WHAT UP INTERNET?!
DISCLAIMER: The following 1-Ups an Buzzkills are only based on seven games of cooperative multiplayer during the server stress-test conducted 2/5-hence while they are referred to as quick impressions.
Beta tests serve an interesting purpose for both gamers and developers. Provided a release date isn’t right around the corner, they allow developers to gather feedback from players and make tweaks as necessary to ensure the final product meets the standards of both parties. For gamers, they serve as a “soft preview” of sorts, allowing gamers to get some hands on time with a title which might not have been on their radar or they might’ve overlooked for one reason or another. In today’s information age, gamers are well-aware while (most) beta tests are by no means indicative of the final, polished product they are something which developers are ready to showcase, meaning the foundation of the game has essentially been laid and the odds of any “game-changing” features being implemented prior to release are relatively minuscule.
While I fully intended to stream my time with the stress test of Homefront: The Revolution (from henceforth referred to as HTR) last night, personal obligations kept me from doing so. I will absolutely do so during next weekend’s beta. Fortunately I was able to play seven rounds of the cooperative multiplayer mission titled “A Las Barricadas” to at the very least gather some quick impressions of the title. Considering this is a beta I will not be referencing any graphical/technical issues I may have ecountered as these are to be expected when participating in a beta. If this was a full game (see: Assassin’s Creed: Unity) these would be inexcusable-however these issues should surface during a beta test to allow the developers time to rectify any issues prior to the game’s full release. For the sake of familiarity, I’ll break these quick impressions down in the classic TruBros style: 1-Ups and Buzzkills!
I will confess upfront: I did not play the inaugural entry in the Homefront series last generation. Too many good games to play with too little time and money to spare. While I’m sure the full-fledged single-player campaign will be the bread and butter of HTR, the cooperative multiplayer mode was the focus of the beta stress test. The story was primarily conveyed through voiceover narratives which did not break up the action in the slightest. While there was not a deluge of information conveyed during these voiceovers, I felt they appropriately communicated not only the backdrop of the mission I was playing, but the overall story which (I presume) is tied to the single-player campaign.
- Gameplay freedom
If you’ve played cooperative multiplayer games such as Left 4 Dead or Halo’s “Firefight” mode, you’ll feel right at home in HTR. You essentially move to different portions of the map, clear out enemies/secure a zone and then rinse and repeat. The freedom afforded to the player is actually due to the setting of the game. This particular mission took place is a large and desolate city, full of back alleys, rooftops and buildings which allow the player to approach their destination from a variety of directions. While I played solely in the “easy” mode and the necessity for team communication was non-existent, I could easily see more complicated levels/higher difficulties allowing for a great deal of strategic planning. Players can utilize a multitude of approaches and secure various vantage points, and that’s something not nearly enough first-person shooters provide for.
Although the customization features were significantly reduced for the stress test beta, samplings of the options were present to view, but not to select when building/modifying your character. Not only could you select from a variety of base templates for your characters appearance, but you can (eventually) customize essentially every facet of your character’s appearance. Couple this with a large arsenal of weapons at your disposal which allow for a variety of attachments and modifications to be equipped and I’m sure the final product will enable players to build their characters precisely to their liking.
The atmosphere of a title can make a tremendous difference in a cooperative multiplayer mode, provided the developer opts to utilize it. The Left 4 Dead series did this with tremendous effect. A player’s objectives can be repetitive so long as the atmosphere has been constructed effectively. HTR is set smack-dab in the middle of a war, and the worn-down environment reflects this accordingly. The voiceover narration conveys the urgency of the situation, and while the voice acting is by no means perfect, this combined with the detailed settings do a great job of immersing the player in the world of HTR. Granted, this feeling wore off rather quickly for me, I suspect this is due to my only playing a single mission repetitively (I wanted to ensure I experienced all it had to offer!)
- Advancement system
If you’re familiar with the cooperative multiplayer component of Mass Effect 3, you’ll understand the advancement system of HTR. Players earn in-game currency from earning medals in game (such as getting a set number of kills with your sidearm) and completing the mission. This currency is used to purchase in game “blind boxes” which can provide a new weapon to choose from, aesthetic options or weapon attachments. I was able to purchase two of the cheaper pack options after my first game, meaning currency-while not abundant-was easy to earn. Additionally, players are able to use skill points and currency to upgrade their characters’ base skills, which provide passive buffs to both the player and/or their teammates. You’ve the option of being a bullet-absorbing tank, a medic who can revive teammates quickly, an engineer who hacks enemy hardware with ease-the variety of options at the player’s disposal are numerous. This ensures players will not only be able to build their character specifically to their aesthetic predilections, but their play-style as well.
