I’m going to discuss videogame logic for a little while here, and I realize that this is a tough thing to do. Over my years in gaming I’ve become very selective about how far I can suspend my disbelief. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I just can’t explain it.
On one hand, one of my favorite games of all time lets the protagonist power up his robot limbs by eating candy bars, and somehow I can let that slide while remaining aware of how silly it is.
On the other hand, I can’t go along with Lara Croft performing a 10-minute puzzle that requires jumping and climbing and swinging giant weights to break a barrier while she could just shoot the barrier with the bomb-tipped arrows conveniently strapped to her back. Alas, videogame logic is afoot.
My most recent bout with inconsistent suspension of disbelief comes from Homefront: The Revolution — a sequel no one wanted from a mediocre, forgettable first-person shooter about killing non-white people.
Due to a summer gaming slump, I rented Homefront: The Revolution from Gamefly just to give it a shot. Worst-case scenario: I’d think it’s awful after an hour and send it back. Best-case scenario: I’d think it’s awful after an hour and then write about it. Since we’re gathered here, we all know which scenario played out.
Homefront: The Revolution is about a computer company (definitely not Apple) in North Korea pumping out so much good shit that Americans buy all of it — phones, cars, and even guns and vehicles for the Armed Forces. Because these alternate reality North Koreans are so clever, they built a killswitch into each item and decide to basically deactivate America one day and take over.
Players fill the combat boots of Brady, a fellow who’s been in the Resistance for a measly three days before Walker — the face of the Resistance — is due to show up at their Philadelphia hideout. Because Homefront can’t be all smiles and sunshine, everything goes belly-up and Brady is tasked with being the person who can save the Resistance because (and I’m still trying to figure this out) he has a phone? Nevermind the dozens of other Resistance fighters around who’ve probably been with the group longer than three days.
Nope, Walker picks Brady probably because Brady threw a phone at a soldier’s head in a cutscene, so with phone-throwing combat skills like that, how could Walker choose anyone else to lead the Resistance?
I wish I were making this up.
In my hour with Homefront: The Revolution, the thing that shocked me the most was how often the game’s narrative immediately contradicted itself or just flat-out didn’t make sense. I know we’re talking about videogames here — consistently the worst-written entertainment medium — but everything in Homefront plays out like a few 10-year-old boys were making up a story while playing with toy guns in their backyard. I wasn’t expecting Oscar-caliber writing, but I don’t think it’s too lofty to expect some of the narrative to at least make sense.
In Homefront’s opening sequence I was impressed that the second character Brady meets is a black woman — Mary. I love minority characters in videogames. I’d be happy to never play as a straight white man ever again.
Then I noticed what she was wearing. Or maybe I should say not wearing. Unlike the appropriately-dressed soldiers around her, Mary is wearing an ultra low-cut blouse, no bra, a choker and a string of necklaces. Obviously that’s the correct apparel for preparing Molotov cocktails to aid in a resistance movement. I don’t have a problem with women wearing whatever they want, but it’s so obvious her outfit was designed by men for the male gaze that my eyes rolled so hard they nearly got stuck.
Her outfit doesn’t matter much anyway because she’s the second person to get murdered in the game — she dies at the five-minute mark after a raid at the hideout. Nice job killing your minority character off early, Homefront. What a casually racist cliché.
Three minutes later, Brady is directed to find an underground Resistance HQ, and as soon as he gets there, he’s assaulted by two of the Resistance members — they think he’s a spy breaking in to infiltrate. Nevermind that Walker — the father of this Resistance movement, remember? — personally sent Brady to the HQ. Did he not let them know Brady was coming?
So the Resistance guys hit Brady directly in the face with a wooden baseball bat and then kick him in the stomach. Ouch. One of the guys is ready to kill Brady, but the other warns him that they need to deliver him to Dana – a Resistance interrogator – so they shouldn’t harm him more. Then, seconds later, one of them kicks Brady in the face because… kicking someone in the face right after hitting them with a baseball bat will definitely not alter someone’s mental state before a proper interrogation?
The best part here is of course (of course!) Homefront: The Revolution made Brady a motherfucking silent protagonist. So, the whole time he’s getting abused by the Resistance — the men he was purposefully sent to assist — he could’ve, I don’t know, told them that Walker sent him? But no, Homefront made Brady silent to enable bad story development.
But wait, it gets better.
Brady is then taken to Dana the interrogator. He wakes up tied to a chair. She pulls a knife and tells him she’s going to hurt him if he doesn’t give up his spy info. This would be a perfect time for Brady to speak up and say, “Hey, Walker sent me. Did he not phone ahead?” because that’s what I was wondering this whole time. But because of videogame logic, if a developer renders a protagonist silent, silent they must stay no matter how dire the odds.
Just as Dana threatens to cut off his nipples (I swear I’m not making this up!) two new Resistance guys walk in, stop her, and check Brady’s pockets for ID. Upon seeing his ID, they realize (surprise!) this is the guy Walker phoned ahead about. Who would’ve thought?
The game justifies these events by having someone mention that Dana is never around when critical information is passed around, but this doesn’t wash because she’s later shown to be on a constant phone connection for mission updates.
A doctor takes a look at Brady to inspect his wounds. If this were a third-person shooter and we were able to see our hero, I imagine his would look like a bloated grape from his injuries by now. The doc concludes he has a possible concussion and offers some pills to help with the injury. Another character counters and says not to give him the meds because “Brady needs to keep his focus” during the upcoming mission. Because nothing says focused like withholding meds after a baseball bat and boot to the face.
It’s also worth mentioning that the doctor is black and the character that demands withholding the meds is an older white guy. So by the half-hour mark, we already have a black woman getting murdered and an unqualified white man with no medical background putting his foot down to override a black doctor’s prescription and expertise. Why stop at one casually racist scenario when you can have two, eh Homefront?
At this point I should’ve turned the game off, but I kept rolling with it for another half-hour. Nothing else I played is worth mentioning, but I can assure you that the game certainly did not get better. However, this was the best-case scenario. Some games are so great that I feel honored to write about them, while others are so bad that I feel it’s my civic duty to say something.
I imagine if I’d stuck with it and played the whole game, I could probably produce a novel on its problems, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Homefront: The Revolution is a terrible game, and I honestly feel sorry for the team of developers who undoubtedly worked their asses off only to send it out to die.