First Look: Homefront – The Revolution

By Craig Pearson on June 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

I’m not sure how a Homefront sequel that I didn’t really care about became a Crysis game that I really want to play, but that’s what I saw the other day. Homefront: The Revolution is Crysis. Hilariously Crysis. So very very Crysis. And yet it’s a Crysis game that Crytek haven’t even managed to make, despite having all the component parts.

Now they are, and it’s a Homefront game. I am confused.

Perhaps the Korean element is all that was needed? Crysis had Koreans, and in the Homefront universe North and South Korea have come together to take control of the US, subjugating the population with remote control tanks and superior technology. The Revolution starts in a basement in Philadelphia.

I can’t tell you if what I saw accurately portrayed Philly, but it did look nice. From the cluttered basement, where a phone call alerts the player to trouble outside, we walk out to the birthplace of American independence. The city is in layers: we’re in a shanty town where the subjugated population sits beneath the Whitman bridge, and higher up the rot gives way to technological barnacles. In the sky are drones and ships scanning the world below, homing in on dissent for the ground troops to suppress. It has the same quality of City 17, where the old world is a scaffolding holding up the oppressors. Crytek UK is aiming for density and interactivity, not a gigantic world.

But it is big and lively, and my brain immediately questions what I’m looking at. The original Crysis was a sandbox, but it wasn’t an open world, and the original Homefront was just a big, silly shooter that dragged you through by your nosehairs. What the hell is going on?

David Stenton, Crytek UK’s Homefront’s producer, sidles up and explains: “The game is set within Philadelphia, a dystopian Philadelphia, occupied by the KPA. It opens up through the course of the game. As you progress according to story as and you acquire new abilities, the game world will grow in accordance as you progress through the game. It’s seamless, so you can travel back and forth seamlessly between different areas–it’s really necessary to do that. “

Why? Because they’re building a world where you decide what targets to hit, and you need to choose carefully because you won’t always be strong enough to fight targets. You’re helped by a mobile phone packed with apps. You know the binoculars in Crysis? The phone plays that part in Homefront, enabling you to tag and track enemies and camera, and leading you to caches of weapons that the militia has stashed. The player, a revolutionary named Ethan Grady, selects a cache that’s in an alleyway where a beating is taking place. It’s necessary to stealthily dispatch the beaters to get to the cache, and even inside the abandoned store he’s ducking from scanners poking through the broken window. Of course it’s a demo, so he dodges and moves on, bringing the explosives he found with him. The target is a police station.

I’m not going to talk about the shooting too much: it is very Crysisy, and the guns have a modability that enables a rifle to swap from silent to a room clearing ear-popper. It’s the set-up that’s more interesting. The station is a tense place: it’s the focal point of a queue of civvies in numbers that makes the KPA nervous. They might have overwhelming firepower and technology, but the resistance has mobility and ingenuity: Ethan hits his inventory and pulls out an RC and straps an IED to it. He guides the car through the crowd and under a KPA patrol vehicle, then nudges it forwards when the vehicle enters the yard. Dialling up the bomb creates mayhem that scatters the crowd and starts the battle between you, your small team who’ve been co-ordinating, and the KPA.

And then there are shootybangs. I’m more interested in the world and the place and the structure of the game, and luckily David Stenton has some answers: “The attack on the police station, if you can imagine that maybe at certain points in the game that attack on the police station is too difficult, maybe you don’t have the RC car, the IED? If you didn’t happen to have those, if you can’t build those at that point in the game, maybe you come across the police station, and you take a look at it and scout around it from different angles, and you think: ‘Well, it’s too difficult for now.’

“And then you go back to previously visited areas, to other zones, you can walk there, fast-travel there. It’s a seamless world you inhabit, so it’s really necessary to go to other parts of the game world, get new abilities do missions, then maybe come back with the RC car and IED, and that’s your chosen strategy to take on that objective. “

That’s also true of the co-op game, btw. It’s set in the same world and framework, though it’s separate from the single-player progress. Wandering the world sounds fascinating, especially as there’s the promise of inter-AI interaction. InterAIction, if you will. The growing resistance and the KPA will be constantly provoking each other, allowing for moments where the pressure drives the action rather than the story.

