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Homefront: The Revolution sounds exciting. Ostensibly a sequel to Kaos Studios' bland 2011 FPS, it's elevated by a new plot, new development team, and new focus on emergent open world design. Before I get to play it, Deep Silver Dambuster describes a shooter that attempts to capture life as a guerilla fighter.
It, they say, is a world where you are outgunned; where you're nipping at the heels of a more powerful force. It, they say, is a shooter where you'll need to know when to withdraw. Soon after, I get to play a section of its open world. Once, during a scripted sequence, my panicked squadmates tell me to retreat from a fight. I do, but only because there's an objective marker. Outside of this mission, the sense of being the underdog dissipates completely. I can wipe out patrols without fear of retribution, and capture Strike Points with relative ease.
Getting a bit cocky, I decide to throw myself at a heavily defended outpost, and, fair enough, I am swiftly killed. But the rest of the time, I seem to be a one-man army able to kill every KPA oppressor foolish enough to have a go. Based on what I played, Homefront: The Revolution doesn't feel like a game about resistance fighters in a desperate struggle for freedom. It feels like an urban Far Cry, or a military Watch Dogs. Its main inspiration is not guerilla fighters, it's the Ubisoft school of open world design.
Homefront: The Revolution takes place in a Philadelphia now under the control of the Korean People's Army. It features a map, and on that map are Strike Points. Complete a Strike Point, and the camera swishes around the area to show nearby activities and rewards. As you complete events, the map gradually shifts colour to show your increasing influence.
"The basis of it is similar to what you may have seen in other games," says senior level designer Fasahat Salim. "When you take a Strike Point and you unlock that space you get the content revealed to you, but we're not killing off the enemy. There's always an enemy presence in that space. The only thing that's changing is you now have more of a resistance influence in that space as well. What you see is more resistance fighters on the ground, more resistance fighters taking vantage points."
Weapons are scrappy, makeshift affairs that offer plenty of customisation options.
I like the sound of this approach. One of my major problems with Far Cry 3 was the way that, by completing its outposts, I was creating safe spaces where the enemy couldn't move. It felt as if I was slowly eroding away all the fun I could have in that world. Homefront: The Revolution differs in that it won't restrict the KPA's movement—emergent patrols and events will still trigger in areas with a resistance presence. The threat will always remain.
Even within Homefront: The Revolution's familiar template, there are still things that stand out. The weapons are scrappy, makeshift affairs that offer plenty of customisation options. New scopes, barrels and attachments can be crafted and installed on the fly. There's toys, too. Explosives, remote hacking devices and noisemakers can each be unleashed via a number of different delivery mechanisms. You can attach a hacking tool to an RC car, drive it under a drone, detonate it, and watch as the drone seeks out an enemy sniper nest and self-destructs inside. It's a gimmick, but it's a good one.
I hope my reservations will be answered by the other zones. The demo I play takes place in a 'Red Zone'. These derelict, bombed out streets are found along the outskirts of the city. Civilians aren't supposed to be there, so KPA patrols and snipers will shoot on site. It is, to be fair, exactly the sort of setup that lends itself to the Ubisoft-style theme park. The Yellow Zones sound more interesting, although Dambusters isn't showing them yet. "It's a completely different kettle of fish," says Salim. "It's a ghetto; it's where the population has been focused. There is a lot more population present. Security cameras are everywhere, and it's heavily policed and heavily patrolled." These areas are all about stealth, and building up support among the populace to trigger riots against the KPA.
In missions, players will also explore the Green Zone. "This is the central part of Philadelphia where all of the high-rises are," says Salim. "The opulence; where you see iconic things like city hall. We wanted to create very contrasting experiences in each of the zones." The existence of these distinct areas and experiences makes me hope that this is more than just a sandbox reskin. It won't be revolution, I don't think, but, combined with some accomplished combat and fun gimmicks, Homefront: The Revolution could still be an entertaining shooter.
Each week on Show Us Your Rig, we feature PC gaming's best and brightest as they show us the systems they use to work and play.
Braden Chan is an Associate Game Designer at Relic Entertainment working on Company of Heroes—specifically Company of Heroes 2: The British Forces, which comes out this Thursday. While his graphics card may be old, the piano, sound mixer, and giant speakers give me the feeling Braden is more focused on an a high quality audio experience than a cutting edge visual one. He was kind enough to show us how he works and plays, and tell us about why he loves Warcraft 3 more than any other game.
Instead of using an audio box to run my inputs through my studio monitor, I am actually using a DJ mixer which provides the same effect. It also gives me the flexibility to hook up my laptop into the mixer and run audio through my monitors that way as well. It's great as I can still control the levels of each device I have plugged in. The Pioneer DJM-800 mixer also has the flexibility to host multiple inputs like RCA, XLR, etc.
