Although the original Homefront was released to mixed reviews, THQ planned to go a head with a sequel before they filed for bankruptcy in December 2012. When all of their assets were sold the following month, Crytek picked up the rights to the franchise for a little over half a million dollars. Now, almost three years later, we’ve had a chance to see where the team at Crytek have taken the franchise.
They have tried hard to create an immersive experience, and to keep you in the thick of the action. For example, cut scenes are all in-engine, meaning that you can move around freely during the story elements rather than just sitting there passively. Upgrading or customising your weapon is also done on the fly, in a similar way to the upcoming Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. You’re rarely pulled out of the action, meaning that you need to find yourself a bit of breathing room if you want to make any alterations; there is no pausing while you get yourself adjusted.
You also need time to craft your own weapons from pieces you find while exploring the environment. There’s no crate of Molotov cocktails for you to pocket, so you better look out for the pieces you’ll need in order to create them for yourself. You’ll also find blueprints hidden within the open world of a heavily destroyed Philadelphia. These will allow you to gain upgrades such as removing the barrel of a shotgun and replacing it with a device that allows you to fire a burst of incendiary-like grenades.
The city streets are heavily policed by the Greater Korean Republic who are now four years into their invasion of the USA, placing Revolution two years after the original. Taking over “Strike Points” by hacking the building’s control system will push the enemy back and help in regaining some control. The GKR won’t be completely removed but it means that more resistance members will be in the area. More resistance means more posters promoting the fall of the Korean invasion, which in-turn encourages other civilians to rise up and join your cause. More “good guys” also means more vehicles and weapons in that area, on top of traps and ambushes that can be used at your disposal.
Before you take back parts of the city, you do feel as though you’re not supposed to be there. That you’re trespassing. There are drones, trucks and heavily armoured soldiers looking to crush the resistance, which they can do with ease. This isn’t your typical first person shooter, it’s about the smart versus the strong. If you stand there and try to shoot a group of enemies you will fail. Unlike some shooters, you’re not overpowered when it comes to your health, nor are you invisible to the enemy’s sight line. Running away to live and fight another day isn’t just an option, it’s often encouraged. You need to act smartly, plan your attacks and use your surroundings wisely.
Knowing what’s around you is a key part to winning as one of the lines we were fed at the demo was “if you can see a way up, you can probably get there.” You’re not limited to ground level. You can run along rooftops, through the majority of buildings or crawl through the sewers below to find the best angle, which therefore gives more freedom to players. Searching your surroundings is also critical, as you don’t know where you might find a valuable medical kit or where that final crafting ingredient may be hiding.
You can also get your own vehicles. We found a bike inside a shipping container which we used to jump off a ramp and onto a roof before dropping in behind our unsuspecting foes. The bike mechanics draw a lot of inspiration from the old arcade trial games with high suspension that allows players to hit the ground from high platforms to simply bounce on impact.
Seeker drones continuously scan the area for rebel scum and you’ll raise the alert status if you’re detected. There are several degrees of escalating responses; being scanned or firing your weapon will alert nearby patrols to your location. Refusing to die will attract more reinforcements in trucks carrying bigger, badder weaponry. Continue to survive and it’s time to run for cover as a gunship will soon be overhead, making it important to not only avoid making noise where possible, but to quickly squash any word of it if you do. Bottom line: alerting enemies is very bad for your health but it’s not the end of the world.
You also have some technology at your disposal on top of your primary fire power. We got a glimpse of one such piece in the form of a remote control car, rather similar to the RC-XD from the Call of Duty: Black Ops series. This item still requires a level of stealth though, as if it’s spotted, much like yourself, it will be shot on sight. Therefore, its usefulness varies, but it can still be of aid when taking out a small group of enemies.
The core of Homefront: The Revolution is to hit and run, divide and conquer. You have a team of resistance to build up, but primarily you’re on own your own, which as you’d expect, is difficult when you’re going up against the entire force of Korea. While you’re doing your own thing, unscripted firefights can break out between your team and the GKR. It is entirely up to you if you want to intervene or let fate decide the outcome.
We’ve mentioned a lot of points and new features we’re excited about ahead of the game’s launch next year. It’s worth mentioning that what we played was an early build, but the aiming and shooting felt a little clunky and not as slick as Star Wars: Battlefront or Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Not yet, anyway.
There was also very little direction in the demo. We completed one objective and then we were left on our own with zero guidance. Whether this will be the same in the retail version or not remains to be seen, but some gamers even quit and left the demo without completing it, presumably due to an amount of frustration. We were all running about like headless chickens.