Homefront: The Revolution
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.