I'm currently engaged in a lot of Counter-Strike Global Offensive, Company of Heroes 2, and I occasionally play Starcraft 2.
Click the arrows to enlarge.
My phone or a glass of water.
Warcraft III will always hold a special place in my heart as my favorite game. It was one of the first of its kind as an RTS/RPG hybrid. Many of the mechanics that were created laid the path for other games such as DOTA, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft. I took that game really seriously and I qualified for WCG Canada in 2007. I just really enjoyed the emphasis on combat and micro that it had. As a player, you really had to create a strategy based on the heroes you were going to use. On top of that, you would build an army that would support your hero. Unlike Starcraft, you didn't really have to focus too much on your economy and macro. I think that is what I enjoyed the most about it; focusing on my units rather than my workers collecting gold.
If you've been reluctant to splash cash on Ark: Survival Evolved, then good news: it's free on Steam this weekend. The dinosaur age survival sandbox is ludicrously popular, and it's easy to see why. When Chris Livingston played he "chopped some wood, punched some birds, [and] pooped out several large, round turds," which sounds pretty great.
Other games are free too: Company of Heroes and its sequel, Company of Heroes 2, are both free for the weekend, and come with a 75% discount if you want to purchase. Mount & Blade: Warband is the fourth game to go free, with 66% taken off the usual price if you like what you play.
In case it's not obvious, these games are free for the weekend only: come Monday you'll need to pay up if you wish to continue playing.
The grim beauty of Company of Heroes is that it gives aspirant World War II strategists a bird s eye view of battlefield and takes them down into the brutal detail of the foxhole. It s a war sim experienced from above and below, where the general sees all his decisions—good and bad—played out in realtime.
Relic s original 2006 RTS game was a hit partly because of the delicate way it walked a line that felt satisfying and authentic. With the WWII experience already so well-executed in other genres—shooters and grand strategy sims—COH found a middle ground where it could show the conflict from a new angle. From its squad-based point of view, the tide of battle in COH could be turned by the presence of a single soldier or unit. This perspective also nodded to the intensely personal stories in films like Saving Private Ryan and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, both of which had appeared in the previous decade and enjoyed near-universal acclaim.
In this edition of If you like, I ve picked media that takes a similar, soldier s-eye-view approach to WWII. They aren t stories of far-removed commanders or politicians, but rather the men who had to carry out their orders in the various theaters of the 20th century s most brutal war. Given the scope of WWII, any list of recommendations could be almost endless. So with that in mind, be sure to include your own favorites in the comment section below.
With Company of Heroes 2, the series took its successful squad-based approach to the Eastern Front of the war. And in a way that reflected the much bloodier reality of the conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union in the east, the game adopted a darker tone as well. In the 1993 German film Stalingrad, we witness the full arc of the famous battle played out through the eyes of a group of tight-knit German soldiers.
Stalingrad traces the story of an elite German unit as it takes part in what would turn out to be one of the turning points of the entire war. The Battle of Stalingrad played out in the city s bombed out streets, sewer tunnels, and eventually its frozen countryside as the German army became surrounded. The film is ultimately a story of failure, but also one of friendship as resistance to the horrors of war.
COH 2 s turn to the east can also be seen as part of an increased focus in recent years on the cost borne by Eastern Europe during and after WWII. For a historical account of these developments, I d recommend taking a look at author Timothy Snyder s recent contribution to our understanding of the Eastern Front—Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.
In War Stories, comics writer Garth Ennis turns his pen towards a variety of true-to-life experiences during WWII. Noted for his work on comics like Preacher and Punisher, in War Stories Ennis attempts to ground the larger conflict in discrete tales of individuals caught up in unpredictable circumstances.
The eight-issue series, now collected in two volumes, has a scope that takes in battles all over the European theater, from North Africa to the Battle of Britain to the final days on the Eastern Front before Germany s surrender. In reviewing Ennis s work, Colin Smith notes that his writing isn t a tale of events which feel as if they re nothing but ancient history, long since settled and entirely predictable in hindsight. In taking us away from the commonplace and focusing on the lives of his small cast of touchingly-depicted individuals, Ennis constantly compels us to remember how chaotic and unpredictable his character s lives are.
If you see COH as I do, as somehow tipping its hat to warfare as carefully-managed chaos, it s worth checking out Ennis s War Stories.
If the dirty, impressionistic violence of Saving Private Ryan changed how a new generation of filmgoers saw WWII, then Kelly s Heroes serves as a reminder of an earlier approach to depicting the war. In the 1970 film starring Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, and Donald Sutherland, war is hell, but it s also a hell of an adventure. If you were to reverse engineer Saving Private Ryan as a kind of twisted, 1960s WWII Western, it might look something like Kelly s Heroes.
The basic story deals with a group of disillusioned American soldiers who go AWOL in order to rip off a bank behind enemy lines. Sick of feeling like pawns in the ambitious games of crazy generals, the soldiers set out to win a piece of the war that they can take home with them—gold. It s pure Hollywood but also hugely entertaining. The combat set pieces in the film range over the French countryside and could be ripped right out of the COH campaign. And as with so many older films that deploy practical effects well, the tank battles and infantry skirmishes have aged quite nicely.
Kelly s Heroes doesn t shy away from showing the costs of warfare, but rather confronts it with a kind of sarcastic humor and fantasy that s also become an important artifact in dealing with the legacy of WWII.
Of all the American combat novels to appear after the conclusion of World War II, three proved to be definitive: James Jones s The Thin Red Line, Norman Mailer s The Naked and the Dead, and Irwin Shaw s The Young Lions. And of those, only Shaw s 1948 work deals with the war in Europe rather than the Pacific.
Epic in its ambition, Shaw weaves together the story of three soldiers fighting on different sides of the war. Direct and suitably unadorned, his style is excellent at bringing the reader into the moment-by-moment experience of combat: The firing stopped and it was quiet again, except for shouts from the wounded out in the field. When a man raised his head carefully to look over the embankment to see what could be done, the guns started again, and the grass on the edge of the embankment snapped and slashed through the air as the bullets cut through it. The remnants of the Company lay exhausted, then, along the ditch.
What The Young Lions captures so vividly is the psychological dimension of combat and the way it changes the people caught up in it. The novel also highlights the almost absurd disconnect that exists between the fighting men on the ground and the commanders giving orders from eighty miles away. Just as COH closes this distance with its realtime approach, Shaw s writing excels at telling stories of the war as it was fought in the ditch rather than the war room.
While this week's main Humble Bundle is chumming about with region locked Nintendo games, the Weekly Bundle is well worth your attention. It is an awful lot of video game war for not a lot of money. Specifically, it is Relic video game war.
Here's what paying what you want will get you:
Yes, it's a bit odd to include Company of Heroes 2's standalone multiplayer expansion without the game it's based on. But if you pay above the average, you'll also get:
Should you extend your payment to $15 you'll also get Company of Heroes 2's most recent expandalone, Ardennes Assault.
There are some RTS classics nestled in there. It's worth dipping in just for Dawn of War: Retribution's excellent Last Stand multiplayer mode.
The bundle will run until Thursday, June 4.
GOG has added some Saints Row, some Darksiders, and a Metro game to its lineup, all of them completely without the hassles and headaches we know (and really don't love) as digital rights management. And to mark the moment, it's got them all on sale, too.
First up is Saints Row 2, now on for $4 instead of the regular $10 price, and Saints Row: The Third—The Full Package, which includes the main game and a pile of DLC, for $5 instead of $15. Then there's Darksiders, currently going for $8, and Darksiders II, which is $12. The Darksiders II Complete DLC pack is also up for grabs for $8.
Finally, there's Metro: Last Light Redux, and this one strikes me as a bit odd, because Metro 2033 Redux is nowhere to be seen. Licensing issues are sometimes a problem with GOG releases, but Deep Silver hold the rights to the entire franchise, so if it can do one it should be able to do both. Technical issues, maybe?
Whatever the case, Metro: Last Light Redux is on for $12.50, which I'd say is a really good price for a really good shooter. All five of the new-to-GOG games are available now, and will remain on sale until May 18.
Update: The mystery of the missing Metro hasn't exactly been solved, but it has been acknowledged, and there's a chance the game will turn up at some point in the future. "We cannot say exactly why it s been released this way, since this is related to discussions that are under NDA," a GOG rep explained. "But we sure hope that we will be able to bring Metro 2033 Redux to GOG in the future."
Want to play some free games this weekend? Steam's latest Free Weekend promotion has a couple to choose from, and they couldn't be more different. One lets you colonise an alien world, another lets you spray liquid faeces at buildings and people.
I'll let you decide which sounds more appealing. No judgements.
In one corner we have Firaxis's latest, Civilization: Beyond Earth. In the other corner, Volition's absurdist open-world comedy Saints Row. It's the full series that's playable, including Saints Row 2, Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV.
I particularly enjoyed the latter two Saints Rows, which are enjoyably silly and perfect for a mindless weekend of laughs and carnage. If you are in the mood for something more considered, Beyond Earth is a perfectly good alternative. I'm not it's greatest fan—much preferring last year's Endless Legend—but our reviewer liked it a lot.
To download any of the games, head to their Steam page and click the "Play Game" button. You've got until Sunday to get your free time in, and each game is discounted until Monday if you like what you play.