In the alternative universe of Homefront: The Revolution, North Korea has risen to power through its mastery of technology. When the U.S. defaults on its debt in 2025, North Korea invades, and the game picks up four years later as several members of the underground resistance attempt to strike back. It’s an unnecessarily convoluted conceit for a game that essentially plays out as an urban installment of Far Cry, or a military version of Dying Light.
There also seems to be little point to the Philadelphia setting: In this semi-open-world game, players can freely explore several fictitious districts, but the lack of any recognizable landmarks and the homogeneity of these zones makes wandering away from the main missions far less fulfilling than in, say, Fallout. Not only does The Revolution never move beyond its derivative roots, but it’s a massively buggy mess filled with hard crashes, unfulfillable side missions, environmental glitches, and an unstable frame rate.
Players who manage to get past the technical issues will still find themselves saddled with a generic, emotionless game in which the silent protagonist, Ethan Brady, dutifully follows the orders of the dully all-American Jack Parish so as to incite a revolution against the Korean army. There’s a mole within the organization, and there will be both an act of sacrifice and sudden loss. These are predictable tropes, made all the more obvious by the lack of control given to players with regard to how they liberate the city.
Players might not need to be as gratuitously violent as one of the resistance’s lieutenants, Dana Moore, who’s still angry from the abuse (presumably sexual) that she suffered at the hands of collaborators, but poor stealth mechanics all but ensure that players can’t just sneak their way through the game. (And, honestly, it’s not as if the “Norks” are kindly escorted out of a stronghold once players have stealthily disabled its defenses.) Some missions, like the infiltration of a naval yard or the sabotage of Independence Hall, may begin with sequences that require you to go undetected, but they always culminate with some sort of guns-blazing defense, spitting in the face of Doctor Sam Burnett’s moralistic protestations. And despite distinguishing each zone as Yellow (populated) or Red (no-go), the game pushes players toward the same result in each, with the need to blend in anonymously with the passive Yellow civilians vanishing once they’re essentially turned into Red rioters.
At its best, The Revolution gives players the freedom they’re fighting in-game for. Strongholds offer multiple strike points, from a a hidden underground tunnel indicated by rebel spray paint to a conveniently placed ramp of debris from which you can motorcycle-hop the perimeter fence. Though there are only four standard gadgets (an incendiary Molotov cocktail, distracting firecracker, explosive bomb, and electronic-neutralizing “hack” tool), each can be deployed in various ways, with delivery by remote-controlled car being most effective for skirting obstacles. In the game’s one stroke of genius, this sense of jury-rigged equipment extends to your arsenal. Once unlocked, each firearm can be converted in the field into one of two subweapons. The Battle Rifle, for instance, transforms into the Freedom Launcher, firing miniature rockets at foes, whereas the Crossbow has a Flamethrower appendage.
Sadly, the variety of challenges never rises even to this limited variety of tools; completing most missions is like being asked to open a can with a Swiss Army knife. There are countless ways to do it, but only one that’s efficient—and it turns out that it’s a pull-top anyway. As a result, most players will focus on using the limited in-game currency to purchase proficiency in one or two weapons and their respective attachments. Many of The Revolution’s coolest moments—the adrenaline that comes from successfully fleeing a ground-scanning zeppelin, the satisfaction from dumping a pre-set booby trap of explosive barrels on overly curious KPA patrols—are entirely missable. The unskippable, by-the-books shootouts that remain are far closer to being revoltingly stale than revolutionary.