It seemed like just a normal day in the offices. But for one young woman, it was to turn out to be anything but normal. As she sat at her desk daydreaming of burly men with chiselled features, the picture of her dream whitepicket-fenced home started to rattle in its pink seashell frame. "What could it be?" she quivered and as she looked around warily she saw the approach of the ferocious and very manly, Mr Korda. "Miss Pratchett," he boomed while slapping a disc down onto her desk and causing her collection of wobbly headed puppies to shake. "I want this review of Freedom Force, and I want it on Monday!"
"Jeepers, what's a girl to do?" she thought as he strode off. That night as she lay asleep slumped over her keyboard, it seemed as though her prayers might be answered when a strange bolt of pink light smashed through the window behind her and struck her body. To her horror her spine started to bend until she became unnaturally hunched over her keyboard and wobbly-headed puppies were crushed underneath a giant steaming cup of black coffee. She looked in the mirror to find that her skin had become deathly pale, her eyes red and haunted and as her nicotine stained fingers started blurring across the keys she knew she had become 'Games Journalist Girl’. It could have happened... But what actually happened was that I played Freedom Force and then wrote a review about it, but after several days of fighting crime in a spandex suit, that’s simply not superhero enough for me. Those of you who read our preview in Issue 113 will have a fair idea of what Freedom Force is about, but for those of you who didn’t catch it, the game in question is a 3D team-based RPG involving superheroes.
In The Beginning...
Strange canisters of 'Energy X’ are popping up after being dropped from a passing alien spaceship and have started to cause mutations in unsuspecting members of the public. The first of those to fall is Frank Stiles who becomes the Minuteman, who’s not named because of sexual inadequacies, but after the 18th century American militia who could mobilise in less than a minute, history fans. As the Minuteman engages in his own personal crusade, he runs into other newly created heroes such as Alche-Miss, The Ant, Man 0’ War and Bullet who all have their own secret origins.
It feels like the whole Irrational Games team sat in a tree house for a few months with bottles of fizzy pop and some sherbet dabs and read every Dark Horse Comic ever produced. Because what they’ve produced is a 1950/60s American comic book world, even down to the dramatic pause... in... sentences! Villains are never killed, they’re 'brought to justice’. The costumes are lurid, the names: Dwight, Frank, Hank etc, are all-American, and it’s all served up with a big slice of mom’s apple pie. How you react to this, will depend on how well you can put up with that kind of world. But for every comic book cliche that makes you cringe there’s another that translates so effortlessly into a computer game that you begin to wonder why a game like this hasn’t been done before.
One aspect of the game that works really well is the interactive environment in which your superheroes can smash-up buildings, uproot streetlights and throw cars, telephone boxes and boulders at your enemies. You’ll need to be careful when swinging lamp posts though, because if a team-mate gets in the way it all starts to look like an episode of The Three Stooges. And as indestructible as the superheroes may appear, walking into traffic isn’t a good idea, as all vehicles seem to have 'I don’t brake for heroes' bumper stickers.
Missions are a fairly linear affair: choose four super heroes and go after the archetypal bad guys, like the giant killer ants, psychotic robots and gangsters who look like they’ve wondered off the set of Bugsy Malone. Each mission also has secondary objectives such as protecting civilians and thwarting minor crimes, which earn you the prestige points needed to recruit new superheroes. The 3D engine works smoothly for most missions, but the later ones are quite RAM hungry even with 128Mb, so turn down the character detail if it starts chugging.
Role With It
Ken Levine, general manger of Irrational Games, claimed in our preview that the RPG aspects of Freedom Force were very deep. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case when compared to something like Baldur's Gate 2 or Deus Ex. Perhaps ’accessible’ is a better word, since levelling up, attributes and attacks are controlled through a simple experience points equals character points model. Skills and defences have been designed in traditional comic-book style and tend to reflect the character and personality of the hero (for example the Latino hot head has fire skills) rather than being designed for truly balanced gameplay.
Although there are 10 types of damage such as cold, energy and piercing, individual heroes only have pre-designed attacks in a few of these areas. There also doesn’t seem to be much balance when weighing up the heroes’ attack damage, with enemy resistances. For example, a few enemies are susceptible to lighting damage, but I only found one hero that could inflict it.
Accessibility is no bad thing, and with no inventory to worry about Freedom Force is all about epic 3D superhero fights. Combat is a fairly simple affair. Right click brings up a command menu of available attacks and skills, and also regulates their intensity, and left click executes. Sadly there's no superhero gadgetry or vehicles to play with, no Mintueman moped or even the glimpse of a Liberty Lad skateboard.
Perhaps this is to encourage you to create your own superheroes, as the games ships with its own character editor and there are already hundreds of available skins to download, including classics such as Superman and the Incredible Hulk. Undoubtedly this will probably prove much more fun than using the original characters and we shall bring you a multiplayer review with the ZONE team’s heroes very soon.
Freedom Force has a few knowing jokes, but doesn’t really feature the dark undertones of the original Batman or The Watchman comics. Instead it plays it straight all the way, conjuring up an era when kids absentmindedly listened to their parents raging about the commies over the dinner table, while drawing robot spacemen on their napkins. It may not be a hugely sophisticated RPG, but its execution is fairly slick. Sometimes you have to put aside thoughts of dark and foreboding plots and simply take a look at how much fun you’re having. I don’t know about you, but rarely do I get to experience the unrestrained childish euphoria I felt when I found myself smacking a giant robot about the kneecaps with a traffic light. And my life has been all the poorer for it... until... NOW!
Download Freedom Force
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
- P-200, 32 MB RAM
The world is in peril! Aliens are threatening to destroy our life as we know it! What we need now is a hero, no wait we need a force'the Freedom Force! Blessed with the extraordinary gifts bestowed upon them by the awesome 'Energy X,'? the Freedom Force launches into action in a do-or-die mission to save the planet. Led by the powerful Minuteman and the alien psychic Mentor, the Freedom Force will fight through 20 comic book style missions ala' a tactical RPG.
Freedom Force, is a knock down drag out blast that takes a completely original team of superheroes and dumps you into the 'golden age of comics'? with campy dialogue and clever visuals. Players are entrenched in an engaging story line that unfolds like a series of comic books. Each hero has certain strengths and weaknesses and it's up to you to decide who would be best suited for the numerous missions.
Taking a tip from comic books themselves, characters interact with the environment as much as they do with the bad guys'light posts can be uprooted and used as a baseball bat, while barrels of gasoline can be thrown at enemies. Players must be careful not to damage too much city property or civilians and numerous 'secondary'? missions are invoked in order to 'level up'? your team of heroes.
Truly an original idea, this is hands down the best superhero game ever. With comics on the upswing, gamers of all ages will enjoy the challenges and ultimately the story that is unfolded before you. The additions of online play and hero creation are just icing on the cake.