According to Stenton: “One of the big things we’re trying to push with Homefront is we really want to give people that immersion that you are within an occupied, oppressive society, and you’re objective within that is to choose those targets of opportunity to rise up: ‘I observe the systems. Where do I choose to commit those acts of resistance and try and push back on the KPS occupation?’

“Activities that occur that are of interest as part of this living game, oppressive game world. One of these ghetto districts that civilians are rounded up into is called the ‘Collaborator’s District’, and this is an area where US citizens that are in league with the KPA, they collaborate with the KPA for better food, for better rations, for better accommodation, you can engage with those.

“Wherever possible, we always try to bring things together. You’re living in this oppressed game world. What are the different systems, what are the politics of living within that game world? What are people’s problems? And we try to get involved. Some of those requiring direct action–sabotage and gunplay–and some of them not requiring necessarily direct action. “

Of course, I’ve seen almost none of this in action. Just a snippet of a fight, and a few city streets. But Crytek has always promised to make this sort of game, and it might as well be in a series that doesn’t have aliens or freezing tech. The oddball purchase of Homefront, turning it into a stealth Crysis game and getting the former Free Radical team to make it for them, might just be their way of fulfilling that promise.

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75 Comments »

  1. Flameberge says:

    Ok. Colour me interested in a Homefront game.

    Actually, doing this on the Homefront licence might be a clever idea. The first game was… well… yes. So pretty much no one has any expectations regarding Homefront 2: The Sequelinator, so if this turns out into something decent and worth playing, potential customers are going to be more pleasantly surprised; lowered expectations and all that.

  2. XhomeB says:

    Suddenly, my interest skyrocketed (I went from “oh, a sequel to that abysmal, scripted CoD-like game” to “well… it sounds good, actually”)…
    One thing, though – I hope Crytek take a look at the gunplay in New Order, that’s one thing that game did right. Meaning: NO mandatory iron sight usage.

  3. CookPassBabtridge says:

    They have my attention

  4. subedii says:

    Colour me cautious.

    Not to be a sceptic, but I was burned last time when everyone talked about how Crysis 2 was just like Crysis but better!

    Oh man I wasn’t able to disagree with that one fast enough when I played it.

    Not to say specifically that Crysis 2 was bad, just that the gameplay style had changed into… something else.

    • EBass says:

      “Everyone said Crysis 2 just like Crysis but better!”?

      Did they? Where? As far as I can remember pretty much everyone said they made it much more linear and more focused on spectacle rather than invention. Pretty much turning Crysis into a CoD with a few more routes.

      • toxic avenger says:

        Pretty sure he was referring to the marketing material, which pretty much says that for any sequel for any game. Just a guess, though. I do remember some, how should I say, less than credible games journo outlets did say things like that, as if they didn’t play the original whatsoever.

    • HisDivineOrder says:

      That happened because at the time a lot of people had HEARD of Crysis, but never played it because most of “them” you speak of were console peasants. Next time, listen only to PC gamers. We all knew what Crysis 2 from the get-go. Both it and Dragon Age 2 were guilty of the same thing.

      Shrinking the grandeur to vaguely improve the visuals in some obvious ways. Reducing the greatness of the gameplay.

  5. Eightball says:

    Now I want to play Red Faction Guerrilla.

    Which also had a sick stuff-melting gun.

  6. Zenicetus says:

    It sounds interesting, but only if they can pull off that semi-open design, while also giving enough information so the player knows to come back later when a target is too dangerous. It’s a fine line between the player just being frustrated because they barge in anyway, thinking that’s how they beat the scenario, or having too much signposting like a message popping up saying “you need an RC car, go find one.” In a genre like FPS, many players are conditioned to just Rambo their way into every situation. It will be interesting to see if they can pull this off, and make it feel like a choice.

