The first Homefront game, by THQ, was a throwback to the classic 80’s film Red Dawn. Instead of Russians invading the US mainland it was the North Koreans, referred to in this game as ‘Norks’. It had a number of good set pieces and a decent multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, it was incredibly short. No sooner were you immersed in the world than the game was over. It weighed in at around half the length of a standard Call of Duty Campaign. Homefront The Revolution, is a completely different animal. It is developed by Quicksilver and like the developers other game Dying Light, this game gets a feeling, spot on, adding a level of immersion to the game that many others fail to create. Being able to pick this up for £15 or $20 makes it a decent purchase.
The game begins with a brilliant fake news piece showing how the Norks took over America. From then you are into the game proper and have to sit through one of the most gruesome cutscenes in recent years. Safe to say interrogation scenes have come a long way since Reservoir Dogs. After this, you are free, in an open world that has more than a hint of The Terminator about it. The buildings are half-demolished, the only thing to light up the night are the lights on the enemies vehicles as they pass through the street. You look overhead and a massive airship is patrolling the area, just waiting for automated drones to spot an enemy. Laser sights from snipers patrol the area and suddenly you are told to attack the enemy convoy. All that’s missing are a few T-800’S and a Brad Fiedel score and you could be in the opening moments of either of the first two Terminator films.
The game uses an open world, with safe houses and hub elements. The first area of the map is very much guerrilla warfare, with strike missions against the Norks and taking over territory one step at a time. You can recruit fellow resistance fighters to follow you with a button press. It is a simple system that brings back fond memories of the IO Interactive PS2 classic Freedom Fighters. Despite being simple this system is not without problems in the early map. You can easily overpower the enemy strongholds, by simply rushing them with a band of warriors. Equally, you can get stuck in a doorway and riddled with bullets because all your merry men followed you blindly into a small corridor. It is a useful and nice touch but sometimes it is easier to go into an enemy base with one or two for support.
After a couple of hours killing enemies and doing side quests, you suddenly find yourself in the second area of the map. Here the game changes pace once again and you are starting from a position of weakness. You need to win the hearts and minds of the general public by saving them from beatings and basically carrying out any acts that destabilise the Nork control. You don’t have the wide expanses of the first area and there is little need for your dirtbike to get around. You will spend most of your time in packed city streets, knifing enemies in the back and generally being a terrorist, as again, you struggle to take back the city step by step. It is such a marked change of pace from the first area that some people will lose interest very quickly. It almost feels like the two areas are the wrong way round. You transfer from the open warfare of one area to go through a tutorial stage in the second. Luckily the immersion of the first area has you invested enough in wat is going on to make you forgive this change in pace and after a few missions, you have turned the second area into something more like the first.
The game continues in this vein until the end and if you are a completionist it clocks in at around 20hrs. This is before you count the multiplayer and co-operative modes. The co-op modes allow you and a group of friends to take on strike missions against the Norks. It is a fun distraction, but with the small amount of people who picked up this game, it is lucky there is a meaty single player to enjoy.
There are a number of issues that stop me recommending this game at full price. The first is the lack of weapon slots in the early game. This is mitigated somewhat by the unique way in which the game upgrades weapons. If you pick the pistol, upgrade points turn this into a submachine gun or a pneumatic pistol, like you find in Metro 2033. Charge up a shot and you can use it as an assassin’s weapon to take down an enemy silently. The battle rifle can be upgraded to a sniper rifle or a rocket launcher. It would be easier if you could just carry the multitude of weapons available to you but until that you have to make do with one pistol and one other primary weapon . If you have completely cleared up the first map, you should have more than enough cash and upgrade points built up to modify your arsenal of weapons.
The dirtbike is a nice touch but in a first person shooter, vehicle sections can break the game. Hopping onto a bike and simply riding it until you escape the enemy drones and airships just feels like a cheap way out and removes some of the tension that the game builds up so well when there is no vehicle around.
The other problem with the game was alluded to in early reviews. It is just difficult playing as a terrorist. Certainly the Norks you meet in the early game cut scenes deserve to be killed, yet the standard footsoldiers you dispatch in the game may only be soldiers. It doesn’t help that the camera focuses on the whites of their eyes for every gruesome takedown. You actually see them looking right at your character before you stick the knife in. It just jars you slightly after the rip-roaring start has you conditioned to be a killing machine. Having a side mission where you have to kill so many soldiers with a Molotov, just seems unnecessarily cruel and unrealistic. Why not simply just kill them as any given situation demands.
These elements just stop the game being a certain recommendation, but for anyone looking a budget shooter, this game offers more than enough and it shows how good the developer is in building a believable, immersive world. If only the structure of their games was a little better.