Homefront: The Revolution is not the Red Dawn sim that I hoped for

Homefront: The Revolution was a huge letdown for me.

The original Homefront game was alright at best. While the gameplay was pretty generic, the story was great. A collapsing United States, the unification of North and South Korea, a unified Korea conquering most of Asia, and eventually the use of an EMP to cripple the US military before an invasion. This could have only been written by one man: The legendary John Milius. That’s right, THE John Milius, writer of the original Red Dawn movie from the 80’s, was the writer for the original Homefront. As such, the unrealistic-but-still-awesome story made up for the mediocre gameplay.

As a Philadelphia native, I was hyped when I heard the next installment of Homefront would take place in my hometown. As someone who secretly hopes that the Russians or the Chinese attempt to invade America one day just so I have an excuse to kill commies, the idea that I would be able to at least simulate my warhawk fantasies by blasting North Koreans to kingdom come in a virtual portrayal of my hometown highly tickled my fancy. I was stoked, I couldn’t wait to see familiar neighborhoods turned into even bigger war-zones than they are now.

Just the whole concept of the DPRK army trying to maintain order in this city is great. In reality, any invading force that set foot in Philly would be massacred within a week. Philadelphians love shooting at each other, we do it all the damn time. The only thing we’d love more than shooting at each other would be shooting at a bunch of foreigners trying to tell us what to do. Our city is predominantly black. Do you have any idea how horrible relations already are between the black and Asian communities? Korean troops setting foot in Philly would be the biggest bloodbath the world had ever seen, they wouldn’t be able to hold a single house much less the entire city. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fantasize about crazy things like tanks rolling down Broad Street, APCs patrolling K&A, shock-troopers raiding crack houses in West Philly, or the Linc being turned into a giant prison camp.

That said, I heard the game got universally panned for a bunch of reasons. I’ve never trusted most reviewers, after all we live in an age where positive reviews are bought and paid for and most of the negative reviews are done by cynical assholes who hate everything. Plus I’m a grown adult who can formulate my own opinions. Still, the game was kind of pricey. That, combined with the sea of negative reviews caused me to put off on buying it when it first came out in 2016.

Several years later, and the game was $5 on Steam. I figured at that price it was worth the gamble, so I grabbed it.

Man, what a letdown.

The first and biggest issue I had with the game was the fact that they basically retconned the backstory from the original game. In the original game, Kim Jong-Un reunifies the Koreas, invades most of Asia, then launches a satellite that uses an EMP to cripple the US before an invasion in which they capture the entire western half of the US, stopping at an irradiated Mississippi River. Not too plausible, but still realistic to an extent. The final mission of the game has you teaming up with the US military to liberate San Francisco, and mentions that afterwards the EU decides to declare war on Korea.

Homefront: The Revolution took this cool backstory, told John Milius “Get fucked nerd”, wiped their ass on his work, and proceeded to make up some garbage alternate history about North Korea becoming a technological powerhouse in the ’70s and eventually selling the US devices and weapons with back-doors in them, which they used to deactivate everything. The North Koreans then sent troops over as a humanitarian mission, and were welcomed with open arms. There is no mention of us even trying to fight back, other than small pockets of resistance.

The game COULD HAVE done something with this to make it mesh with the original story. All they had to do was present it as though it was propaganda made up by the Koreans to make themselves look better. We could have had the player learning what actually happened through old newspapers or something. Boy that would have been swell.

Good stories are for pussies.

My next issue was with how unrealistic the native Philadelphians are. Have the devs even listened to someone from Philly talk? This game has some of the whitest black people I’ve never met in my entire 32 years in Philly. I get that they couldn’t throw the N-word around or have every other word be an F-bomb, but still, the way the characters talk is completely unrealistic. And it wasn’t just the black characters, the white characters didn’t sound close to realistic either. The closest thing I heard to a Philadelphia accent was one character who had a New York accent. Not once did I hear someone use the word “jawn“. Let me just say to any game developers out there, if you make a game about Philly, you HAVE to use the word “jawn” at least once. You can’t just slap some cheesesteak signs on some buildings and call it Philly. If the characters are talking like they went to Catholic school in West Chester, you screwed up. I’d be more than willing to do a Philly-speak consultation with any game devs, for a small fee of course.

