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, and banished the rank and file to decimated districts on the fringes of town?
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 over the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges, among the many local landmarks in the game.
And this is all before the first Molotov cocktail is lobbed by our righteous rebels and Philly's oppressors start raining hellfire on the populace from unmanned high-tech 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 United States), 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're "deep into debt and a depression from fighting difficult guerrilla wars in the Middle East," said Zala. 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 comes in and takes over, claiming it's a 'humanitarian gesture' to 'restore America to its greatness.' "
The blustery puppet whom KPA has installed as Philadelphia's mayor "bears some resemblance to Donald Trump," said Zala. "But all that is pure coincidence. We started plotting out this game with a field trip to Philadelphia five years ago."
This is actually the second "Homefront" franchise title put out by Zala's creative team (the first was issued under a different studio name and ownership). And 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. 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."
The topography includes classic Colonial rowhouses 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." It helps differentiate "our alternative take on shooter games," Zala said.
"Most games fall into two categories," he adds: "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 battle bros. Homefront: The Revolution pushes out . . . more realistically," said the developer. "It's about guerrilla fighters, regular people fighting for liberation, using quick strikes, disruptive sabotage, homemade weapons to even the odds against much-bigger, better-equipped adversaries."
Besides getting the architecture mostly right, the design team sought "to accurately represent the Philly populace in our open world encounters," Zala said.
In single-player mode, it takes 20 to 40 hours to play. Online, up to four people can connect and play, but only in cooperative mode as a resistance cell, capturing territory, with each win 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."