Not too long after Crytek UK began working on a sequel to Homefront, the developer started to get worried. Studio closures at THQ, rumors of the publisher's financial strain and whispers of the entire organization's dissolution overtook any news surrounding the company and its projects, including a follow-up to the commercially viable but critically lukewarmshooter by Kaos Studios. By the end of January 2013, THQ was dead, its properties scattered throughout the industry. But Crytek's management team belayed its developer's fears.
The original concept for Homefront 2 was a linear shooter; a direct narrative sequel to 2011's game from Kaos, which had been shuttered soon after the original game's launch. Perhaps feeling a financial sting, the publisher rushed production and penned the Crytek-developed sequel for a fiscal 2014 release. Once control of the franchise was handed completely to Crytek and its UK team, formerly known as Free Radical, the scope of the game was drastically changed.
"When we were working with THQ we were initially started on quite a linear, level-by-level first-person shooter," Crytek UK game designer Fasahat Salim tells Joystiq. "After we acquired the license, we jumped at the possibility of expanding on that. That's when we came up with the idea of [focusing on] guerrilla warfare" and the team decided to move to an open world.
"It's not only an open world," Salim pitches, "we can make this into an evolving open world. A space that responds to what you're doing in the game. It's not only the environment that changes, it's the people that inhabit the space as well."
"We were quite worried about what was going to happen to all of the work that we put into this game, but then we found out Crytek were actually going to go in and buy the whole IP, which is really exciting for us," Salim admits. "All of a sudden, there was an opportunity to go way beyond anything that we had initially thought of when we started out."
In Homefront: The Revolution, Salim says players can approach objectives a multitude of different ways. The core of the idea behind guerrilla warfare is not to dominate the opposition, but to create chaos and loosen the stranglehold the Korean insurgents have on the occupied United States. You can collect materials, craft a remote controlled bomb, strap it to a crafted RC car and drive it into a KPA stronghold.
"We're trying to encourage missions where the player has to basically hit the enemy quickly and try to get out, that is kind of what guerrilla warfare is all about," Salim explains. "That includes things like sabotaging KPA infrastructure, assassinating or ambushing KPA. Basically we want to focus on hit-and-run type tactics." And, continuing with the guerrilla theme, players will be forced to scavenge for survival – upgrading and crafting tools as they progress.
You should expect heavy opposition, you should expect to retreat. You're not destroying the machine, you're picking at its cogs in hope of a collapse. But creating enough chaos chips away at the KPA's armor, enticing others to take up arms and fight for their freedom.
"We're really not setting a linear route for the player to go down, they have the freedom to explore and do whatever they want and do it whenever they want and approach it however they want. It's a big playground for the player," he says.
Homefront: The Revolution puts players in the role of Ethan Brady, an "average everyday guy" living in the brutal totalitarian occupation of the US. It has been four years since the invasion of the Korean People's Army (KPA) and while the United States as a whole has accepted its fate, pockets of resistance are springing up, with many willing to take up the cause alongside Brady in Philadelphia – an open-world Salim promises will include familiar landmarks, including Independence Hall.
Brady is an everyman, but acts as the catalyst for the revolution, attempting to encourage those around him to fight for their freedom. This, Salim says, is both a narrative and gameplay system.
"From a narrative point-of-view, it's all focused on uprising and getting the general population on your side. From a gameplay perspective, everything that you do in this world influences that revolution. No matter how small or how big, whether you're hitting a camera and destroying it or killing a KPA official – all of that impacts the level of revolution that will take place in this space."
It's the invasion premise featured in the original game, the average man versus the insurmountable odds, that drew Crytek to the game, despite Homefront's mixed critical reception.
"In the first-person shooter genre there's a narrative that is so prevalent, which is "You are a hardened military soldier. You're going to go save the world. You're going to shoot bad guys and you are the ultimate killer. What we really liked about Homefront was, it flipped this," Salim says. "It's a worse case scenario where the fight is brought to your backyard. It's a familiar environment, which has become alien. With Philadelphia being the focal point of this revolution that we're trying to go with, it signifies quite a power shift in the fall of America."
Salim says that, despite the baggage that came along with the Homefront name, including its mixed reviews and the closing of both its developer and publisher, he doesn't think Crytek ever toyed with abandoning the moniker.
"I think it resonated with a lot of players, the original Homefront was something that maybe didn't live up to the expectations of what [people wanted], but it was still a fairly successful game and it had quite a solid player base. People resonated with it, not only in the US but all over the world. We just wanted to take the game and push it, focusing on the things that we thought that narrative was calling out for."
Homefront: The Revolution is planned for a 2015 launch on PC, Xbox One and PS4.