Freedom: First Resistance
In Anne McCaffrey’s Freedom series of books (Freedom’s Landing, Freedom’s Choice, and Freedom’s Challenge), humans are subjugated by an alien race known as the Catteni, herded by forcewhips into the hold of giant spaceships, and transported to the slave compounds of an alien planet. Freedom: First Resistance tells the story of those who were left on Earth. You don’t need to have read the books to understand the game -- it’s a sister story rather than a sequel and all relevant story background is included.
In First Resistance the story begins about nine months after the powerful Catteni have completed their invasion of Earth. You take on the role of Angel Sanchez and her team from the human resistance movement in their fight to rid the Earth of its alien overlords. Through a combination of stealth, combat, puzzle solving and character interaction you must guide the team through a series of missions on your quest to become free from alien rule.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
First Resistance is billed as a "3rd person single player action-adventure" -- it’s a lot more adventure than anything else. You go through the game with control of one to three characters (it varies for each mission), moving around fully rendered 3D environments. Each mission has specific goals: find a specific person, blow up a building, or infiltrate and recover some vital data. Along the way you’ll get sub-tasks and goals which will also need to be completed. To accomplish this you’ll need to interact with the people and items in the world around you.
As you approach any NPC in the game you’ll be allowed to either speak to them or attack them. You’re not give an option of which you would prefer -- some NPCs will only speak to you, while others will attack on sight, and still others will talk to you first then attack. There are even many that you can’t interact with at all -- they just stand there and might as well be potted plants for all the impact they have on the game.
I can understand the guards and Catteni attacking me when I’m in areas I’m not supposed to be in, but the game was very inconsistent with who I could talk to and who attacked unprovoked. Often a guard at a key point in the game would talk to me rather than attacking, even though I was obviously carrying weapons. In other cases human refugees would attack unprovoked, when all I was trying to do was move past them down a corridor. What I really wanted was the option to decide for myself how to approach the NPCs, rather than having my interaction choices forced by the game.
Also inconsistent was interaction with the items in the game. To see whether you could interact with an object you must stop near it long enough to get a blue light swirling around the object. Several levels turned into endless "hunt the object" nightmares. I’d move completely around the level area stopping ever few steps to see if anything would light up. Even after you find the object you can interact with you have to figure out what item in your inventory you need. I spent an inordinate amount of time standing in front of objects changing what I held in my hand to see if I could find anything that would work.
Even in cases where I knew I had the correct object I found it frustrating. Often one particular member of the team had to hold the correct item. In the case of the Catteni technology this was somewhat understandable, but in many cases I was reduced to handing every item to each character in turn to see which might be able to perform the task. In cases when I had my team members separated and working independently I could understand this type of interaction, but in most cases I had my team grouped. With a grouped team the game really should have the appropriate team member perform the action, regardless of who is in the lead at the time.
Most of the levels in the game were fairly straightforward and in many cases I only had one real path to follow through the environment. There were exceptions -- missions like the second in the game where you must find your way from the mall-turned-refugee camp to the resistance headquarters required some planning and stealth to complete. Overall I found them to be about an average challenge -- no brain bending puzzles I fought with for days before coming up with a solution, just basic reasoning and action.
The "action" portion of the game is the combat with NPCs. I found this to be either way too easy or impossibly hard -- when it was hard it was usually due to bugs in the game system. In most cases all I had to do was get close enough to the enemy that a target indicator appeared above their heads and then start swinging (or firing, as the case may be). I’d hit every time and winning was basically a matter of making sure I got in my attacks faster than they did. Every once in a while, however, I’d run into a nasty little game bug where no matter how I attacked, the enemy would take no damage. This happened most often in confined spaces and was very annoying.
Visually First Resistance is wishy-washy. The game is based on a modified Rogue Spear graphics engine, which provides for huge levels that are convincing. Sadly, the game suffers from some of the same navigation issues in doorways and constricted corridors as its parent. Most of the textures through the game are fantastic -- outdoors areas in particular look and feel like real locations. Character animations are also smooth and detailed, but the character texturing looses something when viewed close up. In a combat-centric game like Rogue Spear where character interaction is mostly shooting each other at several hundred yards this is okay, but in an adventure where you’ll be much more close up and personal, the lack is much more noticeable.
In any adventure game the quality of the voice acting is very important. First Resistance is a somewhat mixed bag in this regard. The actors all speak clearly and are easy to understand (important with the mix of ethnic accents throughout the game), but they often are way off base with the emotional impact of the lines. Angel is almost exclusively flippant and sarcastic, even when she’s speaking about the loss of her family and fiance. I found myself wishing that she’d sound like she really cared about something, anything, just once. Other actors were also sometimes off the mark on the emotional context -- guards who were supposedly yelling at me would sound bored, while frightened refugees would sound more like excited schoolchildren. Overall the voice acting was good, but not great.
By far the most annoying audio feature was the background music. Not that the music is bad -- it’s just repeated constantly. Tense music should only play when the occasion calls for it -- having it loop endlessly as I’m walking down a deserted corridor with no one is sight causes it to lose most of its impact.
Windows 95 or 98, Pentium II 300 or faster (Pentium II recommended), 96 MB RAM (128 MB recommended), 3D Accelerator (DirectX 7 & Direct 3D compatible), and a 4X CD-ROM.
One note on operating system support: The game does not list Windows 2000 as supported and it means it. I tried running on a Win2K system and was plagued by extremely poor system response, choppy audio, and constant crashes. With Microsoft’s recent announcement of Windows XP (due out later this year) this is becoming increasingly unacceptable. With even the consumer version of WinXP expected to be based on the Windows 2000 architecture, game companies need to start supporting the newer platforms now, or face disgruntled customers when their software won’t run on the new PCs they buy for Christmas.
Freedom: First Resistance is overall an okay adventure game. Like most Anne McCaffrey stories the protagonist is female, fairly believable, if occasionally overly predictable. Some missions of the game are devious, but most will just take time and straightforward logic to complete. Not having read the Freedom novels I still found the storyline easy to follow and rich enough to hold my interest. If you’re a fan of McCaffrey’s writing then take a look at this one -- you’ll probably enjoy it. But if you’re a real adventure aficionado you’ll undoubtedly find the game too easy for your tastes, better to give this one a miss than be disappointed.
Download Freedom: First Resistance
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP