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Video Game Uses Philly to Host Its Repressive World of 2029

Are you willing to fight for the city you love, Philadelphians? To take it back from the repressive foreign overlords who've occupied City Hall, seized all media control, banished the rank and file to decimated districts on the fringes of town?

This is not a test of our emergency response system. This is the premise of a dystopian-themed, high budget video game, "Homefront: The Revolution," launching Tuesday and already creating a buzz among game aficionados.

"All we have to say is 'it's a first person shooter set in Philly' and people are all aboard, anxious to play" the $59.99 game, reported Tim Brooks, a sales associate at the GameStop emporium on South Street.

Helping build a fire under these Philadelphia freedom fighters are high impact preview clips, posted on YouTube (https://goo.gl/JgqkaU), a poster plastering attack on the 15th street subway station and giant billboards looming over the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges, among the many local landmarks depicted in the game.

And this is all before the first Molotov cocktail is thrown by our righteous rebels and Philly's oppressors start raining hellfire on the populace from high tech, unmanned hovercraft.

Like the current Amazon Prime video series "The Man in the High Castle" (depicting WWII-winning Nazis and Japanese forces splitting control of the U.S.), "Homefront: The Revolution" reimagines an "alternative history" and "foreseeable future" (the game is set in 2029) when America is "on its knees," explained Hasit Zala, game director for Deep Silver/Dambuster Studios in Nottingham, England -- "you know, where Robin Hood used to hang."

In the game's not-so-alternate reality -- explorable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC platforms -- we've dug ourselves "deep into debt and a depression from fighting difficult guerilla wars in the Middle East," said the game maker. And the North Korean mega-company Apex, "which led the computer revolution" (forget Apple and Microsoft) "then sold us all those expensive armaments" (which Apex engineers can secretly override), has "decided to call in their trillions of debt. So the Korean Peoples Army forces come in and take over, claiming it's a 'humanitarian gesture' that's going to 'restore America to its greatness.'"

Also scoring deja vu points: the blustery puppet that KPA has installed as Philadelphia's mayor "bears some resemblence to Donald Trump," said Zala. "But all that's pure coincidence. We started plotting out this game with a field trip to Philadelphia five years ago."

Actually the second "Homefront" franchise title put out by Zala's creative team (the first was issued under a different studio name and ownership), setting this one in our town "made perfect sense on multiple levels," he explained.

"Typically, dystopian games and films are set in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. We wanted ours to be different on several levels. To go somewhere games don't normally go, but someplace with strong visual identity. Given our brand of fiction -- that this is America's second war of independence -- it made perfect sense to come full circle to the birthplace of the nation."

Depicted topography -- classic colonial rowhomes and Independence Hall, bombed out North Philly factory buildings, rebel movements under I-95 in South Philly and some "spectacular grappling attacks" over City Hall "which the KPA has seized like one of Saddam's palaces" -- helps differentiate "our alternative take on shooter games," Zala said.

So does its action heroes. "Most games fall into two categories -- the modern day military shooter like 'Call of Duty' where you're in the special forces, and your sci-fi games like 'Halo' and 'Titanfall' where you play as super-powered mechanoid battlebros. 'Homefront: The Revolution' pushes out completely differently, more realistically," said the developer. "It's about guerilla fighters, regular people fighting for liberation, using quick strikes, disruptive sabotage, home-made weapons to even the odds against much bigger, better equipped adversaries."

Besides getting the architecture mostly right, the design team also worked hard "to accurately represent the Philly populace in our open world encounters," Zala said.

In single player mode, it takes 20 to 40 hours to propel through the adventure. Online, up to four people can connect and play -- but only in cooperative mode as a resistence cell, capturing territory, throwing off the enemy, with each victory converting more sideline sitters to the cause.

"The stakes, the setting and the game play seem legit," said GameStop's Brooks. "Think how much our historic city meant for American democracy. How we've never had another home war since the Civil War. You could imagine another, actually happening here."

takiffj@phillynews.com

215-854-5960

@JTakiff ___

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This article was written by Jonathan Takiff from The Philadelphia Inquirer and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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