    I have a knee-jerk reaction against the silliness of the Korean Occupation scenario, but I guess it’s no worse than the new Wolfenstein game. Based on what they’ve shown so far though, they could easily have just done this as a dystopian near-future, where the 1% and their corporations finally just complete the project of buying the government and taking over. The whole Red Dawn fantasy wasn’t really necessary.

    • Hypnotron says:

      ” they could easily have just done this as a dystopian near-future, where the 1% and their corporations finally just complete the project of buying the government and taking over.”

      Right. They shied away from a 2nd Civil War and just went for a 2nd Revolution instead.

    • ratache says:

      Yes It would be very awful if we had to think ourselves wouldn’t it.. Guns blazing never gets old and it’s a really unique way to play, noone else does it. Also, North Koreans and South Koreans working together? We’ll allow me to put down that can of bullshit right there.

  7. Rao Dao Zao says:

    But I liked the aliens and their freeze-tech in Crysis (1)… *sigh* and the trigens in Far Cry.

  8. ResonanceCascade says:

    Crysis 2 and 3 were steps back from 1 & Warhead, but I still maintain that Crytek has yet to make a bad single player FPS. I’m definitely interested in this.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Ehh I dunno. I played Crysis and Warhead countless times, but got so bored I abandoned Crysis 2 shortly before the end. It was as though they misunderstood what made the other two so good. I didn’t try Crysis 3.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        I really enjoyed Crysis 2 as a more linear-style FPS. It wasn’t nearly as constrained as something like COD, and it had good fundamentals — movement mechanics, powers, good AI, fun weapons. I just had a really good time with it.

        Crysis 3 opened things back up again, but it was too short and had some really awful sections, especially the final boss. Certainly had its moments though. Definitely worth a play at this point.

    • Megakoresh says:

      Yeah I agree. Although I would say that Crysis 3 is probably better than Crysis 2 and 1 because it had that open world element with approaches from various angles, but it was also broken down into smaller open world areas and had way more detail.

      Crysis 1 was a very big deception. It looks vast and your options look vast, but in reality if you are able to look down to what you are doing on a micro scale, you are taking the same general routes, the same general directions and mostly the same general mission order. The locations of objectives have mostly 1 or 2 approach angles and there are frequent choke points that you climb through and can’t go back, that are script-controlled.

      Crysis 2 went a bit to the extreme with narrowing down (and it was way too consolified, although still a good shooter), but Crysis 3 I would say found a good balance between the two. Not to mention the unbelievably good voice acting. Holy fuck that was good. Nearly Far Cry 3-level voice acting there. Just a shame it only had one interesting character behind all that voice acting.

      So yeah this looks pretty good to me!

  9. montorsi says:

    Sounds like what Homefront needed. I liked the Homefront concept but then they kicked you into a narrow, claustrophobic corridor and it was a miserable experience. Given expansive levels where I can wander around and do as I please, I think it could be a solid game.

  10. Blackcompany says:

    Color me interested. And even sort of optimistic.

    Also…this looks like Philly. The little we have seen, anyway, and obviously with some artistic license involved. But I worked in the city for a year and was just there this past weekend for America’s College Rugby Championships, and I have to say, this looks like the city. Which is pretty impressive.

  11. The_invalid says:

    Don’t forget this is Crytek UK, AKA Free Radical Design, AKA the team that splintered off from Rare after developing Goldeneye. I have no clue how much of the original Goldeneye team are still working for the company, but between that and the Timesplitters series, that’s some pretty serious FPS pedigree we’re dealing with here. Now of course I’ll have to temper that by saying that I’ve never been a big fan of Crysis’s gunplay, and that Haze was pretty ropey, BUT, if anybody can pull this off, it’s Crytek UK.

