The original Homefront was released under the auspices of THQ in March of 2011. A work of speculative fiction, it's set in a near future in which the US has been invaded by a unified Korea. Playing as a member of the resistance, the player sought to precipitate a counter-offensive to start taking back the US from KPA occupation – which played out over a series of missions.
Homefront received a mixed reception from critics and players alike, with the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC versions all scoring close to 70 on Metacritic. Despite that, the game sold around a million copies worldwide, and plans were made for a sequel, Homefront: The Revolution. However, following THQ's bankruptcy in 2012 and the subsequent liquidation of its assets, the rights to the Homefront franchise were bought by Crytek, who then sold them on to German company Koch Media. Now, almost five years since the release of the original game, that sequel is scheduled for release in May by Koch Media subsidiary, Deep Silver.
The creation of British developer, Dambuster Studios, Homefront: The Revolution is a first-person shooter that takes place in Philadelphia, two years after the events of the original game. It presents an open world, and challenges players with a series of main and side missions in which the overall goal is to undermine the KPA occupation force. It's also a co-operative game, with up to four players able to group together to tackle missions – and it's this aspect of the game that I got the chance to play on PC at a recent preview event.
We started off by selecting and customizing a character. There was a reasonable selection to choose from, and I was able to assign my character a profession – I chose "gang banger," whose perk made her a little more robust than standard characters in terms of damage taken. After that, I was able to select my loadout by taking a sniper rifle, which I thought would be a good way to support my three teammates, who all took shotguns and assault weapons.
Once our characters were finalized, we jumped straight into a mission and started working our way through the open world, heading towards a resistance tunnel that was our objective. The game's environment is crawling with hazards: There are KPA patrols everywhere, snipers are perched on rooftops, and drones buzz in the air – all of which you have to avoid. Enemies are all on high alert, and as soon as you shoot, they start actively searching for you. This makes the game quite tense and exciting to play, because you're always feeling like you’re under the gun. It also means that you don't necessarily have to go after every target. Instead, you can be more stealthy and try to avoid conflict - which in some of the missions I played seemed to be a more effective strategy than going in with guns blazing.
As we made progress, slowly eliminating the threats we encountered, I got the chance to hop onto a motorcycle and scout forwards. Again, I had to be careful to not run into patrols and alert them to our presence, which I managed to do successfully. I took out a couple of guards from range, and the team eventually reached the goal, bringing the first mission to a close.
Finishing a mission earns xp and currency, which are used to upgrade characters and also buy loot crates that contain things like armor and clothing, health boosts, new weapons, and attachments that you can use to tweak your loadout. After playing a couple of missions, I earned enough to buy the highest-level crate, and I received a sub machine gun that I could use in place of my rather weak sidearm. This worked really well with my sniper rifle, giving me an alternate short-range weapon that proved very useful a few times when I found myself having to clear rooms of enemies as we progressed on one of our subsequent missions. As well as being able to buy loot crates by earning in-game currency, you'll also be able to buy them via microtransactions.
The last mission we played was exceptionally tough, and our objective was to enter a part of the map that's very heavily patrolled by the KPA to steal some armored vehicles. Set at night, our team methodically worked through the bombed-out ruins of Philadelphia trying to avoid contact with the enemy as much as possible. We managed to reach the vehicles, but as we accompanied them out of the compound where they were stored, we ran into a series of KPA patrols that proved too much for our skills, and we were eventually overwhelmed.
Reflecting on our fairly short session, I was quite surprised at Homefront: The Revolution. I wasn't particularly enamored with the first game, but this sequel seems to be a marked improvement in terms of its overall concept. The fact that it's an open world makes it quite interesting, and I like that you're able to tackle missions in a number of ways, thanks to the gameplay's open sandbox nature. I also really enjoyed the tactical nature of working together as a team to do things like distract patrols so that other members of the team could flank the enemy and take them out, and that made the action quite exciting.
Homefront: The Revolution is certainly quite an ambitious project, and one that seems to offer a good deal of depth and replayability. Beyond the co-op missions we played, there's a 30+ hour solo mission mode, complete with bases and safe houses to set up, a crafting system to employ to make new weapons and improvised explosive devices, and other revolutionaries to recruit to help in the fight against the KPA. Missions are also randomized, which means that you can replay them without having to do the same things repeatedly, and as you make progress, the game evolves around you, with the enemy responding to threats and making certain aspects of the game more challenging.
Of course, it remains to be seen how much fun the game is solo, and how well it holds together over the long-run, but so far, I'm cautiously optimistic. I enjoyed my hour or so with the game: The gunplay is solid, the way that the enemy works feels quite dynamic, and playing as a team was really entertaining. The game also looks good, and its environments feel quite rich and realistic - at least, the parts I played certainly did. I'm looking forward to playing the final product when it's released later on this year to see just how good it really is.
If you're interested in playing the game, it's going into closed beta on Xbox One from February 11-14. To sign up, check out the Homefront: The Revolution web site for more details. Otherwise, the game is set for release on Xbox One, PS4 and PC in May of this year.