There was one thing the devs DID get right in their portrayal of Philly though, aside from the neighborhood names (just not the placements of those neighborhoods). The city is indeed one gigantic dump full of classless trash. And you know what? We don’t need some stupid Norks to make it that way. We have folks like Mayor Kenney, who literally pulled a bait-and-switch with the Philly Beverage Tax and wants to set up safe-injection sites for drug addicts in what’s becoming known as one of the heroin capitals of the world. Seriously, it’s so bad that Vice did an entire special on it. We also have a DA that has decided he no longer wants to prosecute drug and gun-related crimes. I was going to link you a source for that but all the sources I could find want to charge a subscription fee to read them, and I’ll be damned if I’m giving that poorly-written rag known as the Philadelphia Inquirer any of my money, so if you don’t believe me you’ll have to do your own research on this one. Best I can offer is this proof that Philly PD hates DA Krasner, they even call him “Let’em Go Larry” and everything.

But this isn’t about Philly politics, this is about Homefront: The Revolution, so let me get right back on track.

I will applaud the devs on a few things though, some minor details that they actually got right despite somehow missing the bigger picture. Seriously though, no Art Museum or sports complexes?! Yet you of course didn’t forget to include the Comcast Building, because Comcast absolutely needs more publicity and probably paid their way into the game. Owning City Council isn’t enough for you guys? It’s thanks to Comcast that we don’t have Google Fiber in Philly, and probably never will. Sorry, I did it again with the Philly politics.

The street signs are actually very accurate in terms of appearance. The devs managed to do their homework on this one. While most of the street names are made-up (with exceptions for landmarks), no reasonable person would have expected the devs to accurately recreate all of Philadelphia, so it’s okay if they took liberties with most of the smaller street names. They also used the 215 area code on all in-game phone numbers. This seems like something simple and not worthy of applause, but it’s amazing how often games that take place in real cities overlook this basic thing, so hats off to the devs on this one.

Another nice touch were the signs that said “KPA: Kiss Philly’s Ass”. With these signs, the devs managed to capture at least some of Philly’s notorious attitude without using the excessive profanity that we’re also known for (if you think I curse too much, don’t fucking come to Philly, you might fucking faint). The subway cars you escape through were also very accurate in layout and overall appearance, though I’m sad the Frankford Line didn’t get anywhere near as much love as the Broad Street line did. There was also a lot of effort put into recreating City Hall, so more props on that one.

Overall though this game sucked, and I honestly didn’t bother to continue playing it past the Assault on Precinct 15 mission. I looked at spoilers online for the rest of the story, and I can see I definitely made the right call, this game looks like it’s a steady stream of garbage. Obviously this game takes place at the City Dump on State Road.

I’m glad I waited 4 years to buy it, and I’m glad I only paid $5 for it. I’d feel pretty stupid right now if I had bought it when it first came out and paid full price. What a mess. This game had potential, and the open-world format was a great idea. Unfortunately this was overshadowed by retcons, shitty dialogue, and a ham-handed story. I know the whole story about THQ filing for bankruptcy and the game being passed off to Crytek, but this is no excuse for dropping the ball this hard. Seriously, the guy you put in charge of making this game was an Arab living in the UK. You put a British Arab in charge of making a game about liberating an American city from a Korean invasion. The only way this guy could be any further removed from the concept of liberating the birthplace of the American Revolution from a communist invasion from Asia is if he grew up on Jupiter. I’m not even angry at the guy, he got assigned to make a game based on subject material that he knew absolutely nothing about and couldn’t really relate all that well to. It’s not like he’s some two-bit nobody, he has the Crysis series in his portfolio, so he obviously doesn’t lack skill or talent. He just didn’t have any attachment to the source material that got suddenly thrusted onto him after being ping-ponged around for years. Fasahat Salim got shafted by his company on this one, my beef isn’t with him at all. This game should have been made in America, or at least written by Americans. You know, people who grew up learning about the American Revolution and have an attachment to the country that is the subject of the invasion.

And yes, I’m well aware this review is 4 years late. I’m also well aware that you can kiss my ass.