Homefront: The Revolution – Preview

Title   Homefront: The Revolution
Developer  Crytek UK
Publisher  Deep Silver and Crytek
Platform  PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre  Open-World First-Person Shooter
Release Date  2015
Official Site  http://www.homefront-game.com/

It can’t be easy to take on a property that wasn’t yours to begin with. The Star Wars prequels have taught us that separating creator and creation can often be a force for good but, conversely, the fourth season of Community shows us that it can often be worse to depose the makers and replace them with people who spend their entire time trying to replicate what made it good, only to end up with what can only be called a travesty. When THQ shuttered its doors a few years back, one of the properties that went on sale was the averagely received Homefront - a jingoistic ‘what if?’ story in which North Korea weren’t laughably incompetent and actually managed to invade the United States of America.

Surprisingly, it was Crytek UK, the studio formerly known as Free Radical and purveyors of such fine fare as Timesplitters 2 and Second Sight, who bought the IP rights and set about making a sequel. Set to be released at some point next year, Homefront: The Revolution doesn’t just appear to be in safe hands, it feels like it’s where it’s always belonged. The action begins in 2029, four years after the initial invasion. The Korean People’s Army (KPA) have lost ground in the west, but are in total control of many of the eastern states. Either way, it seems like there’s no real hope of salvation for the once-great superpower.

However, deep in the heart of Philadelphia – which the KPA has commandeered as their main base of operations – a small resistance is starting to grow in number. Players take control of Ethan Brady, an average man who joins the cause and helps plan a second uprising against his Korean overlords. Despite being outnumbered and out-gunned, Brady and pals aim to start a revolution and once again turn Philadelphia into the birthplace of American freedom. Rather than the linear action of before, Homefront: The Revolution takes place in a dystopian free-roaming city with plenty to do outside of your base missions. It’s yet to be seen if certain areas are unlocked as the resistance gains more ground on their oppressors, but it could be a great way to demonstrate some tangible progression. That being said, one of the things I quite liked was that it didn’t seem like you were The One Man Who Will Change Everything™, but just another cog in the machine.

As Brady explored the city, patrolling guards and surveillance cameras were plentiful, and there were even robotic drones that scanned their surroundings for potential troublemakers. With the enemy forces so prevalent and technologically superior, there was never a point where going in guns blazing seemed like the optimal strategy. There was even a great deal of hesitancy to put a stop to two Korean soldiers attacking some harmless civilians, lest they call for back-up and render our hero another casualty statistic.

Instead, the impression I got was that the preferred tactic was to sneak around the city and slowly chip away at the KPA with small victories. For example, one of the many things to do around the city is to disable the numerous cameras scattered about, preventing your oppressors from being able to see what’s going on and allowing you a little more breathing room. Likewise, players can also look for graffiti that will lead them to the locations of hidden weapons caches; they won’t give you access to all-powerful weapons, but you’ll be able to pick up some ammo and rudimentary explosives. They’re not safe-houses, however, as was aptly demonstrated when a drone flew by and scanned its immediate surroundings, which would have caused it to signal for assistance had Brady not carefully hidden himself.

Despite being under-powered, our hero is by no means helpless. Among his arsenal is a smart-phone, which usually acts as your HUD map and can set paths with its GPS but can also be used to receive messages and missions from your allies, take pictures and mark enemies so you can track their patrol routes, if need be. Although it wasn’t demonstrated in the preview, a quick glance at the options also reveals that you’ll be able to use your phone to control drones later on. Additionally, our hero can also utilise an instant take-down if he’s successfully able to sneak up on an enemy without arousing their suspicion, and he can customise his weapons on the fly via the exact same mechanic as is present in the Crysis series.

He’s also a deft hand with guerrilla weaponry, as we were shown towards the end of the preview when Ethan took control of some RC cars on a mission to free some of his imprisoned comrades. Rather than being used just for surveillance and to mark targets, they were also equipped with a large amount of explosives, as the KPA soon discovered when our hero rolled one up to its target and let loose a hail of destruction that caught the enemy completely by surprise. Suddenly, members of the resistance started storming the compound and, as the player, you can choose to either join them and start taking pot-shots at the remaining targets, or make your escape as Korean soldiers arrive en masse to quell the uprising.

As the preview ended, I couldn’t help be taken aback by how much passion had gone into Homefront: The Revolution. Far from a cynical retread of old ground or a sequel that exists just because, it’s overwhelmingly clear that Crytek UK have a great deal of passion for the premise and its potential, and have channelled that into a sprawling open-world shooter unlike any other. What’s even more impressive is that, even in such a small sample of gameplay, both the scale of the task ahead of you and the way you’re just part of the team, rather than the ultimate hero, really appealed to me, and could prove to be one of the game’s biggest draws. Not only is the series in safe hands here, it’s in better hands than it ever was before, and this could easily be be one of the bigger surprises of 2015. I might even forgive them for the complete lack of a new Timesplitters title. For now, anyway.

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