Homefront: The Revolution's co-op campaign promises Dark Souls-levels of difficulty

Form a four-man freedom fighter cell and reclaim America with customizable weapons, open-ended tactics, and a free year of downloadable content.

America has lost. The invasion we sought to thwart in the original Homefront apparently proved too overwhelming to withstand. As a result, spiritual successor Homefront: The Revolution finds the land of the free under oppressive foreign rule.

While the game's single-player campaign chronicles guerrilla warrior Ethan Brady's efforts to undermine our bellicose overlords across a set piece-driven story that reportedly spans dozens of hours, publisher Deep Silver has now unveiled Resistance Mode, a separate cooperative campaign that takes places in the same universe but stars custom characters fighting their own distinct battles (e.g., experience, gear, and other unlocks don't carry over between the two modes).

Though Resistance Mode exists apart from the single-player campaign, the two still share quite a bit in common. Both take place in and around post-invasion Philadelphia. Both focus on scrappy survivors cobbling together weaponry as they cautiously explore vast, open world maps. And both feature nearly insurmountable odds, at least according to the development team.

Dambuster Studios' CJ Kershner even referred to Homefront: The Revolution as the "Dark Souls of Shooters." His statement may have been hyperbolic, but after spending an hour with the game, it's clear that team tactics are crucial to surviving Resistance Mode's discrete, story-driven missions.

My hands-on time was somewhat limited, but I was able to get the basics. Resistance missions are essentially tough, tactical sandboxes dotted with sequential objectives that you and up to three friends can tackle however you see fit. If you creep through bombed-out buildings and keep your kills discrete, you can delay open conflict until it's absolutely necessary -- which is a smart way to preserve your decidedly limited supply of ammo and items. You can also have every player blitz the enemy simultaneously, send one player ahead as a scout while the others flank from multiple sides, or any other strategy that makes sense to you. As long as you complete your objective -- like taking out a specific target or collecting a specific item -- the game won't stop you.

Word of advice, though: make sure your squad is balanced. Resistance Mode's character customization tools don't seem to force players into preset classes, but according to Kershner, you will be able to mold your built-from-scratch resistance fighter to suit your particular play style. You'll also gain skills and cash as you level up, which should let you further distinguish your character from all the other guerillas out there -- though Kershner was also quick to state no character can ever become a super-powered one-man army.

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You can traverse through certain areas on motorcycles, though the driving controls still need work.

While I wasn't able to explore the game's skill trees, I did have time to tinker with its scavenging, crafting, and loot systems, all of which play major roles in both combat and character progression. Scavenging and crafting proved relatively straightforward: because ammo and items are scarce, it's crucial that you loot fallen enemies for supplies and locate forgotten caches strewn around the environment. Once you find enough of the right materials, you can open a radial menu known as the Guerilla Toolkit and craft consumables like molotovs, C4, and explosive RC cars on the fly.

The weapon system is a bit more involved. Though you can only bring one primary weapon into a mission, you can augment your gun with (potentially) up to eight attachments -- ranging from scopes and stocks to under barrel and muzzle attachments -- at any time. The potential variety is pretty staggering, and the fact that you can adjust on the fly should make for some deep strategic options, especially since you can carry an unlimited number of interchangeable weapon components. When your silenced sniper rifle can be instantly transformed into a semi-automatic repeater, your role in the battle can shift to meet demand.

Outside of battle, you can spend currency you earn during missions on "resistance crates," which provide randomly generated loot that matches the type of crate you purchased: gear, attachment, ordinance, or weapon. It's important to note this is the only way you can acquire new weapons. If you don't randomly receive a shotgun from a crate, you can't simply go buy a shotgun from some other source. It's also worth noting Homefront will let you spend real money to buy crates, though crates purchased through micro-transactions will contain exactly the same loot you'd find in loot drops purchased with in-game currency, according to Kershner.

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While co-op offers plenty of options, you won't find any competitive multiplayer here.

This system may sound a bit limiting upfront, but one welcome side-effect I discovered is a genuine feeling of excitement and discovery when an unexpected item shows up in a drop. For example, I randomly received a four-barreled shotgun known as the Blunderbuss after buying a weapon crate. Apparently these are pretty rare, and while its outrageously slow reload speed crippled its usefulness, it was still a supremely cool gun to test out. I only wish I'd gotten a chance to fire a few bolts from the game's makeshift crossbow.

The final count may change, but there should be roughly 18 co-op missions in a variety of settings and scenarios when the game launches on May 17, with as many as 18 more added for free within a year of release. Players will also enjoy free guns, mods, skins, and more for one full year, according to Kershner. This free DLC (downloadable content) -- combined with the replayability provided by the various difficulty settings, randomized enemy spawn locations, and myriad side objectives -- should make Resistance Mode a major part of Homefront: The Revolution's overall appeal once the game finally hits store shelves.

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