Built with CryEngine technology, Homefront: The Revolution is undoubtedly a visually arresting game - but sadly, one where performance leaves a lot to be desired, on console at least. It's a shooter with lofty goals; an open-world design with dynamic lighting and weather, and top-notch motion capture earn it a glowing first impression. But with general gameplay often running at 20fps and under on PS4 and Xbox One, it's hard to truly enjoy the nuts and bolts of its gunplay. It's a shame, because there's a very decent game beneath its technical troubles - something that's immediately apparent when playing on PC.
We're running each version on the latest patch available - in PS4's case listed as update 1.2. Even fully patched though, it doesn't take long to realise that frame-rates struggle on each console, and that Xbox One often leads in performance for matching tests. From the very first cut-scene Xbox One tops PS4 by an average of 3fps - a divide that's also true of regular gameplay. Neither can be considered a success though and at its nadir, PS4 is prone to 15fps drops, while Xbox One hits a similar 16fps just as alpha effects kick in.
The bad news is this isn't a one-off. Even walking through the main Elmtree 'yellow zone' area causes frame-rates to stick to the 20-25fps range on each version. Again PS4 lags behind Xbox One by a slim but consistent delta, and also curiously features tearing to the top of its output. It's not exactly noticeable, but it's a drop in v-sync that doesn't manifest at all on Xbox One. However, it's a sign of compromise on Sony's machine we just didn't expect by comparison, and with no pay-off in a faster refresh.
On the flipside, PS4 has an obvious advantage in image quality. You get a native 1920x1080 on PS4 as you might expect, while Xbox One settles for a 1600x900 resolution - standard fare for most CryEngine titles. Our comparison also has temporal anti-aliasing enabled - an optional mode you can access in the visual settings menu (at no performance penalty). This does a far better job of clearing the game's rough points than the default off position, where a different post-process AA is used. The only - perhaps expected - drawback to this temporal technique is a ghost trail falling behind moving objects.
In the context of performance, this 1080p/900p divide only goes so far to explain Xbox one's frame-lead. Homefront The Revolution focuses heavily on AI routines and physics-based objects, where Xbox One's slight CPU overclock (at 1.75GHz per core, compared to PS4 at 1.6GHz) could qualify the boost we're seeing. Microsoft's machine offers a smoother ride, but even so, it's hard to recommend either console version wholeheartedly. Too much time is spent at the lower end of the 20-30fps spectrum, and given the game's high difficulty, this sluggish visual response creates another, unnecessary hurdle when it comes to tasks as simple - and as crucial - as targeting enemies.
Sadly, frame-rates aren't the only problem on console. The game's auto-save system is a major issue too, causing all gameplay to suddenly freeze for five to ten seconds at a time on PS4 and Xbox One. This wouldn't be such a nuisance, except these checkpoints occur so frequently; whether it's after buying a new gun, accepting a new mission, or simply moving to a new area. It's possible to run into several in quick succession too if you're unlucky, creating another big roadblock to engaging with the experience. It's a problem that is mostly a non-issue on an SSD-equipped PC, but on the stock 5400rpm HDDs in PS4 and Xbox One, it's too grating to overlook.
Fortunately, there are stretches of play that do run at 30fps, typically for indoor shootouts. However, even here there's a problem where both PS4 and Xbox One produce frame-time spikes to 16ms - a momentary jump to 31fps that makes motion uneven. In other words, even at its performance ceiling the game doesn't animate smoothly. It's a frame-pacing issue that's hopefully easy to address with an upcoming patch, but right now it's another distraction.
Our first impression is this: Homefront: The Revolution is a fine game, with some superb tech behind it, but it's seriously let down by its console performance level. If you're interested in giving it a go, early tests suggest that PC is the way to go. We'll be back with full performance testing on PC (spoilers: early impressions suggest that GTX 970 can run this locked at 1080p60 on high settings) plus a full visual comparison in the coming days.