The very first thing I noticed after spending approximately three seconds with HTR is the controls are best described as “floaty.” If you’re accustomed to the speed and precision afforded to players by the likes of the Call of Duty series or Destiny, you will not dig the way HTR handles. Player movement feels incredibly slow even when sprinting, aiming down the sights feels as if it takes longer than it should. I did not adjust the sensitivity on my joystick for aiming as honestly, I’ve never had to with any shooter game. Additionally, while players can crouch they cannot go prone, which while not a necessity of the genre, is a curious omission considering the atmosphere of the title. Multiplayer cooperative modes such as those offered by the Resistance series (remember that?), Left 4 Dead and Destiny thrive due to the speed and precision of their controls-HTR almost certainly will not have the same claim to fame.
One of the first skill upgrades I selected was to complete objectives faster. As I’ve spent my fair share of time with Counter-Strike I assumed this would be some kind of passive event where a player is unable to utilize their weapons. Perhaps it was due to the single mission I opted to player (and I will be able to confirm this next weekend I spend a significant amount of time immersed in the closed beta), but the only objective my team was tasked with was “Go to an area, kill enemies.” While this will certainly comprise the bulk of the game, having an objective which requires at least passive interaction from a player (such as bomb-disarming from Counter-Strike or perhaps a simple puzzle to complete while teammates provide cover) are essential to adding some variety to a title. If each mission of HTR is simply “Go to an area, kill a couple enemies and then do this X 5”, the gameplay will grow stale rather quickly, regardless of the environment.
- Color Scheme
This may be a bit of a personal preference (but then again, all impressions/reviews/commentaries are subjective) but the color palette of HTR’s setting came across as a bit bland. The game was heavy in light grays and blues (pastel? I’m no color aficionado) which I understand due to the game taking place in a city with buildings made of concrete, cities are full of color. Pops of color should be littered through the environment, whether it be an abandoned car sitting in a street, posters adorning walls or trash strewn across the street. While all of these were present, leisure strolling to the next objective did not feel as if I was immersed in what was once a living, breathing city which has been torn apart by war. The Last of Us did a picture-esque job of conveying this through the use of shadow and color, and while this may certainly be updated before the game’s final release I am skeptical changes of this magnitude will be instituted.
- Ammo scarcity
The magazine for both my primary precision rifle and sidearm was 60 rounds. This is certainly a large number for a sidearm but it is paltry for a primary weapon. While the opportunity to resupply (once, mind you) was present at each objective zone, this is a peculiar constraint. There may be passive skills I had not unlocked which provide the ability to scavenge ammo from fallen enemies (I sporadically received one or two bullets from enemies I’d defeated, but not with any sort of regularity) or perhaps resupply multiple times at an ammo box, I found myself switching weapons out of necessity fairly frequently. Granted this may have been a constraint in place due to my choice in weapon (I opted to use a precision, semi-automatic rifle) which could have been remedied by modifications or choosing to use a different primary weapon, placing a constraint on players of this variety is seldom utilized by developers for one simple reason: it’s annoying.
- Music/Sound effects
I own a pair of awesome V-Moda headphones, and I use them whenever I play on my Xbone for two reasons: 1) So I don’t disturb anyone by playing my games as loud as I like and 2) To ensure I’m able to hear and appreciate the hard work put forth by the audio team at a particular developer. Destiny’s firearms all feel unique-while many of them handle similarly, the appearance of a weapon and the sound it makes when the trigger is pulled can cause a player to feel powerful. Having played a plethora of games over the years, noteworthy sound effects and engaging music can be a unique differentiator for a title. You Bros have heard me praise the music of Castle Crashers and Battleblock Theater repeatedly when I stream, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game comes to mind as another title where the music and sound effects contributed significantly to the atmosphere of the game. Both the music and sound effects of HTR sounded like something you’ve heard before, which is disappointing as the story of HTR lends itself well to an epic and grandiose score.
I will readily admit some of the buzzkills mentioned in this title may be tied to a lack of time investment on my behalf, or perhaps due to my only indulging in a single map of a single game mode. Next week when the beta runs for longer I will certainly play every game mode on every map available, and will also explore the upgrade trees for both weapons and skills in depth. I believe spending more time with the title will afford me the opportunity to explore the title at greater length and thus provide a more accurate TruBros analysis of HTR. I will readily reinforce the caveat of the provided 1-Ups and Buzzkills is they are based on a relatively small sample size. Until next time, Bros!