Early Impressions: HOMEFRONT: THE REVOLUTION
In this Crossfader series, our video games staff takes a look at early versions of upcoming releases so that you can know which hype trains to board.
The original Homefront came out in 2011 and showcased a new side of military shooters in which the players were tasked with leading American resistance against a unified Korean invasion in the near future. Though they were imperfectly executed, the game had novel ideas and production began on a sequel shortly after. However, when publisher THQ crumbled under bankruptcy, the intellectual property of Homefront went out for auction.
Now in 2016, the sequel, HOMEFRONT: THE REVOLUTION, is prepped to come out in the coming months, and like so many other high profile releases it offered a closed beta for players to help test the game’s mechanics and test multiplayer server stability. I was lucky to be invited to participate in the beta and I left with a few impressions.
Simply put, the game is in rough shape.
Certainly, this is a beta and as such nothing should be taken as final code or examples of the final product. But from what I saw, there is a long way to go before the game is polished and ready for final release. In the recent months, we have seen so many shooters come out with smooth gameplay and satisfying gunplay. More so, each of them have been distinct enough with their small nuances that make them tick, whether it be reactive AI, advanced destruction engines, or just good balance. Even AAA franchises like Call of Duty and Rainbow Six are feeling fresh again. THE REVOLUTION, sadly, is just as run-of-the-mill as its predecessor.
Almost as if it were another cookie cutter COD clone
A few years have passed since the original HOMEFRONT, with the Koreans now firmly in control of US soil. Players join a band of rebels and try to incite rebellion and free the American people. This premise is unique as far as games go and it promotes the concept of working together against the odds to overcome the oppressive enemy forces. With only a ragtag group of friends, bolted-together weapons, and gadgets made from duct tape and glue, the odds are certainly not in the rebellion’s favor. This is the selling point of THE REVOLUTION. The game wants you to play it guerilla warfare style, attacking fast from different angles and strategically dismantling your high-tech foe before they can react.
A little bit of grey here…and some more over there…
But the beta didn’t really highlight this idea. I played each of the cooperative missions available, and they all left me with the same impression. First off, the beta hardly explained much of anything, be they controls or even simple objectives, with only an arrow pointing players in a direction for each mission. I charged forward with teammates, shooting at the occasional enemy and getting lost on the map. But each of the missions felt just about the same ‒ run to a location, dodge the legions of enemies, shoot when you get the right chance. After my fourth encounter, I felt like I had seen it all. When the beta finally threw a curveball and offered me a motorcycle to navigate the map, I gladly took the opportunity to freshen things up. But instead of providing an additional tactical element, all the bike served me was a speedier way to get to the next dime a dozen shootout.
It doesn’t help that the game runs as poorly as it was designed. Textures seemed to take forever to load, draw distance was lackluster, and overall artstyle was drab and uninspired. With so much grey, nothing stands out, and I sometimes got lost simply because everything looked the same. Again, when so many shooters are available on the market, new games need to bring something interesting to the table, but from what was on display the game looks depressingly average. Not to mention the amount of times the beta crashed and I was thrown out of a game lobby in the middle of the mission. This, combined with constant framerate drops, ensured that each gameplay experience was dealt with a heavy dose of frustration.
Hang on, guys…let me figure out how to navigate this menu…
This pedigree continues with the gameplay itself. Guns feel heavy and sluggish, which only makes the combat more of a chore. Movement is just as difficult, like the player character is wearing boots of iron.The attempt to emulate “guerilla warfare” was evident in the fact that my weapons were far inferior to those of my enemy, but thanks to the basic enemy types and terrible AI, I could boldly sprint around and take down legions with ease regardless. There was little need for strategy or subtle tactics. THE REVOLUTION also highlights yet another bland crafting system as well as weapon mods that can be swapped on the go a la CRYSIS. However, the menus for this process are clunky and awkward to navigate; not adjectives you want for a system meant to be used in the middle of a gunfight.
Perhaps I am spoiled from the recent betas of late, such as THE DIVISION or RAINBOW SIX: SIEGE, which all seemed nearly finished by the release of the beta. If anything, these betas felt stable and acted as more of an exuberant demo prior to final release. HOMEFRONT: THE REVOLUTION looks, feels, and plays far more unfinished than it should at this point. While there are still a few months before its retail release in May, I fear there may just be too many features to polish and too many bugs to squash, all on top of a far too archaic design. I’m hopeful that the original premise of “guerilla warfare” in a first person shooter is fully realized, but after playing this beta, I can’t shake the feeling that THE REVOLUTION is doomed to fail.
Played on Xbox One, also available on PlayStation 4, PC.