If there is a recent game that screams “rent me from Redbox for a day,” Homefront is that game. Not mind-numbing terrible, not jaw-dropping awesome. It’s competent, mostly, but has severe problems that might make you want to wait for a few weeks/months until they can be sorted out.
You have to feel sort of bad for the Korean People’s Army, this is the second game that they’ve been a major player in and they somehow manage to be even less competent than their counterparts in the first Homefront. In effect, Homefront tells the tale of an alternate reality where the Steve Jobs of the world isn’t an American hippy, but instead a North Korean who grows his business and not only takes over the tech industry but also becomes the world’s greatest weapons producer. We, naturally, become hooked on North Korean tech, from our smartphones to our weaponry. The United States, meanwhile, ignores all of its problems at home in favor of feeding its never ending desire for war in the middle east, eventually defaulting on its debts to Korea. In response, Korea “shuts off” all of the electronics in America and invades.
This is all you need to know on the “how seriously should I take the plot” meter, and it’s a very important frame of mind going forward to prevent yourself from asking potentially stupid questions like “in what universe would America become a major trader with Korea” or “why is this the second universe where the US is invaded and occupied yet none of our allies evidently tried to assist?” You have to sit back, partially shut your brain off, and recognize that this is a piece of fiction. Stuff will happen because the plot demands it, not because the writers have the capability or time to explain everything.
One place where Homefront’s storytelling stood out to me is in the resistance aspect. Each zone has a number of chores you can take part in to win “hearts and minds,” (that’s what they call it) of the people, bringing them out of squalor and convincing them that now is the time to fight back. It’s actually pretty impressive to see the zones start out as desolate, depressing, and disillusioned and watch as people slowly begin protesting, culminating in all out riots and slaughtering police and collaborators. You also get to see the KPA become increasingly desperate to try and maintain order, as the public announcements become more aggressive and you start seeing liaisons and important figures popping up to boost support for occupying army.
As an open world game, Homefront mainly takes its cues from Far Cry 3 and 4. Apart from the story missions that help push the game along and act as a method of slowly handing you new weapons and gadgets, you’ll spend the rest of your time taking over territory, performing light jumping puzzles, and tuning radios to the resistance station. While the KPA doesn’t observe US sovereignty, evidently the new regime does abide by the Finders Keepers Accord of 1963, since the oppressive and far superior army won’t make any attempt to take back territory you’ve laid dibs to it. There are far more activities to complete than needed to liberate each zone and gain enough credits to unlock all of the upgrades, a welcome factor since they wear out like cheap sneakers.
The weapon system in Homefront is a clear successor to that found in Crysis, where each weapon can be modified on the fly to either add on attachments or completely change the function of the gun. The modifications allow the game to take a small variety of guns and turn them into a crossbow, an uzi, a sniper, an assault rifle, a battle rifle, a pistol, rocket launcher, flamethrower, a couple types of shotguns, and more. My personal favorite, although not the most useful, is the freedom launcher, a grenade launcher that shoots red, white, and blue explosive fireworks. America.
The movement system in the game can be maddening at times, and rather helpful in others. The game lets you jump up to higher ledges, but you often have to be looking at exactly the right place and jump at exactly the right spot for it to register and pick you up. Other times, the game physically lifted my player up to a ledge that I had clearly missed by several feet. More often than not, I had troubles getting the game to recognize that the ledge I was jumping up to wasn’t too high, causing several deaths in the meantime. It’s a lot harder when you’re getting shot at.
Homefront: The Revolution has stealth mechanics, in theory. You spend the entirety of the game on the KPA’s hit list and, in one of their few displays of competence, all of the KPA soldiers have your face committed to memory or on display in their helmet hud if they have one. Civilians can be used as a buffer to take attention off of you as you walk the street, but there’s no point. Korean soldiers are so slow to recognize you that you could walk right past a group and round the corner before they even realize that you were there. The AI gets confused when you do crazy things like walk past a small tree or crouch behind a small rock, it stops thinking properly.
But like the Zerg, the KPA has an extra ace up its sleeve. What your foe lacks in brains, he makes up for in quantity, and the longer you stick around the more soldiers will swarm on your position. Thankfully, or maybe not so much, death is but a mere distraction in Homefront. You lose your trinkets on death, pointless items that only serve to sell for money, and start at the nearest safe house with all of your progress intact.
There are a handful of serious technical problems that need to be addressed. Right now Homefront has this obnoxious little tick where it stalls for upwards of five or six seconds before catching up with itself every time the game auto-saves. Earlier on this isn’t as much of a problem, auto-saves only occur in safe houses. Later on, however, when Homefront starts auto-saving in the middle of firefights, then you start dying. I also noticed a major issue where enemies and allies would blink in and out of existence. A heavy KPA soldier was barreling toward me and just disappeared.
The multiplayer in Homefront is nothing to write home about. A handful of cooperative maps that pit four players against the KPA in a series of objectives. You level up through missions, gaining access to more gear and cooler cosmetics, but that’s it. The original Homefront’s multiplayer was a disappointing Call of Duty clone, this one feels more like a disappointing Left 4 Dead total conversion mod.
The final words of Homefront, a note from the game director, shine a light on a positive future. We’re not finished yet, he says. There are several expansions coming over the next year, adding new zones and more content to the single player campaign. I’ll probably actually buy the game at some point in the meantime, but after finishing the campaign in two days and having no interest in going back to do more chores or playing the multiplayer, I’d say that this is worth a two day Redbox rental. Six bucks, no regrets.
I’m glad I played it, all things considered.