UPDATE: The open beta began just a little while ago and it's extremely hard to find a match. The game somehow is running worse than the stress test beta I played a couple weeks ago and it also looks the same. Luckily there is one new map with the open beta. It's fairly big and probably my favorite mission of the three available. It involves your squad infiltrating an enemy base then following two transport vehicles to an evac spot. It has the most variety in gameplay from stealthily(or gun ho) attacking the K.P.A. base to playing defense while moving through a crumbling city. One thing I have to say is that the atmosphere in this new map is great and you feel in this world. That would have to be the best takeaway from this beta. I'm still looking forward to the assumed more fleshed out and beautiful looking campaign.
Guerrilla warfare is the name of the game here in the multiplayer cooperative beta for the long awaited sequel to Homefront. The beta brings two co-op missions available to play with three of your friends on three different difficulties. While I've only played on easy mode, I must say it is very challenging. I could only imagine what hard is like, but for the sake of playing through each mission, I played on easy.
First up is graphics and performance. The beta doesn't look all that impressive, nor does it run well. But it is a beta, specifically a stress test. The actual beta doesn't start for another two weeks. I'm sure the technical issues will be fixed by the actual release date. The graphics here though aren't really jaw dropping. Things seems really washed out and textures don't add any depth to what's in the world. Character models also look a bit out dated. Now I definitely think this won't be representative of the single player graphics, which actually look very good.
There are two missions that are playable in the stress test, I don't know if more will be added for the full beta or any other modes. I'm hoping for a full fledged competitive multiplayer like the first game had, but I won't hold my breathe. One mission sees you and your buddies going to check out what a K.P.A. Militia is up to near your hideout, then things get a bit sticky. You retreat back to multiple standoff points to give friendly A.I. a chance to escape and plant bombs on the hideout to destroy any information that could be useful to the enemy. This mission was pretty challenging at first and actually took teamwork, I died multiple times on this mission.
The second mission sees your squad going on the offensive and charging in on a full fledge assault. Your goal is to hack certain things throughout a fairly large map, much more open than the first. There is even a vehicle segment that changes up the gameplay. Overall these missions were fun to play through and see to the end. But I honestly couldn't tell you if I want to go and replay them. I want to try them out on hard and unlock a few more weapons and attachments, but there's not enough in this stress test build that makes me want to spend time with it. I put in two hours with the two mission and am ready to move on. There are mini objective you can try to complete that are shown in the loading screens where you can earn more XP, but your team must be compliant.
You start the beta off by making a character. You pick out of ten appearances, which are all very basic. Then you choose a background, there were eleven made available. You could choose to have been a cab driver or a pharmacist for example, I chose a gangbanger. Each background gives you a primary skill tree that better fits your character and play style. There are four skill trees with four tiers, with varying amounts of skills in each. The skills range from downed times on looting and crafting, to gaining more XP. I hope the single player uses a lot of the same mechanics, but in a deeper fashion.
There were thirteen primary weapons and three secondary weapons that can be unlocked. I think that is a decent amount for a co-op mode and each weapon has attachments. There were also plenty of clothing options for your character to unlock. The unlocking system is very different from what I am used to. You gain XP and then can use it to unlock one of the four crates that give you random things. There is a gear, attachment, ordnance, and weapon crate. Each gives you something from that category, ordnance being weapon and attachments. This unlock system feel natural with the game's themes. You in an occupied Philadelphia and have to take what you can get.
There is a looting and crafting system that feels like it could use some depth. I would rather just pick up these items around the world than finding parts to make them. It feels unneeded, considering there aren't a lot of places to find these parts. There is a hacking tool, distraction, bomb, and molotov that can be made, each are very useful in combat. These things don't restock after every match, it seems like they carry over with you.
Lastly I want to talk generally about the gameplay and what I liked and disliked about the beta so far. The movement feels off, everything you do feels a bit clunky and it's very relevant when you are trying to get on a ledge or get in cover. I hope this can be smoothed out before the final release. Enemies take the perfect amount of damage, but hit detection feels off as well. It doesn't feel satisfying enough or brutal. Maybe put a sound in that sounds like bones crushing by your bullet, not like shooting pillows. I also noticed there is a lack of auto aim. This isn't a complaint at all, but I am just curious about it. It definitely makes the game a bit more challenging. There's also a mechanic that when you are crouched near cover you can peek and blindfire. It adds nicely to how the combat feels.
Overall this is clearly a beta and work in progress. Hopefully the developers fix some of the kinks and make the game run much smoother. There's a decent amount of content here in the beta that could keep you playing, but I probably won't hop back into it until the main beta starts. I certainly had a good time, I think the combat feels very dirty and personal, which is a huge plus. While I probably won't be putting a lot of time into co-op missions in the final build, I can't wait to play the single player campaign and hopefully some kind of competitive multiplayer.