As a franchise, Homefront tells a pretty bleak story – and I'm not referring to the series' narrative of the USA being invaded by Korea.
The first Homefront, a hugely ambitious release for THQ, launched to mediocre reviews (70 on Metacritic) in March 2011 and saw publisher THQ's stock price fall 26 per cent. Three months later, the publisher closed developer Kaos. Crytek was hired to work on a sequel – but following THQ's demise, the developer bought the Homefront IP.
The Nottingham-based studio continued work on a sequel – The Revolution – but this ran into issues as money dried up. That was before Koch Media swooped in to save the day, purchasing both the Homefront IP and hiring the team working on it.
Looking at this tale, it's almost a miracle that Homefront: The Revolution is coming out at all.
Yeah, it's a relief,” narrative designer Stephen Rhodes laughs.
It's scary as well. It's coming out very soon. It's a relief to have the game done, but it's also in that tense moment just before launch where everything is gearing up and everything's exciting. It's a good feeling to have it finished.”
Following the rather average response to the original Homefront, the team at Deep Silver Dambusters (as the studio is now called) is feeling the pressure to really deliver with The Revolution – but Rhodes says this is nothing unusual.
There's always pressure to deliver with a game launch,” he says.
It's had several years development and has a team of 100 people working on it. The pressure is always there to make something that people will enjoy and that they're going to like and will make a lasting impression. It's a case of creating the vision we want to make and writing the story we want to tell and hoping that people will like it as much as we liked making it. I've worked on big titles before and the pressure is always there, but it's nice to see the reactions that people have to your hard work. Even the criticism to your hard work is good. It's always nice to get feedback and see what people think about what you have spent a couple of years of your life making.”
The Revolution may carry on the story of the first title, but in terms of gameplay, things have evolved.
The game has changed in some obvious ways, as well as some not so clear ways,” Rhodes explains.
It's obviously no longer a linear experience – it's open-world. It's got a brand new history, a brand new timeline, brand new storyline with new characters. The thing that we kept from the first game that we have really evolved has literally been the premise of an occupied America. We've really taken that. We know people had issues with the first game and how the whole invasion was portrayed. We have taken that on board and really worked on the narrative and worked on the back story and created this really interesting alternate timeline where there's lots of factors at play that lead up to the events of the game in 2029.
People are going to be really interested and surprised by that and want to know more about this universe we've dropped them into. We've done a lot with the mechanics. We have an open-world and it's not an on-rails experience, so we have a lot of immersive systems and really cool modding technology that makes it feel quite unique.”
"I'm not worried about competition - we offer something different to many games in the shooter space at the moment."
Stephen Rhodes, Deep Silver Dambuster
Like almost all triple-A games, Homefront: The Revolution is going to benefit from a wealth of post-release content. But Rhodes says consumers can either pay for it or earn the extra DLC.
Having gated content for a mode like our co-op Resistance mode is difficult because then you have to say to your friends: ‘we're still playing this, you have to buy this and that to play with us',” he explains.
Just coming out and saying: ‘for the next 12 months, any content we make for the multiplayer, will all be available to everyone' just takes away that feeling and that worry that people have. I'm a gamer and when a big co-op FPS comes out there's always that thing with my friends of: ‘are we all buying the Season Pass as well?'. We need to sit down and plan it early as we don't want to get two months in and not have everyone with the same content. It's frustrating when that happens.
The fact all DLC is free for multiplayer is great as it frees that up and allows people to buy the game knowing full well that they'll be able to play it free for the whole year with their friends and not worry about someone that hasn't got the right content. It's a good idea to do that sort of thing.”
The games space is a perpetually competitive one, and no where is this more true than in the first person shooter genre. In this month alone, there are number of high-profile triple-A shooters hitting shelves – something that will divide the FPS audience.
It's a very competitive space, you're quite right,” Rhodes says. But I'm not worried about competition in any which way as we offer something quite different to a lot of the games that are filling that space at the moment. If you look at just this month, you've got Doom, Battleborn, Overwatch all coming which are all – in essence – first person shooters, but they're all very different games.
Doom is action-orientated, Overwatch is about player-vs-player and Battleborn is in Gearbox's line of insane, over the top and humorous gameplay and world-building.
Our title is positioned quite well – it offers something unique. It's a grim alternate history, it's very much down the lines of [Philip K. Dick story and Amazon Prime TV show] The Man in the High Castle. You're not playing a super human or super hero or an action star, you're playing a resistance member fighting against an oppressive foreign regime. It stands out as being very story-driven. I don't think many other first person shooters these days are very story-driven.
They've all taken a shift to providing some sort of multiplayer component to try and attack different revenue streams. Our game is solely focused on the story experience. That makes it stand out quite well against all the different FPS games that are dominating the space right now.”
Deep Silver is confident in the game's potential. Speaking to MCV earlier in the year, Koch Media boss Klemens Kundratitz said that the firm was ‘going to establish Homefront as a well-recognised IP in the shooter genre'. But what are Dambusters' own expectations?
Honestly, we hope it does well and people enjoy it,” Rhodes says.
We have really gone back and spent a lot of time and effort building out this alternate history and this alternate