devel­oper Dam­buster Stu­dios Pub­lisher Deep Sil­ver For­mat PC, PS4 (tested), Xbox One Re­lease Out now

Per­haps we’re not cut out to be a rev­o­lu­tion­ary fig­ure­head. It did, af­ter all, take us 17 at­tempts to es­cape that stash room, and nine to clam­ber up to that gang­way. When­ever we in­vite our fel­low guer­ril­las to ac­com­pany us on a mis­sion, they ei­ther sprint away or block our exit route. Sure, we man­aged to lib­er­ate that en­emy out­post at the sec­ond at­tempt, but you didn’t see the first try when we reloaded our weapon in­stead of turn­ing that gas valve. And let’s not talk about the in­ci­dent with the bike. Oh, and could we have some of those boots that sup­pos­edly make 25 per cent less noise be­fore we head out? The Ko­re­ans can hear us a mile off in these tap shoes we seem to be wear­ing.

Home­front: The Revo­lu­tion has en­dured a trou­bled ges­ta­tion, and it shows. It’s been a while since we played a game this tech­ni­cally wonky. On PS4, the fram­er­ate strug­gles to hit 30, and fre­quently falls well short. The ac­tion freezes for sev­eral sec­onds ev­ery time data is saved or a new area is loaded. Tex­tures load in at their leisure, while mis­sion mark­ers sud­denly van­ish. On two oc­ca­sions, the level geom­e­try held us cap­tive; af­ter fail­ing to ex­tri­cate our­selves by twist­ing and jump­ing, we had to reload the pre­vi­ous check­point.

The odd fail­ing is gen­er­ally ex­pected of open-world games – it is, nat­u­rally, the price of am­bi­tion. But the prob­lems here are per­va­sive and ru­inous. The fram­er­ate ad­versely im­pacts the re­spon­sive­ness of weapons that al­ready kick harder than feral mules; like­wise the freak­ishly skit­tish bike han­dling. At times, you’ll push down on the D-pad to give your­self a heal­ing jab and noth­ing will hap­pen. It’s out­ra­geously fussy about your po­si­tion­ing when climb­ing. And with the Square but­ton used for ev­ery­thing from mount­ing lad­ders and us­ing bolt cut­ters to per­form­ing the last cru­cial ac­tiv­ity of a mis­sion and, in­cred­i­bly, reload­ing, you’d bet­ter be­lieve that the con­text-sen­si­tive com­mand you trig­ger is not al­ways go­ing to be the one you wanted.

All of this is dam­ag­ing enough, but none of it can com­pare with the cat­a­stroph­i­cally bad AI. Al­lies are reg­u­larly more hin­drance than help, re­fus­ing to move when you’re try­ing to pass by, or in­ex­pli­ca­bly forc­ing you to chase them if you want them to fight along­side you – though their pathfind­ing is so hope­less that they’ll of­ten aban­don you en route any­way. En­e­mies are even worse, veer­ing be­tween om­ni­science and in­ep­ti­tude in the space of a few sec­onds. Dur­ing an alert they’ll some­how know ex­actly where you are de­spite hav­ing never seen you be­fore, and un­err­ingly fire on your pre­cise po­si­tion the split-sec­ond they round the cor­ner into your line of sight. Hav­ing found you, there’s a strong chance they’ll then walk di­rectly to­wards you and into a hail of bul­lets, or turn their back, re­treat­ing to a po­si­tion that leaves them al­most en­tirely ex­posed.

At times, this is amus­ing; at oth­ers, it’s in­fu­ri­at­ing. On one late-night ride, we saw a pa­trol of three Korean troops in the mid­dle of the road. Once they’d oblig­ingly ar­ranged them­selves in a straight line, we ran them down. We dis­mounted to loot their corpses, only to dis­cover all three were knelt bolt up­right. Later, while at­tempt­ing to de­stroy a fuel cache, we were told we couldn’t com­plete the mis­sion with en­e­mies nearby – out­side the base, an APC was fir­ing on our po­si­tion, hav­ing some­how spot­ted us through the walls. We waited for it to move on, only to dis­cover that another truck was parked ad­ja­cent to it. Out of rock­ets, and with nei­ther show­ing any sign of budg­ing, we con­ceded de­feat and looked for another ter­ri­tory to lib­er­ate. There are glim­mers of prom­ise, how­ever wasted. The story be­hind the Korean oc­cu­pa­tion of Philadel­phia may be ab­surd, but there’s a con­vinc­ing feel­ing of hope­less­ness among the sub­ju­gated res­i­dents in the early stages, which builds to a pal­pa­ble at­mos­phere of be­lief in the grow­ing re­bel­lion. As you res­cue cit­i­zens and en­gage in sab­o­tage, you’ll steadily win over sup­port: in real terms, it’s crudely rep­re­sented as a ‘hearts and minds’ me­ter, but you’ll no­tice things are chang­ing out on the streets, too. Once a dis­trict is con­quered, you’ll still see the odd ar­moured ve­hi­cle, but the dwin­dling Korean forces are eas­ily out­num­bered by al­lies. If only it felt like a cause worth fight­ing for: the re­sis­tance seems pri­mar­ily mo­ti­vated by petty vengeance, with NPCs sneer­ing in­sults at both you and the North Ko­re­ans (or ‘Norks’ – an un­for­tu­nate choice of col­lo­qui­al­ism).

De­spite in­tri­cate en­vi­ron­ment de­sign that en­cour­ages thought­ful route-find­ing, and the oc­ca­sional flash of in­spi­ra­tion in the ob­jec­tives you’re set, progress be­comes a mo­not­o­nous slog. Er­ratic en­emy be­hav­iour makes stealth a lot­tery, but their num­bers are over­whelm­ing enough to make a gung-ho ap­proach im­prac­ti­cal. Health packs are hard to come by out­side of item stashes, and you’ll of­ten find your­self us­ing sev­eral jabs on a mis­sion. But since you’re not paid for any ac­tiv­i­ties that win over hearts and minds, buy­ing the sup­plies to sur­vive your next sor­tie will leave you short of vi­tal weapon and gear up­grades. As such, you’ll have to try to scav­enge what you need be­tween quests, or head for the near­est item stash and hope you don’t get spot­ted on the way, drag­ging things out fur­ther.

Another six months in the oven may yet have cast Home­front’s few suc­cesses in a more favourable light. A smart mod­ding me­chanic lets you quickly take apart and re­assem­ble weapons, leav­ing you with a stronger sense of own­er­ship of your favoured hard­ware. And with stuffed bears trans­formed into prox­im­ity mines and RC cards re­tooled as mo­bile hack­ing de­vices, there’s an ap­peal­ingly home­brew feel to your ar­se­nal. It’s not nearly enough. Like the orig­i­nal’s in­fa­mous mass grave, The Revo­lu­tion is a messy jum­ble of bro­ken parts, and ev­ery bit as grimly un­invit­ing.

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