    • Cocoarico says:

      Agreed, the Timesplitters series is still one of my favorites and I was very happy when I had heard Free Radical was picked up by Crytek. And now their making an open world game that mixes in some PvE co-op like payday 2 and I am very excited to see how it pans out.

  12. Baboonanza says:

    Sounds awesome and if it gets close to that vision it should be a great game. Unfortunately I’ve heard all of many of these ideas before and the games that followed have rarely, if ever, lived up to the marketing.

    Here’s hoping though :)

  13. Arbodnangle Scrulp says:

    Give me a game with an open world and interplaying dynamics where I can choose not to pick up a gun or bomb at all and still win the game and I will be a happy man.

    Wasn’t there a squad based shooter a decade or so ago with a similar name and premise (except it was the damn Soviets invading the good’ol)? Man I loved that game, we need more squad based shooters. Where did they all go?

  14. Arglebargle says:

    It’s going to have to be a really good game to make up for the silly premise. But it could happen. Or it could be Homefront_Dogs….

  15. Mitthrawn says:

    I still can’t take this backstory seriously. I mean North Korea, REALLY? Can’t we just say China? Make the threat vaguely credible.

    • jonahcutter says:

      Yeah, North Korea occupying the U.S. is one of the dumbest set-ups ever used in a video game. And that’s really saying something.

      The justifications for how it supposedly could happen are so tortured it’s beyond even silly nonsense. It’s flat-out insultingly stupid.

      As someone who puts a high value on immersion, story and atmosphere, the gameplay would have to be godly for me to not constantly be laughing at myself for playing through something so phenomenally moronic.

      • green frog says:

        I try to give every game a chance, but I pretty much agree. The game is going to have to be really good to overcome such an utterly laughable premise.

        I would flat-out prefer that they just did something fantastical to explain it, like maybe aliens visited Earth and of all the countries in the world, they decided to share their advanced technology with North Korea for some bizarre reason.

        That would ironically be more believable than whatever nonsense they’re actually going to try to push on us, because that’s pretty much the only way a DPRK conquest of the USA could ever actually happen.

    • Boosterh says:

      No, no they can’t.
      Not if they don’t want every game they have or will ever make excluded from the largest single market on earth. The PRC Government is sort of…touchy…about people criticizing them.
      I mean, China as antagonist is obviously the premise the story was built on, but eventually somebody in a position of power decided that realism wasn’t worth alienating a billion strong potential market (and not just for this game, for the entire company. The PRC has a bit better of a memory than us goldfish capitalist democracies).

      • green frog says:

        Exactly. Using China could easily result in real-world consequences. Using North Korea risks absolutely nothing since pretty much no Western company does any business with the DPRK to begin with.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Also China conquering the US is also pretty ridiculous. They have, what, one refitted Soviet aircraft carrier? I guess we should wait and see what happens as their economy slows down, too. Those articles based on the idea that Chinese growth would remain at 8% forever based on export are pretty dumb.

    • Gap Gen says:

      They should make it about Somalia invading the US. Burgeoning trade in the Indian Ocean combined with a extant and thriving culture of piracy makes Somalia the leading naval power in the Indian Ocean after the US Congress gets food poisoning and has to stay at home throwing up into a bucket. Signs in Osmanya denounce traitors, while stormtroopers in macawis and armoured koofiyad patrol the streets, tightly controlling the supply of sabayad.

    • alh_p says:

      The oddest thing for me is that it flips the current/recent conflicts that the US has been in on their head. Where the US is and has been (for the US media) the just and overwhelmingly technologicaly advanced force at war in other countries, in homefront its now the oppressed, technologicaly backward and “just” country – however the morality fo the war is completely flipepd on its head. Homefront is basicaly about US gamers putting themsleves into the shoes (slippers) of the Taliban and claiming the same rationale for shooting people, except not in RL of course.

