It's not been an easy ride for Homefront: The Revolution. From THQ to Crytek, to Deep Silver's newly named Dambusters Studios, it's been four years in the making and evolved dramatically in the process. Now breaking away entirely from the linearity of its predecessor, Revolution puts you in the heart of an open-world 2029 Philadelphia. One which is strictly governed by the Greater Korean Republic after a successful invasion of the USA two years before.
My demo sees me dropped amidst the chaos of Philadelphia in what Dambusters is calling the Red Zone. Packed with militia, drones, and not a single place to pick up a cheesesteak sandwich, this is a hostile environment where guerilla fighters - somewhat surprisingly - aren't really made particularly welcome. Smoke billows into the sky from ruined skyscrapers in the distance and buildings are largely destroyed. The first order of the day is to stop a militia convoy in its tracks with a handily placed barrel trap on a nearby rooftop. With a pull of a lever when the enemy vehicle is in place, I send a slew of barrels that have a suitably Michael Bay effect before jumping down to pick off the remaining survivors.
Guerilla warfare is key in Homefront: The Revolution. In comparison to your team of rebels, the enemy is ludicrously overpowered and the odds really aren't in your favour. Gameplay changes accordingly. Action takes place in speedy bursts before you quickly retreat and evade enemy fire. Feel like you're surrounded? You probably are, so you should run. I take out a few smaller drones before scarpering and avoiding the watchful beam of a giant enemy drone overhead. While the GKR has technology on its side, we're handed something a little more basic: explosives. Revolution happily arms you with Molotov cocktails, firecrackers, and a whole host of craftable diversions. Spoiler, they all go boom.
While your weapons might be crude in comparison to the occupying army, Revolution is all about customization of what you've got. With a press of the up directional button you can fully customize the weapon you're holding. Want a hologram scope or a silencer? Each individual part can be fully customized, so if you've got the bits - which you can find from scavenging across the world and unlocking new areas - then you can craft your new ideal weapon. I arm myself with a crossbow, add a laser sight and spend a good five minutes picking off soldiers from a rooftop with ease, not to mention a nice satisfying crank and reload noise.
Scattered across the world are Network Transceivers that you can hack to reveal more activities in that area. Sound a bit Far Cry? Well, it is. After a Batman-style analogue-stick-wiggling hacking minigame, your map will pop up with all kinds of new activities to perform and ways to take the map for the rebels. It's now a tried-and-tested mechanic but fits well in the city environment, and there's plenty of variation on a theme of ‘you should probably kill these soldiers.'
You don't have to walk everywhere either. I'm instructed by a fellow rebel to take a motorbike from a crate and bouncily make my way across the map. It's a zippy way to travel and Dambusters has built the city specifically with it in mind. Fences have bike-shaped gaps to slide under and, now that you mention it, are those helpfully positioned ramps I see everywhere? I didn't find any other types of vehicles in the demo, but there are multiple bike types to unlock and it feels like a nifty way to hurtle across Philadelphia.
While it runs on the CryEngine, Revolution doesn't quite have the same popping visuals as Far Cry. This is a dull city. Grey clouds loom and the city is brown and dirty. However there are other zones to explore where people live under the rule of the GKR. Dambusters isn't saying much other than the fact that its Orwellian and there's propaganda everywhere, but these new areas sound interesting.
It all feels very Far Cry with more explosions and, hey, drones instead of honey badgers, but I enjoyed what I played. The weapon customization is immediately satisfying and it feels like there's plenty of potential here. It'll be interesting to see how this unfolds, but the move to an open world experience definitely seems like a smart move for the franchise. Vive le Revolution.