Review Price £42.99
Coming to PS4, Mac, PC (tested) and Xbox One
Homefront: The Revolution release date – May 20, 2016
The games industry is littered with efforts which have fallen foul of events beyond the control of their developers – and Homefront: The Revolution has endured the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to a greater extent than any game ever should. However, the fact that it is poised to emerge on May 20, for Xbox One, PS4 and PC bears impressive testimony to the tenacity of its developer, Dambuster Studios.
Over an enforced five-year development period, Homefront: The Revolution has had to endure a change of publisher (from THQ, which went bust in 2012, to Deep Silver), while its developer changed its name twice, first from Free Radical Design (of TimeSplitters fame) then to Crytek UK and finally, in 2014 to Dambuster Studios.
Perversely, such shenanigans may actually end up paying unexpected dividends for gamers. That’s because they at least gave Dambuster Studios plenty of time in which to hone the general premise and structure of Homefront: The Revolution, and more than two hours of hands-on with the game’s co-operative multiplayer side has left me feeling that not only is it solidly assembled, but it also stands out from the massed ranks of identikit first-person shooters.
You’ll be able to judge that for yourselves before it launches in May: a closed beta programme (covering the co-operative side of the game) is due to start on Xbox One in February, followed by an open beta, which is likely to be cross-platform, in the run-up to the launch.
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For those unfamiliar with the Homefront franchise, what is Homefront: The Revolution all about? Although it’s technically the sequel to 2011’s Homefront, it’s more useful to view it as a (very early) franchise reboot. It’s a fully open-world first-person shooter, set in Philadelphia in 2029, four years after the USA was invaded by the ‘Greater Korean Republic’. So, Philadelphia is in the iron grip of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). You play as a member of a rag-tag band of local resistance fighters, employing guerilla tactics and improvisation against vast numbers of much better-armed soldiers.
Dambuster Studios reckons the core single-player storyline should provide about 20 hours’ gameplay, and confirms that it will be augmented by a large selection of side-missions and the like (you’ll be able to establish bases and safe-houses, and recruit new freedom-fighters).
The game’s occupied Philly is split into three distinct zones, which add extra flavours to the gameplay: the Red Zone, which is a bombed-to-smithereens area in which you will find nothing but KPA and resistance fighters laying into each other; the Green Zone, in which the KPA has set up command centres, and which houses its elite troops; and the Yellow Zone, in which the remaining population of Philadelphia ekes out a living under the KPA yoke (and in which resistance fighters must employ stealth in order to go about their business undetected).
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These days, launching a single-player-only FPS would be an act of insanity, but with Homefront: The Revolution, Dambuster Studios has taken an unusual approach to multiplayer. A spokesman for the developer said: “There are a lot of games with PvP multiplayer out there, and we wanted to do something different.”
So Homefront: The Revolution’s only online mode is co-operative, with up to four players forming a resistance cell. Dambuster Studios confirmed there will be 12 co-operative missions – which feature multiple objectives and stages, and take roughly half an hour each – at launch. And in the 12 months post-launch, the developer’s intention is to double that to 24 missions – commendably, it is adamant that all those extra co-op missions will be made available for free.
The co-operative missions form a separate entity to the single-player game, so you start from scratch with a new character. After choosing gender and physical appearance, you can then select your character’s previous occupation, which will boost one stat – for example, nurses will be more effective at healing, while personal trainers will be able to run for longer.
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There are various systems designed to let you and your resistance cell develop a unique approach to the missions – Dambuster Studios’ spokesman said: “We want to players to do legendary things”, and added that the open-world nature of the game is designed to lead to emergent behaviour (as indeed all open-world games should be).
Chief among those systems is an Experience Point (XP)-driven skill tree, which only pertains to your co-op character. Then there’s your Guerilla Tool Kit (GTK), which lets you collect prosaic objects and assemble them into useful offensive devices – such as teddy-bears which can be used to hide explosives that can be triggered when KPA guards come to investigate, or radio-controlled cars stuffed with explosives that can cause havoc when driven over to clusters of KPA enemies and detonated.
After picking our character’s previous job, giving them a name and tinkering with their appearance, we explored the menus available from the lobby area before embarking on any missions. The Armoury was the key area to check out: we invested in a few weapons and accessory crates, which yielded packs of cards, in time-honoured fashion, with an element of randomness. Gear and attachments crates left us some useful stuff, such as a sight for our favoured assault rifle – attachments are specific to particular guns, so the process was a bit of a lottery in its early stages. But the more you play, the more you get to assemble the weapons load-out and the GTK of your dreams.
I contented myself with fairly standard grenades and Molotov cocktails, but more exotic GTK items will clearly prove invaluable in the trickier missions. It was also possible to purchase boosters – one-off buffs that applied to the next mission only, and applied to attributes such as the amount of XP you earned or your health.
And it was time to plunge into a mission. The first was pretty straightforward, involving getting to certain points and setting beacons, but it was the third mission that really gave us a flavour of what to expect. Homefront: The Revolution, in co-op mode at least, is hard – to such an extent that there’s more than a whiff of Rainbow Six Siege to it. There is respawning, but it’s pretty limited – if you die and your squad-mates don’t manage to reach you in time to revive you, you will respawn next time one of them reaches the next objective. In practice, the conditions for respawning rarely arose; it was far safer to rely on revival by your team-mates.
As you would expect with a game created by at least part of the developer responsible for the TimeSplitters games (and originally formed by the makers of the legendary GoldenEye), Homefront: The Revolution has bags of control-system feel – again, as with Rainbow Six Siege, at the authentic, rather than arcade-style, end of the spectrum.
The game’s co-op missions are pretty deep and involving, too: the third one saw my resistance cell sneaking through bombed-out buildings to a KPA base – avoiding contact as much as possible in order to avoid being swamped by waves of hostiles. Then we had to break into the compound and swiftly kill all its occupants, including snipers.
The next phase involved stealing two armoured trucks, and defending them from assailants (it was vital to avoid damaging them while I liberated the KPA base) as they ran the gauntlet of several phases of incoming KPA attacks, the last of which involved a tank. It took a few goes to complete the mission – and in common with the other co-op missions, there was no checkpointing, so once either all squad members had been killed or both trucks had been destroyed, we had to start again from the beginning.
Early indications suggest that Dambuster Studios has achieved its aim of standing out from the pack with a unique approach to multiplay pretty impressively. The chance to bond with three other players while forming a resistance cell and to develop a unique role within that cell, plus the more-hardcore-than average approach the game takes, is pleasantly reminiscent of Rainbow Six Siege, with the added bonus that everything takes place in a properly open world (although you are steered around via specific objectives). If the single-player also measures up, then Homefront: The Revolution should prove to be worth the considerable wait.
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