Homefront was one of the most-anticipated games of 2011. The idea of playing what amounted to a videogame version of Red Dawn struck a chord with many gamers. The plot, which centered around a North Korean invasion of the United States, seemed just plausable enough to make the game's central idea work. Unfortunately, the game's release in March, 2011 revealed a mediocre first-person shooter with dated mechanics and a very linear playthrough. The game sold well enough, however, that a sequel was announced by publisher, THQ. THQ hit financial troubles later in 2011 and eventually closed in 2012. Deep Silver picked up the rights to the Homefront franchise and, after numerous delays, the sequel, Homefront: The Revolution, was released in May, 2016.
Homefront: The Revolution is actually more of a reboot than a sequel. The original game's invasion story is replaced with a newer, alternative history scenario. This time around, the North Koreans use a combination of economic pressure and home electronics to sabotage the United States infrastructure and disable the military. The North Koreans (nicknamed the Norks by the resistance fighters in the game) military now occupies the United States, with prison-like structures in the cities.
The player is cast as Ethan Brady, a new recruit in the Resistance. Of course, Americans aren't going to just let the Norks take over without a fight, right? A charismatic leader named Benjamin Walker has energized the Resistance enough that they are an actual threat to the North Korean occupiers. At the beginning of the game, Walker is captured and the player is forced to prove his worth to the Resistance as they attempt to free him from captivity.
While the idea of fighting against the North Koreans on American turf sounds interesting, the actual result is not as intriguing. Even though the original Homefront was linear, it did a great job of creating drama by having the player fight Korean forces in recognizably American locales such as a high school football field, small town neighborhoods, and iconic locations like the Golden Gate Bridge. Homefront: The Revolution relocates the action to what is supposed to be Philadelphia. Sadly, the game's version of the City of Brotherly Love resembles just about any generic post-apocalyptic locale you may have seen before. It doesn't help that the North Koreans you face are wearing helmets and jumpsuits that make them look like retro-futuristic aliens.
The actual game mechanics are nothing new either. As Ethan Brady, you are sent on numerous fetch quests to locate items, capture weapons stashes, hack into transcievers, and find people who can help the Resistance's cause. The game's "world" is a series of areas in Philadelphia which have varying levels of security imposed by the Korean forces. These security levels determine the amount of freedom you have to move around in the different neighborhoods without being spotted. The gameplay boils down to getting a mission from your Resistance leader, going on a fetch quest, trying to shoot your way through enemy forces who will inevitably see you and attack, and rinse, and repeat. The storyline isn't bad and the level designs are well-done but it does feel a bit like you're doing the same thing over-and-over again for at least 75% of the game's 15 hour or so running time.
The characters are also extremely cliched. Brady, the player's alter-ego, is the silent protagonist. Barrish, who become's the Resistance's leader by default when Walker is captured, is a man of action but not as elequent as Walker. He reminds the player of this several times during the game. Dana Moore, the Resistance's sole female leader, is portrayed as being a bit of a loose cannon. There's also a pacificist doctor who appears every so often to complain about the violence of war and chastise the Resistance leaders for their methods of freedom fighting.
The sole interesting thing that Homefront: The Revolution does try is the customization and upgrading of the basic weapons you receive at the game's outset. By completing missions, the player receives money and "technical units" that can be used to purchase these upgrades as well as consumable items like health kits and such. Items can also be built from elements found scattered throughout the game. While the upgrades do improve the performance of the weapons, I found that they really didn't make that much of a difference over the stock guns in terms of the game's fire fights.
When Homefront: The Revolution was first released, it apparently bordered on being unplayable. Now, over a year since the game's launch, a 12 gigabyte patch loads immediately after you install the game on the Xbox One. It seems to have improved the game a lot because I didn't have any major issues playing through the game. No glitchy graphics or save game errors to be found in my runthrough. The initial technical issues caused the game to get poor reviews upon its release. Now, I fault it more for being predictable than for any actual technical issues.
If you liked the original Homefront, really all that's the same this time around is the name of the game. If you like first-person shooters and don't pay more than $15.00, you might find something to enjoy. Otherwise, there's precious little in Homefront: The Revolution that you haven't seen before and you've seen it done much better.