      The mind boggles. Especially (and this is more of a stretch) that the kind of narrative that the US is actually oppressed and only fighting (opressing others) to protect themselves is also supported, albeit obliquely, by this game’s narrative.

      • Gap Gen says:

        A collapse of European colonial power leads to a US hegemony over the planet. Stormtroopers in digital camo patrol the world’s oceans in aircraft carriers. Signs saying “I’M LOVIN’ IT” peel from grimy walls. Access to capital is strictly rationed via the convergence of wealth into the hands of a tiny percentage of the population.

  16. Waltorious says:

    The rebels fight against the Koreans with the help of their mobile phones, which were made in Korea.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Wait, they’re already here! *throws Samsung phone out of the window, barricades the doors*

    • Universal Quitter says:

      South Korea really does make some awesome phones. If you ever get a chance to visit, assuming that you haven’t, walking into a phone store or department feels like stepping into Q branch. I would recommend it.

      • Gap Gen says:

        I have been in a bunch of South Korean stores that sold phones (I was with someone looking for an SD card, I think it was near-ish the big open-air market in Seoul, can’t remember where exactly), but it seemed a lot like European ones. Maybe I didn’t go into the right place, I suppose; I imagine there are some very fancy places if you know where to look.

  17. Crane says:

    And so the white American protagonist went through the game, merrily slaughtering hordes of Asian people.
    Death to the Yellow Peril!

    Oh, wait, my bad, we only get outraged over sexism in games here. Pfft, racism? So trivial it’s apparently not even worth a mention! But if the protagonist had seen a woman in a skimpy outfit, you bet that’d be worth a paragraph or two in a preview!

  18. Nova says:

    So, every piece of explosive is an IED these days. Is that supposed to be edgy…?

    • Gap Gen says:

      I suppose any explosives used by the resistance are either rigged up in basements or captured from the mighty North Korean industrial complex, but yeah, probably.

  19. Shadowcat says:

    MAXIMUM CONFUSIONFACE

    (CONFUSE-A-FACE LTD ?)

  20. Gap Gen says:

    SKY SURVEILLANCE WHALE SAYS YOU ARE VERY SMALL LIKE AN ANT AH WAIT NO YOU ARE FAR AWAY I SEE THAT IS A NICE HAT BY THE WAY

  21. Rindan says:

    The premise of this game is so stupid it makes my eyes bleed. Mexico would make a more credible threat than North Korea as they have a population big enough to notice, are not separated by half the fucking world over an ocean, and are vastly richer than North Korea. It is just such mind numbingly stupid concept that it hurts. Why not kick it old skool and make it Soviets in a parallel universe where the USSR never falls? That, or make it the obvious culprit and make it China. Are they REALLY going to sell a pile of copies of this game in China? Hell, the Chinese would probably love it. I know I would get a kick out of playing a game where I am a Middle Eastern bloke fighting off the evil imperialist dog yanks. Jesus, a unified British, Irish, German, and French empire looking to beat on yanks looks less stupid and more plausible than North Korea.

    That, or they could just set it somewhere else. Keep North Korea, but have them invade South Korea after the US has mostly pulled out and SK has disarmed. I could actually swallow that one.

    Blah.

    I’ll close my eyes and pretend that they are Chinese or Russians if the gameplay is good enough, but they should have just taken their gameplay and pretty graphics and either made a new less stupid franchise or simply have slapped that tech over IP that isn’t awful. Homefront wasn’t just a stupid game in concept, it was a piece of shit game in actual practice. Why anyone would want to use that IP is beyond my ability to comprehend. Anyone who plays this game will play it in spite of the abomination that was the original Homefront, not because of it.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I want to see a game where Wales conquers the US after a recession decimates the English economy and Scotland pulls out of the Union. Bilingual posters denouncing traitors flap from decaying walls, and stormtroopers in red with tall black hats patrol the streets, tightly controlling the supply of welsh cakes and bara brith.

      • Harlander says:

        I see what you’re doing here, Gap Gen, and I’m wholeheartedly in favour.

