Revolutions are tricky. Apparently they are the end result of the frustration and desperation of a group of people. They are impulses, the last refuge of an oppressed nation. In practice, however, they are often among the most brutal types of war. While oppressors are the intended targets, the collapse of a prevailing social order and the building of a new one never comes without moral compromise and collateral damage.
Home front: the revolution captures the compromised morality. However, given the haphazard execution of the rest of the game, I’m not sure that’s intentional.
A muddy revolution
In this guerrilla war you play as Ethan Brady, a recent recruit to yet another American Revolution. This time, North Korea, not England, is the occupier. The revolution opens with a series of brutal scenes that show your chosen group of freedom fighters bordering on psychopathic.
After being captured by the Korean People’s Army (KPA) while making bombs, you eventually find your way back to the revolutionaries. Under suspicion of espionage, your former gang of brothers beat and assault you before threatening to tear your flesh with knives and torture you for information. Your biggest tormentor will even go so far as to suggest that you yell so she can get enough, all without an ounce of charges.
That’s disturbing enough. Even worse, the whole thing is dismissed as a misunderstanding minutes later, and you’re welcomed back into the arms of the eponymous revolution. It’s a strange turn of events – one that not only strains your suspension of disbelief, but also leaves the protagonists as utterly unsympathetic. From the start, you feel like you’re fighting for a bloodthirsty, aimless destiny rather than a band of noble liberators.
That kind of flawed anti-hero motivation isn’t impossible to pull off, of course. But Home front clouds the message by constantly telling a story that you are doing a good job and that your struggle is just. From the disturbing introduction to many mediocre narrative follow-ups that show your compromised character, that’s a harder pill to swallow than it needs to be.
Shoot off target
On a side note, there isn’t much interesting gameplay to hold this outing together. What’s on offer here is a mishmash of sometimes smart design and aggressive mediocrity.
For most of the 20-hour runtime, Home front is a standard first-person military shooter. You have an array of guns and explosives that are almost indistinguishable from those in any other military shooter: pistols, shotguns, molotov cocktails, and the like. The conceit here is that you can customize and expand your arsenal on the fly with a range of attachments. For example, you can turn your sidearm into a submachine gun by quickly pressing the trigger and sliding the analog stick.
It’s a nice system, but it’s not enough to make up for Homefront’s chintzy gunplay. Guns lack oomph and aim is loose, leading to unsatisfactory shooting. Those problems are compounded by an ethereal lack of presence in the game world. Enemies don’t seem solid and tend to just fall over in an unnatural way after being shot (even considering you’ve just been shot).
As for incoming fire, it’s hard to get a sense of when you’ve taken damage. Your health bar is a nondescript white band in the bottom right corner of the screen, and as things heat up, it evaporates without much warning. As they roam war-torn Philadelphia, gunfights come quickly and often. Without an understanding of how much health you’ve lost or where threats come from, death is normal.
Those frequent gunfights are also a bit odd considering your role as a revolutionary. Your movement is supposed to operate underground, but the KPA’s drones are constantly tracking you and alerting nearby soldiers to track you down. It comes across as a poor use of the game’s narrative premise, which would support stealth action and infiltration more than public skirmishes with the KPA.
The whole game suffers from this kind of inconsistent tone. You are just an average person caught up in a rebellion, not a demigod in power armor. Still, the game never really lets you hide from your heavily powered enemy or get caught up in preparing for silent kills. While in theory you can avoid the wrath of the KPA by not getting too close to their patrols, in practice this tactic just doesn’t work. Virtually every mission and safehouse is located along a route that directly crosses the KPA. The result is a game that feels like a cluttered, hackneyed representation of Tom Clancy’s The Division.
A failed overthrow
There are times that do work. Running between main missions in stolen motorcycles is a thrill, giving the whole campaign a suitably on-the-run feel. That’s one of the few pieces that really feels at home here, though, and it doesn’t take much for the game to hold onto.
In addition to the underlying narrative and gameplay issues, there’s a litany of technical issues Home front from mediocre to downright bad. The KPA’s AI is terrible, randomly loses track of you and often forgets you were ever there. If you potshot a vehicle and even run down the stairs, they’ll have a hard time figuring out where you went. Spotty AI isn’t the only technical problem, either. Bugs are common and cause everything from frame rate dips and crashes to faulty controls.
These issues are disappointing for a game that needed something – anything – to keep it at least minimally interesting. As it looks now, Home front: the revolution is just casually bad – a jumbled mess trying out a handful of interesting ideas but failing to put those disparate pieces together into a cohesive whole worth everyone’s time.
- On-the-nose presentation of many revolutionaries
- Occasionally captivating engine sections show sparks of intelligence
- Worn-out plot comes across as jingoistic and makes its heroes unsympathetic
- Frequent gunfights don’t give you a chance to feel like an underground revolutionary
- Levels are messy junk
- Bugs, bad AI and a laundry list of technical issues block the experience
- Being forced to team up with unpleasantly sadistic comrades
Verdict: This sequel definitely fails to establish Home front like a solid franchise. Skip it.