Ethan Brady is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I pick up the controller on my demo unit for Homefront: The Revolution and I'm thrown into the silent shoes of Brady, the legacy of Gordon Freeman readily apparent. Brady is one cog in a resistance cell in Philadelphia.
Homefront is the story of a United States under siege and occupation by North Korea. Dambuster felt the most unbelievable aspect of the original Homefront was the idea that North Korea would just roll into the United States and take over, so they came up with a solution. Homefront: The Revolution is now an alternate history.
"When we started on this game, we looked at a lot of feedback from the community," explains designer Fasahat Salim. "One thing that was common through all of those threads is people found Homefront to not be plausible. We wanted to rewrite the whole history that lead into this event. We created an entire alternate history stretching back 50 years."
The key to this alternate history is Apex, a technology corporation founded in Korea. Imagine Apple, but starting in North Korea instead. Apex follows Apple's stratospheric trajectory, but goes even farther, making high-tech weapons for militaries worldwide. The dollar tanks, the U.S. economy takes a nosedive. When the time comes, Apex simply turns off most of the U.S. military with a backdoor chip. Still rather implausible, but at least we're trending in the right direction. Thus enters the Korean People's Army (KPA), first in the auspices of humanitarian aid and later in the form of governmental control.
The narrative of Homefront: The Revolution kicks off in in the 2020s, deep into the KPA occupation. Ethan Brady's resistance cell is preparing for the leader of the resistance, Benjamin Walker. His cell is attacked and captured, with everyone but Brady dying in the initial raid or the interrogation afterwards. Brady is saved by Walker's intervention, but that invention gets Walker wounded and eventually captured. Probably not the best trade-off.
Brady finds himself in another cell with the members who form The Revolution's supporting cast. Cell leader Jack Parrish, brash field team leader Dana Moore, and conscientious objector Dr. Sam Burnett. The demo comprises a few hotspots in the game's story and open-world gameplay. Things don't get better for Brady.
What's readily apparent in the demo is there's two very different ways to play Homefront: The Revolution. While the game is open-world, areas are separated by tunnels. This is because there's actually three different region types in Dambuster's Philadelphia. The KPA has divided the city into Red, Yellow, and Green Zones.
The Red Zone is where Homefront: The Revolution feels the most like other open-world titles. You'll tackle an open city of distinct zones of control that can be liberated from the KPA and re-purposed by the Resistance.
The Red Zone is the open-combat, shoot-to-kill region and Dambuster has nailed the oppressive, broken feel of it. Not only are there regular KPA patrols and automated drones scanning everything, but the foghorns of the KPA's massive zeppelins are ever present. These zeppelins scan the area beneath them and like the drones, alert the KPA to your presence. You can run through the streets, but you're not really meant to spend your time there, out in the open. You're a guerilla. You're supposed to hide and strike from the shadows.
It helps that your weapon loadout is limited. I could only hold two weapons at a time in the demo and this forced me to make choices. The pistol is always in your loadout, but do you take the long-range Battle Rifle, the silent Crossbow, or maybe the Assault Rifle? Homefront: The Revolution has a smaller number of guns than most games, but makes up for it with the customization system.
Every weapon has three different versions that you can unlock. Take the pistol, for example. Do you take the basic pistol, with solid range, normal damage, and a steady firing rate? Or perhaps you use the Sub-Machine Gun kit to turn it into a burst fire mode. My personal favorite was the Pneumatic kit, making the pistol into a slow, single shot weapon, but allowing you to hold down the trigger prior to release to do far more damage. And that's before you get into silencers, scopes, grips, and other ways to customize your various weapons.
Every weapon costs money, so you'll have to choose wisely and further kit options are unlocked via points you gain by liberating areas, finishing Strike Points, and completing story missions. The weapon system is backed up by scavenging and crafting, allowing you to build incendiary devices, explosives, and hacking devices of different types. Do you want your BOOM to be thrown, remote-triggered, or delivered via RC car? Once again, you have options.
Once unlocked at a store or weapons cache, you can modify your chosen weapon on the fly at any time. (Warning: it does not pause the game.) I frequently found myself taking cover in a fire fight and switching to a different kit for the situation at hand. You limited loadout, but significant customization options make Homefront: The Revolution feel rather tactical, even in the all-out fighting of the Red Zone.