|Platform||XB1, PS4, PC|
Picking up and iterating upon foundations laid by THQ and Kaos Studios’ efforts with 2011’s Homefront, Crytek and publishing partner Deep Silver seek to realize their predecessor’s goal of a near-future shooter that champions guerrilla tactics over strong-arm, Stallone-style warfare. Set four years after the first game and staged in my hometown of Philadelphia, this second revolution for America’s independence sees players taking up arms not as some highly sought-after soldier possessing unprecedented skill, but rather an average Joe motivated by his principles.
While not directly playable—Crytek showed Homefront: The Revolution through a demo played live by one of the developers—I honestly have no cause to question Crytek’s shooter pedigree. Perhaps the storytelling in Crysis 2 and Crysis 3 and even the threadbare first Crysis didn’t jibe with you—2 was a little ahead of its time, and 3 fell back on some pretty tired videogame narrative tropes—all three were undeniably quality shooters.
Really, all Crytek needed to prove with their Homefront: The Revolution preview was that, first and foremost, they understood that the last thing we need or want (and what’s least appropriate for a revolution-centric story) is another oorah Call of Duty experience. Kaos Studios and THQ promised odds-stacked guerrilla warfare with the original Homefront but instead delivered another rote murderfest.
The 10 or so minutes of The Revolution I saw contained far more quiet time than frenetic firefights. And even when the game demanded an armed showdown, it didn’t devolve into another instance of endless enemies surging out of a doorway to their deaths. Homefront requires its player to hit the streets shooting only after a fair amount of planning, including scouting patrol and guard positions, identifying surveillance points, and strapping explosives to an RC car to get near a secured door in a much safer fashion than any Mission: Impossible–style entry could hope to achieve. And even then, it was a staccato shootout—a matter of keeping the enemies forces occupied long enough to liberate friendly targets. Once clear, as guerrilla tactics demand, the player needs to slip back to unassuming safety.
Provided this demo was an accurate depiction of Homefront: The Revolution’s actual rhythm, what we’re looking at is a sandbox shooter that calls for brain over brawn, even while flexing brawn, and gameplay tempo that’s offbeat enough to feel welcomingly different despite all the well-established similarities it communicates at first glance. Plus, I can vouch for the architectural authenticity of Crytek’s digital Philadelphia, and like in real life, it doesn’t seem disproportionately populated by white people, so there’s that!