This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Homefront: The Revolution.
Well, here's a franchise I never thought would have the balls to show its face around these parts again - Homefront. The contemporary shooter hinging on the ever so slightly barmy premise that North Korea could be a credible threat, rather than the national equivalent of a talkative Counter-Strike player. Oh but it's alright, it's an alternative universe North Korea, that found a whole bunch of money and military tech in a Christmas cracker or something, and now wants to muscle a considerably weaker country on the other side of the world, for no adequate reason. But if you're gonna make alt-North Korea so wildly different to the real world equivalent, then why even call it North Korea? Call it Bastardstan, or Spermany. I feel like the starting point must have been a slightly creepy desire to kill North Koreans, and then they had to tortuously contrive a scenario in which the conflict wasn't totally unfair.
The first Homefront was a linear shooter about as worth committing to memory as the lyrics to Agadoo, and Homefront: Revolution seems barely connected at all. Incidentally, well done for using the single most overused subtitle you fucking- Oh, hang on, my mistake. It's actually called Homefront: The Revolution. Well that's all right then, carry on!
In Homefront world, North Korea is a global center of tech manufacturing, and the US is cripplingly indebted to it. Guys, if you want the villains to be China, just make the villains China. Dancing a twelve foot radius around it is just undignified. Anyway, the People's Republic of Chorea call in the debt, occupy and enslave the US, and you're part of a guerilla resistance movement to take the country back. The problem is, or rather the first problem on the dizzying pile I prepared for today, is that while the whole alt-universe thing asks us to mentally disassociate from the North Korea we're familiar with, we're simultaneously asked to root for America based on our knowledge of the real world version, rather than the deadbeat nation-wide slum presented for us here. I don't know, doesn't seem like Korth Norea can run the place any worse.
Oh, but the evil lurking behind the friendly façade of the occupying force is revealed in the intro sequence, as our character is interrogated by a sadistic torturer before escaping and rejoining the resistance, who mistake us for a spy and takes us to be interrogated by their sadistic torturer, and I guess we're supposed to think it's cute this time? What purpose could these sadistic torturer speed-dating sequences sequences possibly have, except to establish that both sides are cocks? And the Schmorth Scmoreans at least have better hygiene.
So, with our investment in the struggle completely not established, the game finally gets going, with a shuddering cough, and a little squirt of piss into its pants. Homefront: The Refrigerator has technical issues the way the Waffen-SS had a few bad apples.
This is the worst audio mixing that I've ever heard in what purports to be a finished game. "Is that all you've got, Yahtzee? Do you really give that much of a shit about audio mixing?" No, I bloody don't! Nobody does! So imagine how godawful the audio mixing has to be that I consider it important to mention! I was being talked to by an NPC on our way down a corridor and my fucking footstep sounds was drowning out his speech! It was like my shoes were trying to do the Bane voice! But even if you're the kind of biblical messiah who can forgive the sin of bad audio mixing, the framerate was so awful I could practically hear the clicking of the joints of the old man turning the crank, and the game freezes for five seconds every single time it autosaves, like you're trying to watch a Youtube video on an oil rig. And whenever it happened, every single time I would cross my little fingers and say a little prayer, "Please, crash! Go on, you pussy. Give me the excuse."
No such luck, but Backyard: The Renovation is a sandbox game, which are at an increased risk of buggering up, so there was always the chance of buggering itself to death at some point. It's a sandbox shooter in the inevitable "liberate all the districts" mold, but I wonder if as the medium has evolved, we have rather lost touch with the essential purpose of the sandbox shooter. The word "sandbox" implies carefree entertainment free of the restrictions of linear game design, and the word "shooter" implies that the bang-bangs will be going into the man-mans. But it seems like there's nothing that Human: The Resources wants to avoid more than those two things, with the possible exception of adequate QA testing. The game cheerfully supplies you with shitty standard FPS weapons and puts an emphasis on weapon modding and crafting, and then if you're actually trying to get into a shootout to make use of it all you get a clip around the ear, because enemies just keep on coming and your health bar empties faster than a cake shop after your mum gets off the leash. "Guerrilla warfare, you idiot! Stop trying to have fun! And go hide in a bin!"
The districts are split between secure yellow zones, where you use stealth to avoid having fun, and contested red zones, where you use motorbikes to avoid having fun. The motorbikes are just there so you can quickly get around without having to fight things. Even if you try to run the enemies over, you go straight through them. It takes quite a bit of effort to make motorbiking around the combat zone not fun, so well done on that front...Homefront. In both kinds of districts, liberating the individual regions largely involves finding the one slightly obscure route through a stronghold to press the "Liberate region" button, at which point the occupying armed enemy soldiers all shrug their shoulders and piss off. Well, maybe all your resistance chums get so inspired by your button-pressing prowess that they chase the baddies away, but frankly I doubt it, cause I saw the resistance in action, and "inaction" is precisely the word for it. You can enlist passing resistance members to aid you, and I attempted this precisely once, because my new chum spent the whole time consistently standing in the doorway I was trying to get through.
Yes, the buggery continues. The AI in this game would struggle to pass remedial colouring-in lessons. The characters must all have hitboxes like brick chimneys, 'cause they can get stuck on discarded crisp packets. The one incident which was the defining moment of the game for me took place in the resistance hideout, where I guess I'd forgotten to flush the toilet properly before I left because two NPCs came over and pinned me to a wall. They both stood staring at me, refusing to move, and every time I tried to get past them they'd hurl foul-mouthed abuse. Well, fuck you too, game. If I wanted this treatment I'd have attended my brother's wedding!
And if Hurdy: The Gurdy doesn't end up in the year's bottom five, then it's a fucking depressing six months ahead. The problem, by which I mean the rancid underlying problem upon which all the other problems scuttle and defecate, is that it's chasing a trend that we've already left behind. No one wants contemporary shooters anymore; Battlefield has decided it's going to wring some fun out of World War I, and good luck to them, cause that's like wringing apologetic tears out of Hillary Clinton, while Call of Duty is off to fight Zargon warships on the Planet Shithouse. Meanwhile, the success of Doom and Overwatch shows a lean towards good old-fashioned fast-paced fun violence on a layer of shrink-wrapped bum cheeks.
Homefront: The Revolution is just a game that's past its time. Its time was 1346 AD, when the Black Death broke out.
- People person: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- So, the current official list of acceptable villains is North Koreans, South Africans and gingers.
- Apologies if you are watching this on an oil rig.