        Can you do one for Yorkshire conquering the US?

        • Gap Gen says:

          A genetic confluence[citation needed] activates the dormant Viking genes in every Yorkshireperson, and they ride in longboats to Vinland, where they pillage the skyscrapers and clam fisheries. The US was defenceless owing to it being naptime. Stormtroopers in flat caps and tweed jackets, attack whippets straining at their chains. Fraying posters with a picture of a CCTV camera saying ‘EY OOP. Brack and Parkin strictly rationed.

    • eataTREE says:

      Yup, that was my exact thought too. Korea? Seriously? South Korea is going to up and say, “Y’know, screw being part of the community of modern, developed, first world nations, we’d rather throw in with our crazy-ass neighbors to the north who live on three grains of rice and a dead rat per week so we can TAKE OVER AMERICA!!” Riiiight.

      This sort of thing feeds the stereotype that Americans know absolutely nothing about the world outside their borders except to be afraid of it.

  22. Initialised says:

    To me this sounds like Red Faction: Guerilla/Far Cry 3 in Philly.

    You could go live in Ukraine and play it for real.

  23. Hensler says:

    Homeface Cry?

  24. BaconizedCoffee says:

    Huh, reminds me of Saboteur.

    That was a surprisingly pleasant game.

  25. minstrelofmoria says:

    “Why? Because they’re building a world where you decide what targets to hit, and you need to choose carefully because you won’t always be strong enough to fight targets.”

    I love this so much when games do it. “See this mission? You probably can’t beat this mission. You don’t have nearly enough fancy upgrades to do this mission the way we meant you to. But we’ll let you do it if you want–and maybe, just maybe, you can find a broken tactic or an AI exploit and beat it anyway.” It can lead to a lot of frustration, but I feel like a gaming god if I can actually pull it off.

  26. Jinnigan says:

    As an Asian person who’s actually living in Philly at the moment, I’m extremely concerned about the potential racism in this game. How are they going to characterize the antagonists? So far it seems they’ve been careful to keep any real details about them out of sight, except that they’re massively technologically advanced over the normal populace. But in that case why not just make it a Crysis game? Why do they need the North Korea angle?

    I also wonder if the game creators have any particular understanding about the politics that they’re exploring. The imagery is, imo, obviously inspired by the events of Occupy as well as worldwide revolutions that have been going on. But in reality, instead of a foreign occupying power (the ‘KPA’) the police force is, literally, the police and military power of the country that the revolution is taking place in. And the more radical corners of black nationalist movement in the US have talked about the police force as an occupying force in black neighborhoods. Hell, the Philadelphia police literally bombed black radicals in the 80s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE#1985_bombing). So how does this videogame explore the politics of radical action? Or will it just neatly sidestep all the actual interesting stuff in favor of giving you a convenient excuse to blow up some nameless baddies??

    • jorygriffis says:

      This was the only thing I came away from this article with, yeah. I don’t have faith this will be handled well at all. Even the Korean enemies in Crysis were pretty fucking racist!

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, I remember being concerned in the first game that it was jingoism; since North Korea will never invade the US, it’s a little like Taken, a fictional setting designed to get people angry about things that will never happen committed by people who can’t make them happen (the reverse often being true, though), the result being that it just stokes xenophobia for no reason (other than bankrolling the companies who made them).

      (Re: Taken, I mean Arabs did at one point kidnap Americans. For a couple of decades in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The worst that’ll happen to you in Paris is that a swarm of kids will try to scam you with fake petitions, or you’ll have to visit Les Halles.)

      • Phier says:

        The reason its North Korea is no one will care because its north Korea. We can’t always do the “safe” Nazis (safe because they were white so no one can be offended). Its a stupid idea using North Korea, but its a safe country to piss off economically speaking.

  27. buxcador says:

    Crytek: just make new levels for Crysis 1, and name it Crysis 4.

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