If you’ve played the original “Far Cry” or any entries in the “Crysis” series, you’re already well aware that developer Crytek knows a thing or two about crafting epic first-person shooter experiences. Based on Crytek’s Xbox One debut, “Ryse: Son of Rome,” it’s also obvious the studio has a handle on harnessing the power of the hardware to deliver eye-popping visual presentations. Now, the talented team that put players behind the bullets of sci-fi super-soldiers and the blades of vengeance-seeking Romans is applying its skills to “Homefront: The Revolution.” We recently sat down with Crytek UK Associate Producer Fashat Shalim to discuss what direction the ambitious sequel is headed in as it prepares for launch next year.
Xbox Wire: The original “Homefront” presented a terrifying vision of a future-fiction America occupied by a rising military superpower. Does “The Revolution” retain or expand upon this premise?
Fashat Shalim: Yes, we were really interested in the setting and the premise of the original “Homefront.” It was very different from what you find in first-person shooters these days; the prevailing narrative these days is that you’re a badass military soldier, running around the world just shooting bad guys... you are the ultimate machine. “Homefront” kind of flipped this and changed the dynamic by bringing the battlefields to the U.S.; now the combat is in our own backyard. This is a familiar environment, but it’s also changed – it’s alien. So that was something we were really excited about doing. And, using the CryEngine, we were able to take that and push it as far as we could to achieve an open-world that was exciting to play in.
Xbox Wire: On top of the story and setting, how does the premise inform the action and gameplay?
Fashat Shalim: So we’re taking that premise and expanding on it, but we really wanted to take the pillar of guerrilla warfare and focus on what it means to be a guerrilla fighter. And what we came down to are basically things like sabotage and ambush, assassinations... things that aren’t necessarily about taking on the enemy head-on. Rather, you get in, you complete a mission, and you get out as quickly as you can, before they can respond. That’s kind of the essence of what a guerrilla fighter is. The enemy is so far superior to you – they have the big guns. You can’t take them on, so you have to hit them as quickly as you can, and get out of there.
Xbox Wire: Has the Xbox One hardware allowed you to push the franchise in any new directions from either a gameplay or technical standpoint?
Fashat Shalim: Yeah, one of the main things that we wanted to do is push our CryEngine as far as we possibly could, so we decided to go open-world. We’re taking that guerrilla warfare scenario, pushing it into an open-world, and making that world a realistic and evolving place, where things are happening whether the player is there or not. Basically, whatever the player does in the world affects the environment and everyone that inhabits it. So yeah, there is a lot of stuff going on compared to what was in the original “Homefront.”
Xbox Wire: Can you offer anymore specifics on the game’s story or characters? Does it pick up after the events of the original game?
Fashat Shalim: It’s been four years since the invasion. It’s 2029, and the occupation is quite mature. The Korean People’s Army (KPA) is definitely in there; its forces have taken control, and are now ruling with an iron fist.
Xbox Wire: And the KPA has set up its capitol in Philadelphia?
Fashat Shalim: Yes, we felt that the city resonated as a symbol of independence. It’s the birthplace of independence – it’s where the Declaration of Independence was signed. So, from our point of view, it really had a strong significance.
Xbox Wire: What can players expect in terms of presentation and gameplay when fighting evil-doers in the City of Brotherly Love?
Fashat Shalim: If you’re familiar with Philadelphia, you will definitely recognize landmarks and places in our game. But the idea is that it’s Philadelphia, but it’s not quite Philadelphia because it’s been augmented with this KPA stamp. So it’s a familiar environment, but it’s alien at the same time. It’s also an expansive, open world, so there are a lot of different districts inside Philadelphia. As you play through the story, you can unlock more and more spaces, and each of these districts has its own unique identity. Then, as you unlock them, you can always jump back and forth between them. It’s a big space and, like I said, they all have their own identity.
Xbox Wire: You mentioned the focus on guerrilla tactics earlier. Is it safe to assume that protagonist Ethan Grady is quite skilled in the ways of the guerrilla warrior?
Fashat Shalim: One of the keys in our game is to scavenge the world around you. You look for things that you can use to build your arsenal, and build your guerrilla tool kit, as we call it. Your enemy has far superior tech. They have got the big weapons. You don’t. You have to use whatever is available to you – containers, batteries, improvised explosive devices, anything. You can use an RC car, like you saw in our demo. It’s all based around the idea of guerrilla warfare, and the things that you would possibly use if you were a guerrilla fighter.
Xbox Wire: Will “The Revolution” include any cooperative or competitive multiplayer?
Fashat Shalim: Yes, I can confirm that we have four-player co-op. We kind of hinted at some co-op in our demo. When you are attacking the KPA police station, at that point, you come across a couple of buddies who are already there; one of them actually sets off a distraction explosive, which kind of pulls the KPA away from that compound and lets you actually go in and do your thing. That’s just one example of how co-op can work.
Xbox Wire: Very cool! And how about competitive multiplayer?
Fashat Shalim: Oh, I’m not talking about anything more in multiplayer. That was pretty much as far as I can go on the multiplayer front, without getting killed!