In amongst the hustle and bustle at EGX 2015 last week, located in the corner of the 18-section was Koch Media’s booth, home to Homefront: The Revolution, a game which, from the outside, has had a bit of a rocky development, but offered a good 15 minutes of gameplay for players to sink their teeth into.
We managed to grab 15 minutes with the game along side a chat with CJ Kershner, Senior Narrative Designer at Dambuster Studios to discuss the game’s development and some of the ideals behind the game.
As you may be aware, last summer there were a few issues with Crytek and their UK studio, the studio behind Homefront: The Revolution. Now that’s all done and dusted and Koch Media swooped in to save the day, things are back on track and is currently looking pretty great.
But things weren’t as rocky as they seemed, at least according to Kershner, despite not being part of the transition, knew the history of the game and revealed that development hadn’t stopped on the title, as many reported last summer.
“No, there was no stoppage in the game’s development. I wasn’t there for the transition, but the team that’s been working on this is the team that, for all intents and purposes – some people have moved on, which is natural through any development process – is the same team that was there when it was under THQ’s wing, so no, no interruptions in the actual process.”
With that out-of-the-way we jumped straight into the game, something I admitted to not actually being overly familiar with having not played the original. Fortunately, it seems, that’s a much better position to be in.
“That’s actually not a bad thing,” he assured me. “So one of the things that we have tried to do with Homefront, is distinguish this from the first game. It’s not a direct sequel, there’s a reason it’s called Homefront: The Revolution and not Homefront 2: The Revolution, or anything along those lines.”
“This is because we’re not picking up where the first game left off, we’re not continuing the story or bringing back those characters, it is a new developer, new publisher, all new gameplay style, all new gameplay systems, and really the only thing that’s been retained, and the thing that got Dambuster and all of us excited to work on Homefront in the first place, is the premise, the idea of a fallen, occupied America, of being a Guerilla fighter, defending your own neighbourhood from this outside force.”
“Really, the game speaks for itself, more than anything I can say.”
He also added that although there’s certain aspects of the new game which are similar, such as the North Korean Occupation, they bear no resemblance to how it happens in the first game, in fact, where the original threw you right into things, Homefront: The Revolution they’ve gone back to the 20th Century and from there created an alternative timeline that’s completely original.
“So coming in with an open mind and a clean slate, as it were, you may be in a better position to evaluate it,” Kirshner concluded.
Because of this, the team haven’t had to worry about impressions of the previous game. The Revolution hopes to stand on its own two feet. Sure, they understand that the previous game maybe didn’t deliver. But with The Revolution they hope the game speaks for itself.
“I think we’ve manage to better leverage that fantasy, y’know, we’ve got 360 degrees of attack, 360 degrees of flight when things go south, you can run away in any direction, and when people start to play, the game from themselves, whether it’s here at EGX or at home, or during our co-op beta that’s coming this Winter, they’ll find that it’s such a completely different experience. Really, the game speaks for itself, more than anything I can say.”
With the game exploring a different timeline, players will eventually be transported to 2029, an alternate history where you’re thrown into the boots of a Guerilla Fighter. But despite the game being in the future, there’s a distinct lack of futuristic weaponry or technology at your disposal, much unlike the Call of Duty franchise which at points has gone full-on future soldier.
“As part of the alternate history, or the alternate future that the game occurs in we do have an advanced technology company called Apex, you’ll see their brand throughout the demo today, if you’ve got a keen eye. That allows us to have things like automated drones flying around and scanning people’s IDs, the automated turrets that sit on top of vehicles, and the various combat drones we’ve got around the streets and cities,” Kirshner revealed.
“But we haven’t gone full future soldier, especially from the players perspective, if anything, not that you’ve gone backwards in time, you don’t have access to that level of technology and its part of being a Guerilla Fighter and that most of the things you’ve got at your disposal, are cobbled together from things you’d find around your home, my home. It’s less about the latest and greatest in assault rifle technology and more about what you’d find all cobbled together in your basement. And it’s part of the fun of the fantasy when you’re playing and you find these blueprints in the world that’ll let you upgrade and existing shotgun to something a little more improvised and homebrew where you slide of the front of the barrel and attach a piece of plumbers pipe that shoots fire.”
“Here’s where things are now, how much worse can they get?”
The future technology found in the game, according to Kirshner, was less about research and more about it being a logical step in the future of surveillance.
“The tech in the game, we feel is a logical step, especially when we’re seeing drones becoming increasingly used in police operations that in a totalitarian state, in a place where you’d want that surveillance, that complete control, that scanning IDs and keeping track of people’s movements is the next logical step.”
“There’s also security cameras in the game that you’ll be able to find and sabotage. You literally only need to walk out on any British street to see how many of them are positioned and who’s looking at that information. It’s more drawn from observation and imagination on, ‘here’s where things are now, how much worse can they get?’”
With that, we asked whether Dambuster based the game on a worse-case scenario, with governments getting a little too surveillance happy, the police becoming a little too empowered, and yes, that very much is the case, but it’s not all bad.
“One of the things I’ve personally enjoyed about working on Homefront, is the civilian side of things, so we show how people live under the occupation, we show how they make do. It’s always been fascinating to research urban gardening or rainwater collection and how people, again take what limited resources they have and stretch them to the limit when the situation calls for it, you’ll see all of those things as bits of environmental art, they tell little stories, and for me that’s always been one of the things you don’t see in other games. Oh there’s people here growing carrots on their balcony, that’s always fun.”
In Homefront: The Revolution there’s a key focus on crafting with the game adopting a similar open-world exploration feel that you might find in Dying Light. Players, throughout the game, will be able to collect ingredients which can be used to modify and completely rebuild weapons to create something new and unique.
There’s a total of three ways you can customise your weapons in The Revolution, the first is by purchasing attachments, whether it’s sights, under-barrel attachments, and other more stock customisations, the second is conversions, where players can take entire things apart and change the functionality completely. One example was that a standard assault rifle could be dismantled and turned into a magnetic mine launcher.
The third customisation option involves something the developers are calling a Guerilla Toolkit. This allows players to use those collected items to build explosives, incendiaries, distraction devices, and hacking tools.
“As you encounter situations, they’re almost like systemic micro-challenges, that the world will throw at you. For example, there’ll be a sniper on the rooftop, that is covering an intersection that you need to cross, so I’ll take the distraction device, I can take an RC Car, and I can stick them together, drive that across the road and detonate it, and it makes noise and sound to distract the sniper, allowing you to cross,” he explained.
“There’s also Molotov cocktails that you can throw into groups of enemies, or we’ve got remote explosives which you can place on walls or in the road or attach to vehicles, and blow them up.”
Overall, Dambuster Studios are hoping to offer players of Homefront: The Revolution a gripping guerilla fighting experience, something they’re aware was over promised and under delivered in the last game. With the new open world elements and freedom to tack situation as you see fit, they just might have done that.
“We hope to have players experience the feeling of being a guerilla fighter, that feeling of helplessness at times, because they’re not the strongest fighter or the most powerful and having to hide as well as choose to strike. For example, you could easily jump out and start shooting, but it might be a better idea to wait for a better time to strike so you get the upper hand.”
Homefront: The Revolution is set to launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2016. A co-op beta is set to launch this Winter.