The first Homefront was a study in how to almost make a good video game. The graphics were good, but nothing to write home about. The story was cookie-cutter, but hit some surprising notes at the act breaks. The action was standard, yet still had a set-piece or two that remain memorable. Overall, it was a solid C student, skating by to graduation by the skin of its teeth. The sequel, on the other hand, comes out of the gate swinging a little harder. There are still issues, and this is clearly not the "Halo/CoD Killer" of the year, but Homefront: The Revolution is a solid follow-up to a growing franchise.
Homefront starts with a tried-and-true approach. You and a group of rebels exchange some exposition while awaiting a meeting of great importance. You're set upon by the North Koreans (who have improbably become a competent superpower capable of taking over America) and are taken away for interrogation. The "shocking" murder of your companions seems par for the course, given the obvious influences of CoD and MoH on display here. Then you begin your adventure in earnest.
The world of Homefront is gorgeously recreated and beautifully designed. Apartments are filled with improvised survival implements, and luxury items are trashed and scattered about. In the "red zones," soldiers patrol in small groups, opening fire on anyone caught out in the restricted area. In "yellow zones," American citizens struggle to get by amidst roving patrols, random searches, and apartment raids. Events pop-up around the map, urging you to take part in scavenging missions, sudden defense, and counter-occupation operations. Everything feels immediate and desperate.
This is most obvious in the combat, in which you start out woefully outmatched. The Koreans arrive armed to the teeth, sporting advanced technology with unmanned drones patrolling alongside armed soldiers. What began as a humanitarian mission (the history leading up to the game is pretty questionable) turns into an armed occupation. They have the supplies, the men, and the means to keep you under their control for years to come. You start out with a pistol and a little moxie. It quickly becomes apparent that you will not survive a head-to-head fight. Guerrilla tactics, combined with hit-and-run gameplay, is the road to success. Charging into a building guns a blazing is a quick way to bring up the reload screen. You need to play smart, and bring along as many friends as possible.
The tools to survive
Like pretty much every game out there these days, Homefront allows some modification of your primary weapons. The way it is handled, however, is different and wholly fun. You get conversion kits for your weapon systems, allowing you to modify them on the fly to fit the given situation. You can only bring two weapons into any fight--your primary and a sidearm--so having the ability to swap your combat rifle for a grenade launcher at the drop of a hat is pretty ingenious. You buy attachments that can then fit a variety of weapons, simplifying the modding process. These tools feel and sound powerful, and the effect on the enemy is apparent. Blood splatters and bodies fly as you let loose with your powerful arsenal.
But you aren't wielding a BFG like some roided-out DOOM guy. You have to hit fast and get out quick, and the weapons allow you to do just that. Combined with several hiding places in the large open arenas, this allows for tactical combat unlike most games today. Standing up and fighting is a death sentence, so rethink everything you've learned from FPS games up until now, including from the original Homefront.
Alongside your assortment of death-dealing instruments comes the usual throwables: Pipe bombs, molotovs, and distraction devices round out your arsenal. You also have a handy cell phone, capable of hacking anything with a simple and fast mini-game that thankfully never overstays its welcome.
People, places, things
One area that runs a little rough is the character development. Your character, Brady, is a faceless, voiceless murder-bot. You're never given much of an explanation for your soldierly skills, or your overall motivations (aside from being an American in an occupied America). Worse still are your psychotic companions. In an early sequence, you are captured by resistance fighters. You followed a breadcrumb trail into the subway, jumped down into an abandoned station, and were immediately beaten to within an inch of your life. Then, a Hot Topic employee sits on your lap and sadistically taunts you with a knife, saying she's going to enjoy hearing you screams. Five seconds later, all is forgiven and you're on board with this group of psychopaths.
Look, I get it. Writing is hard. Writing characters and dialogue is harder. Making it all believable and interesting is downright maddening. But laying on these cliched tropes of "rebel soldiers," especially when you're supposed to be rooting for these guys, feels a bit lazy. I honestly could not tell you the names of the other characters in this story without looking them up. They are all just roving bags of meat waiting to die to "move the story forward."
Mostly, after a few hours of stabbing the enemy and blowing up checkpoints, I just found myself pulled out of the story so much that it didn't really matter. The NPCs on the street barely had enough personality to protect, and the enemy was presented as 80% robotic so I wouldn't feel bad mowing them down by the truckload. Compared to other games in the genre, or especially to the stellar Spec Ops: The Line, there really isn't much meat on the bones here.
Save the Country, Save the World
Homefront: The Revolution is a great change of pace from the stagnant first entry in the series. The characters are bland but passable, the action is repetitive but enjoyable, and the setting is different enough to warrant a viewing. Overall, this is a refreshing change of pace from the rise-and-repeat we've been getting from the annual franchises in the genre. If you enjoyed Red Dawn, you'll probably get a kick out of Homefront: The Revolution.
HOMEFRONT: THE REVOLUTION
6.5 / 10