Homefront: The Revolution
With a story penned by Hollywood director and screenwriter John Milius, the original Homefront was an ambitious military shooter rendered mediocre by technical limitations, dated graphics, and a lack of distinguishing features. A few regime changes later – which include both the series' developer and publisher – and Homefront: The Revolution returns with some novel additions including a unique take on the open-world format and on-the-fly weapon customization. Unfortunately, developer Dambuster Studios failed to slay Homefront's true enemy; an unending litany of glitches, A.I. failings, and performance issues that do indeed differentiate Homefront from other shooters, but for all the wrong reasons.
Homefront: The Revolution reboots the series' already dubious premise with an even more absurd explanation of America's downfall: In the near future, the U.S. government sees fit to start buying all of its military equipment from the technological powerhouse that is North Korea, which then renders our defenses useless by disabling all of our electronic devices via a hidden backdoor. With the stage hastily thrown together, the first few minutes play out like a greatest hits of lazy Call of Duty plot points, including being forced to witness point-blank executions, a brutal interrogation scene, and more close calls for protagonist Ethan Brady than you can count. Homefront's shoddy character animations can't convey the gravitas Dambuster is going for, and neither can the dreadful characters (including an ally who tortures North Koreans for fun and threatens to cut off your nipples) or cliché-ridden dialogue.
Once you play through the lackluster intro, you're free to start taking back the city of Philadelphia one district at a time. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for Homefront: The Revolution's fundamental problems to arise. A number of games deliver compelling first-person shooting with a controller. Homefront isn't one of them. The gunplay is sluggish and inexact, making even perfect headshots unsatisfying. Navigation doesn't fare much better; vaulting over objects feels stilted and breaks your flow of movement, and the hit detection for grabbing onto ledges is spotty, often requiring multiple hops for your character to recognize a climbable surface. These basic problems feel like they belong to a bygone generation.
The same is true for one of Homefront: The Revolution's biggest stumbling block: the framerate. Despite a hefty day-one patch designed to improve performance, Homefront's framerate frequently stutters, and on some occasions felt more like a slideshow than a video game. The best shooters aim for a solid 60 frames per second – Homefront is lucky to claw its way to 30, and rarely stays there for long. The performance issues don't just kill the already shaky gunplay – they also gave me headaches during prolonged play sessions, something I have never experienced in my many years playing shooters.
These fundamental flaws are disappointing, because there are some interesting elements at play in Homefront. The shift to an open-world setting was undoubtedly the right call for the series. The large zones you travel through contain plenty of character and open buildings to explore, and taking on the KPA forces demands novel hit-and-run tactics. Customizing your guns in the heat of battle also works well, though being limited to two primary weapons meant I hardly touched a number of alternate guns. These features instill a sense of gameplay freedom that military shooters often lack; I would have enjoyed them if it weren't for the perfect storm of other problems.
All of Homefront's shortcomings are compounded by a relentless barrage of glitches, which are more oppressive than the occupying KPA forces. You can't go 30 seconds without seeing something downright embarrassing. For starters, the game freezes for several seconds every time you complete an objective, acquire a new mission, or exit out of a weapons locker. Getting stuck in the environment is an uncommon but ever-present threat, as is enemies spawning right in front of you.
Some bugs have to be (not) seen to be believed: Once, I witnessed an entire roomful of characters disappear into thin air. Another ally stood around brandishing an invisible rifle. Yet another charged across the battlefield as just a floating head and pair of hands. An unfortunate civilian was forced to the ground and handcuffed by an invisible officer, then stood up and walked off like nothing happened. The list is endless, and while some of these bugs are entertaining, I was less amused by losing an hour of progress when two of the four rotating autosave files glitched out and caused the game to load indefinitely. The standalone co-op mode is equally riddled with bugs, on top of being saddled with blind weapon crates, one-use consumable items, and an overly grind-heavy progression system that saps the fun out of casual play.
Despite all the technical problems, I still managed to finish Homefront's campaign, but I can't say I had fun. All of the game's ambitions are undone by its flaws, offering only the rare glimpse of what could have been. Dambuster has already stated they are committed to improving the game with additional patches, but given everything that's currently wrong, the studio faces a greater uphill battle than Homefront's desperate underdogs.