Homefront: The Revolution is a mess in more ways than one. There's no simple way to put it, no way to sugarcoat it.
On the surface, that might surprise some. Trailers and footage of the game that appeared online in the months before the game's release showed what looked to be a visually-striking, open-world first-person shooter that no doubt would appeal to more than a few gamers. It looked to offer an interesting, if not terribly original, Red Dawn-esque future reality where America is ruled by an oppressive North Korean regime. It looked to build upon the ideas of the original Homefront, a game that was by no means a critical hit but that found enough popularity for work to begin on a sequel.
Since originally beginning development more than five years ago, Homefront: The Revolution has had a long, troubled road to release, changing companies and developers multiple times over the past five years.
However, that that doesn't excuse it from the harsh truth, and the truth is that Homefront: The Revolution is nearly unplayable in its current state, especially on PlayStation 4. While the game can occasionally look great, it's constantly marred by the fact that its framerate regularly dips into the mid-teens, especially during large battles. Not only does it make the game look hideous and choppy, but it makes the act of playing it nearly impossible. There's a reason most games, especially shooters, run at something close to 60 fps: it's nearly essential to play the game properly. Attempting to line up head shots at 60, 40 or even 30 fps is a simple task. At 15? It's an exercise in frustration.
Adding to that frustration is the fact that the game freezes completely for up to five seconds after autosaving. If you're wondering how often the game autosaves, it happens after doing just about anything. Buy an upgrade or new weapon? Freeze. Get a new objective? Freeze. Complete an objective? Freeze.
To call it disappointing is an understatement. Unfortunately, it's not just the technical side of Dambusters Studio's first game that is riddled with problems.
Homefront: The Revolution is an open-world title in all the worst ways. While it offers up a large area to explore, it doesn't fill its world with anything remotely interesting. Shattered buildings and construction equipment is the majority of what you'll find exploring Homefront: The Revolution's "futuristic" Philadelphia, and the various side-activities it tasks you with are even less captivating than the scenery. You'll spend the vast majority of your time hacking transmitter signals or finding hidden stashes of supplies. Side-missions offer no real value aside from making it slightly easier to get to point A from point B by reducing the amount of nearby enemies, which usually isn't an issue anyways, given how you can zoom past all obstacles using the motorcycle, the game's sole drivable vehicle.
The game's core story missions fare better, with a somewhat predictable but nonetheless serviceable "rise up" plot. Despite being nearly all unlikable, Homefront: The Revolution's cast of core characters are at least somewhat entertaining in their own ways. A few major story setpieces, like the triumphant hijacking of a North Korean "Goliath" tank, give players a glimpse at what Homefront: The Revolution can look like when it's at its best.
For an example of what it's like at its worst, one only has to look to the game's stealth areas. The game map is broken into a variety of different zones that can be traveled between, with zones either being classified as a "red" zone or "yellow" zone. Red zones are all-out war. Enemies will shoot you on sight, and nobody cares if you run around with your rifle out. In yellow residential zones, the game adopts a stealth approach. Players must holster their weapons and inspire the populace of the zone to take up arms against their oppressors by completing various clandestine tasks.
At first, the yellow zones are a nice change of pace from the running and gunning of the game's warzones — at least until you're forced to gain a 100 percent "Hearts and Mind" rating in each zone in order to move the story forward. Then, the game grinds to a halt, as players must turn off enemy generators, stab unsuspecting guards, hack transmitters and turn on radios for hours at a time in order to progress. It's busy work of the worst kind and completely kills any sense of forward momentum possessed by the plot.
If there is one highlight to this dystopian title, it's the game's unique weapon conversion system. Rather than purchasing one of each type of weapon (assault rifle, shotgun, heavy machine gun, sniper, etc.), players will instead buy a handful of guns that can then be modified on the fly to serve different purposes. For example, if you're using your assault rifle and find yourself besieged by heavily-armored enemies, you don't have to fret about not having equipped your heavy weapons. With the press of a button, you can transform your assault rifle into a light machine gun, throw a sight on it and go to work. While you're limited to three weapon slots, your arsenal at any given time is actually much larger thanks to the weapon conversion system. Each weapon can be fully customized with a variety of attachments and upgraded as well, giving players plenty of precision over their tools of destruction. There are a variety of gadgets players can acquire too, including the explosive RC car from the original Homefront.
With all of that in mind, it says a lot about Homefront: The Revolution that I enjoyed the demo of a 14-year-old PlayStation 2 game hidden within Homefront more than Homefront itself. For the roughly 20 minutes I played the hidden Timesplitters 2 Easter egg, I enjoyed myself. The other 15 hours I spent with the game's single player? Not so much. Homefront: The Revolution does include a four-player co-op mode as well that some players might find entertaining. It certainly performs much better than the campaign mode, and players can craft and customize their own resistance fighter with a number of different skills and outfits. However, with only six missions available, each scenario quickly grows stale. There are simply better shooters, co-op or otherwise, on the market, and there are certainly better open-world games.
Making this game couldn't have been easy. In fact, it's a miracle it arrived on store shelves at all, given its development history. That sadly doesn't change the fact that, in its current state, perhaps it would have been better if Homefront: The Revolution had been left unfinished.
This review is based on PS4 copy of Homefront: The Revolution provided by publisher Deep Silver.