Game review: Homefront sequel is hardly groundbreaking

Basic storyline undermines The Revolution, which also misses the mark as a shooter with key elements hidden in dim lighting

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2016, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 June, 2016, 10:47am

Homefront: The Revolution

Deep Silver

1/5 stars

In 1775, Patrick Henry rallied support for the US revolutionary war by proclaiming “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

As I played through Homefront: The Revolution, a fictional telling of a second American fight for independence, I’m not sure I would choose liberty.

The sequel to 2011’s Homefront had a tough road. The series’ original publisher, THQ, went under during its development. The second publisher, Crytek, also nearly folded and had to sell it to a third, Deep Silver. In all, the game was partially developed by nearly half a dozen studios.

It’s no surprise, then, that The Revolution (PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC) plays like some sort of science experiment. It has the legs of Call of Duty, the torso of Watch Dogs, the arms of Half Life 2 and the head of its predecessor.

I did not find a single unique feature during my Revolution playthrough. It does a few things well. The weapon customisation and actual shooting mechanics are pretty solid. But most of the game’s features are carbon copies of those found in dozens of previous shooters.

And the storyline – my God, the storyline. On the pH scale of shooter plots, this one is about a 12. That means very basic, if you haven’t brushed up on your gaming chemistry recently.

Here is the basic thought process of the Homefront characters:

“Oh no! The North Koreans have invaded, and only a silent protagonist with makeshift weapons and godlike vitality can save us! Let’s throw in some explosions, stiff dialogue and a ridiculous safehouse system that would lead the enemy directly to where we are hiding to help him!”

The protagonist, Ethan Brady, fights his way through occupied Philadelphia. He leads a resistance force against the North Koreans, who invaded America because we owed them a lot of money for electronics. Seriously, that’s the plot.

Brady spends time in some decently rendered districts within the city.

Some areas are red, which indicate active war zones. It’s a basic kill-or-be-killed scenario.

Others are yellow, which are extremely generic refugee camps that require stealth and one cunning trick – throwing firecrackers – to get through. There are some hiding mechanics, too. I’ve always hated stealth mechanics in otherwise over-the-top shooters, and these zones confirmed that for me.

Some zones are blue, or safe havens. Others are grey, meaning undiscovered.

I enjoyed the aquamarine and fuchsia zones, where Brady can take some time to work on his poetry or take classes at a local community college. OK, maybe it doesn’t go that far, but there are a lot of arbitrarily coloured areas.

The red zones show off a few strengths. These are where players can stretch their thumbs through decent gunplay and a fairly diverse vehicle system.

I like that The Revolution punishes players for standing their ground against an overwhelming force. If you stand in one place picking off North Korean soldiers for too long, an army will eventually come and put you in your place. The game prioritises hit-and-run tactics better than most, which is especially realistic given its premise.

Now onto more bad stuff.

Who gives players a health bar in a shooter? Is this 1995? I know it isn’t more or less realistic, but I want my shooter characters to breathe heavily for a time then magically recover. It’s odd that one of the only things different about Homefront is that it makes us collect and use magical health packets.

The title is also really, really dark. Not creepy. Just dark. As in, I can’t see a thing half the time.

The lighting is odd, as The Revolution is not a scary game. The darkness doesn’t ratchet up the tension, it just makes it hard to distinguish friend from foe or walk around places. I spent nearly an hour on the tutorial mission because I couldn’t see the dumpster the game wanted me to climb on to reach an objective. And then it immediately told me how to turn on my flashlight, which is far more valuable than any gun due to the eternal shade I had to navigate through.

Are there some redeeming qualities to Homefront: The Revolution? Sure, it’s a shooter. It does many of the things shooters do. However, most other titles in the genre do them better, and I was really disappointed with the sorry storyline, after a pretty solid premise. Given the stiff competition in the ever-expanding post-apocalyptic shooter market, it simply doesn’t match up.

Tribune News Service