Homefront: The Revolution – On the streets of Philadelphia…
I played the original Homefront back when it was released in 2011 and I was left, if I am honest, feeling a little underwhelmed. It was a very generic by the numbers shooter that never really got going until the very last mission, which saw you and your band of freedom fighters assaulting the Golden Gate Bridge. By that point the game had become more a trudge to the end than a charge to victory.
Skip forward to May 2014 and I am led into a theatre in the centre of London to be presented with Homefront: The Revolution. Now in the hands of Crytek and using the latest iteration of the CryEngine I was keen to see where the franchise was heading.
For those that are unaware, the series is based on a bleak future where by America has been invaded by North Korea and the population are under the boot of the KPA (Korean People’s Army). You play as an everyman thrust into the conflict in a desperate bid to win back your freedom and oust the KPA from your homeland. In terms of plot, if you want a broader idea I would recommend watching Red Dawn; just replace evil Russians with evil North Koreans – but keep Charlie Sheen. Always keep Charlie Sheen.
Whilst Homefront: The Revolution follows on from the original, none of the characters will be returning – allowing Crytek to focus on creating a new story with its own arcs and twists. Revolution also sees you based quite aptly in the city of Philadelphia, the birthplace of American independence.
I will get the obvious part out of the way… this game is beautiful, and when I say beautiful I mean make sure you play this game in a room with deep shag pile carpet beautiful, because your jaw is going to drop hard. We all know that graphics are just one aspect of a game but in terms of immersion Revolution sells you within the first ten seconds.
Lighting is exceptional, as are the particle effects, and it is clear that Crytek are sweating the CryEngine harder than a Greco wrestling team practicing in a sauna. But what I was really impressed with was the character models and facial animations; up close whilst the fighting was taking place being able to see the various emotions on NPC’s faces really helped sell the moment, from the fear of the non combatants fleeing the gunfights, to the anger from your fellow freedom fighters engaging the KPA trying to push them out of their homes, it was clear to see.
If these characters can be fleshed out with a solid story and background then Crytek could be well on the way to delivering a single player campaign to rival the best of them. After all, there is nothing worse than having a cast of the most beautiful characters only to find they have the emotional range of a tea set. It would be like watching a feature length episode of The Only Way is Essex. Nobody wants that.
It was explained that Philadelphia has been designed to be a giant sandbox for the player to explore, with various parts being zoned off by the KPA. The Green Zone, where the KPA have set up headquarters and are strongest, Yellow ‘ghetto’ Zones, of which there are several each with their own distinct look and feel, where the KPA are attempting to move the population. Finally there is the Red Zone, an expansive wasteland of bombed out streets and houses and I suspect the breeding ground of most of the freedom fighters.
As the player you can travel between all these zones via a central hub and the team were eager to explain that exploration, whilst being a natural part of the plot, is also actively encouraged outside of it. Exploration will not only uncover new areas and safe houses but also more resources for your ‘guerrilla tool kit’.
What this tool kit is Crytek were being decidedly cagy, but were happy to share that it will include items you can find and combine to create lethal devices such as adding C4 to a remote control car, as was rather spectacularly and explosively demonstrated in our video demo. How many weapons and combinations were not announced but I expect to be dispatching KPA patrols all over Philly like an angry MacGyver come release date – just with better hair.
Crytek were also at pains to stress how they have been working hard on a new reactive AI that the KPA and civilians will posses, reacting intelligently to situations and surroundings and making the game both challenging and engaging. Players will have the option to approach situations in various ways, be it total stealth or all out action, or like was show to us a mixture of the two. For instance taking on a heavily fortified KPA outpost is more than likely going to result in death, as you will be outgunned and outnumbered from the start. However create a diversion nearby and draw the KPA away with the AI reacting and suddenly the odds are more favourable.
There is also four player co-op in Homefront: The Revolution, working on its own plot. Again this will pit you and three friends together in the city of Philadelphia, free to roam around and attack targets where and when you see fit. This is drop-in drop-out multiplayer and it is promised to be a seamless experience. The idea of me and three friends taking on the man like the A-Team is a very appealing one and doing this in an open world with AI as impressive as what was shown could really be a genre defining experience.
I had no idea what to expect from Homefront: The Revolution, but having been shown a very brief play though I have come away not only impressed but wanting more. Crytek have clearly been busy on this project and from what we were shown bears all the hallmarks of their trade. The gunplay looked solid and the environments were stunning – add to this interesting characters, a compelling plot, exceptional AI and an exciting and inventive multiplayer experience and we might finally be looking at our first real next-generation shooter.
Crytek have promised more information at E3 and I for one will be tuning in to see what they reveal as Homefront: The Revolution has my attention and it should yours too.