The nightmare that surrounded Homefront: The Revolution's development is no secret. After being passed between two different publishers and changing its gameplay in favour of a non-linear style, the title has finally staggered its way towards the finish line after a series of setbacks. But has the extra time and attention poured in allow it to reach its full potential – or has its rocky journey left it badly bruised in the process?
While it doesn't stand as a direct sequel to its 2011 predecessor, it still shares its setting of a futuristic America that is oppressively overruled by Korean forces. This time the year is 2029 and the title takes places in the more familiar setting of Philadelphia. You take control of Ethan Brady, a new recruit of the resistance, who is willing to put his life on the line to free his country from the firm grip of Korea's chokehold.
The broken war-torn streets of this futuristic Philadelphia are brightly lit with the embers of destruction and the desperate struggle of its inhabitants is forever on display. Every building you set foot in has a story to tell, from homes curiously vacant of personal belongings to collapsed subways soaked with anti-establishment graffiti. You'll find yourself more absorbed into the outing's atmosphere when catching the sight of KPA soldiers kicking down the doors of homes and shamelessly beating innocent civilians to the ground. This is where The Revolution really shines, as it presents players with an elaborate backdrop that is dripping with realism.
Sadly, it's intriguing set-up and immersive atmosphere isn't done much justice by its narrative, which is rife with clichés and one-dimensional characters. The problems start with the game's protagonist, who never utters a single word and is imbued with very little in the way of a backstory. Many of the other characters fail to make an impact, and you'll find yourself struggle to recall their names over the course of the campaign. The overarching rescue plot also does little to stir up excitement, as it's filled with a number of predictable twists and turns that will leave you rolling your eyes.
Unlike the original Homefront that followed a linear path, this game features a branching open world for you to set out and explore. You aren't able to explore as freely as you may have expected, however, as the map is partitioned off into eight main districts that require you to sit through a lengthy loading screen to access. Besides scouting for ammunition and additional crafting resources we felt very little incentive to veer off the main path as there exists very little in the way of collectibles to reward your exploratory efforts.
It's hard not to think of Far Cry when ploughing through the game's various side missions. These include dominating enemy strongholds, rallying up public support for the resistance, and activating boxes that reveal particular areas of the map. After completing a number of these missions, you'll soon become tired and unlikely to return. Additionally, you'll be able to purchase most of the weapons and gear you'll need by just completing the story missions alone.
As you creep around the city's desolate ruins you'll be forced to stick to the shadows as KPA forces frequently patrol the area and drones scan for your presence. As you would expect, the invading forces are suited with much tougher armour and carry around more powerful weapons and technology. This adds more realism to the situation and prevents you from storming in and taking on enemy armies head on. Ammunition and crafting resources remain scarce throughout, requiring you to scavenge the bodies of fallen soldiers for supplies to increase your chances of survival.
Weapons for the most part, are nothing we haven't seen before and prove to be unreliable, often flailing left and right during combat and unleashing shells that bounce off enemies. The most exciting additions to your arsenal are a remote controlled car strapped with explosives and a hacking device capable of turning enemy technology against your foes. It would have benefited the game if it included some more original makeshift items forged by the freedom fighters.
Similar to Crysis, the game allows you upgrade your weapons on the fly and to even convert them into completely different ones. For example, a simple crossbow can be transformed into a blunderbuss and a flame-thrower. This mechanic does sound interesting in theory, but it means that you have to awkwardly pause and search for cover during combat in order to switch. We couldn't escape the feeling that it would have made for a smoother transition if the weapons were just included in a weapon wheel to begin with.
Online multiplayer titled Resistance mode comes in the form of six short missions that can be tackled with up to three additional players. Within these missions, you'll be tasked with setting free prisoners, exterminating KPA soldiers, and sabotaging their valuable resources. Those who have already delved into the campaign will likely grow tired of these missions quickly, as they simply mirror objectives that take place in the main story.
Upon successfully completing missions, you'll be rewarded with handful of money and XP that can be shelled out on new skills and loot crates. Skills and weapons may be handy purchases, but they also work to diminish any difficulty, making already easy missions much simpler. Additionally, the character creation mode provides you with a wardrobe bursting with a number of weird and wonderful vanity items. Here you can appropriately doll your resistance fighter up with a cute new scarf and a pair of heart-shaped shades before marching into battle. Overall, the multiplayer feels like a bit of an afterthought, which is sad, as the original Homefront was highly praised for its online modes.
After capturing our attention with a strong concept and an intriguing open world, Homefront: The Revolution struggles with the basics: weapons feel unsatisfying to use, side quests are repetitive, characters are under-developed, and the online multiplayer represents a step back for the series. Sadly, for all of its ambition, there's just not much here worth fighting for.