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Freedom Force Review
publisher: Crave Entertainment
developer: Irrational Games
PII 300, 64MB RAM, 16MB Video Card, 580MB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Mar 24, 02 (released)
|» All About Freedom Force on ActionTrip|
Most gamers are also comic book fans. This is almost a given - go up to any true, hardcore gamer and ask him or her about a major comic book character. I guarantee that at least 7 out of 10 gamers know damn near everything about Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or Wolverine. We all grew up reading comics, because they do the same things for us that games do. They are an escape from reality - to a place where the line between good and evil is as plain as day, the villains always twirl their moustaches and the nice guys always finish first. We grew up pretending to be our favorite superheroes, flying about our imaginary worlds doing good deeds and vanquishing evildoers by the hundreds. My personal favorite was (and is) the Green Lantern. When I was seven years old, I made my own power ring out of green construction paper, some tape, and a used Scotch Tape roll with all the tape gone. (Yes, I was a dork then.) When we read comics, we imagined and dreamt that we were in the comics, fighting alongside our heroes. This overgrown sense of imagination translated to videogames in a similar manner - when we play games, typically we find ourselves drawn into the game world, as though we were truly a part of it.
I will zap thee to thy death.
Hey, that's illegal parking pal!
Sure, there have been games about comic book superheroes. Plenty of them. More than I can count.
Forget about them. They are nothing compared to Freedom Force.
The year is 1962. The Beaver is the biggest thing on television, our boys are fighting overseas, and the threats - both foreign and domestic - are endangering the way of life of God-fearing Americans in picturesque Patriot City. Crime is rampant, the police are inadequate, and Little Johnny can't go play in the park for fear of Communists, or gun-wielding gangsters. Who can save us? Who will be the heroes the people cry out so desperately for in their hour of most dire need?
But, hark! In the distance, a battle cry dances on the wind! There they are! Our Saviors! The FREEDOM FORCE!
I love this game on so many levels, it's not even funny.
The game is a tactical RTS with RPG elements thrown in. You start with one hero, the Minuteman - a paragon of justice, endowed with the mysterious Energy X who uses his powers for truth, justice, and the American Way...or something like that. Along the way, your team grows by your good deeds attracting more like-minded superhumans to your cause. You are given control over of up to 4 heroes at a time in each scenario, accomplishing varying tasks, such as apprehending evildoers, repelling monsters and generally making the world safe for democracy. How you do it is completely up to you. Each individual hero has a certain set of abilities that he/she can utilize as time progresses and they gain more experience. For example, the Minuteman begins his travels only able to smack foes with his staff, but as he gains in level, he can add new attacks and defenses to his repertoire. Heroes gain experience whether they participate in missions or not, but typically more XP is gained when they are in the field.
The game centers on about a dozen or so main pre-generated characters. There is a basic plotline that involves invading aliens and mysterious canisters of energy that have created both the heroes and villains you will face during the game. The plot is no different than you would expect to find in a circa 1960's comic book - filled with drama, overblown characters, pathos and extremely clear-cut sides - you always know who the good guys are. Each of the pre-generated heroes are so blatantly stereotypical, its almost laughable. The Latino fireball, El Diablo, is a suave ladies man. The tortured soul Man-Bot is a brooding, reluctant member of the team, who is fawned over by southern Belle Alchemiss. The dialog is campy to the extreme - unabashedly so. It is intentionally over-the-top, and succeeds marvelously in capturing the comic book feel - right down to the fleeing citizens.
Patriot City, too, is a near perfect place for the Freedom Force to clash with the world's scum and villany. The 3D engine is flawless, with everything in the city either capable of being destroyed, or used as a weapon by either side. See that passing car? If your hero's strength is high enough, you can pick it up and hurl it at an unsuspecting foe to send him flying. Grab a lamppost and swing for the fences - go ahead, the city's insured. The buildings can also take damage, and crumble under the weight of your righteous warpath if the need arises. The heroes are extremely well rendered, with a good amount of polys per model, but that's not what shines here - the skins and animations are flawless. A lot of tender loving care went into these skins, and they shine. There are some issues with clipping against scenery, but with the amount of objects in each scenario, it's forgivable. Each character's attacks are all individually animated, and convey that over-exaggerated feel whenever they smite their foes, or wreak havoc on the do-gooders. The game's camera controls are intuitive, but can be a little tough to control at first. Once you get used to them, however, navigating your way about the city will become child's play.
Me hungry. Need car.
HA! You're no match for my mighty strength!
Irrational also made a fine move, and released their character editor a few weeks before the game's release so that the best modelers and skinners of the world can create new hero skins from today's comics to be integrated into the game's engine. That's right - you can make your own heroes in this game, and add them to the ranks of Freedom Force. Superman can fight alongside Spider-Man, the Tick, and Minuteman at the same time. (Spoon!) When you create your hero, you can pick from a good number of attributes, modifiers, abilities and moves to customize him just so. With each new point you allocate, however, your hero gains in prestige. In order to add him to the Freedom Force roster, you have to spend Prestige points, which are earned in the course of missions. If you shoot Superman's stats to the moon, you may very easily put him out of reach of your single player team until very late in the game - if you can get him at all.
The audio in this game is also superb. The voice acting is perfect - campy, overdone, stereotypical and needlessly verbose. The ambient sounds of the city are everywhere, and do a fine job of drawing you deeper into Patriot City's dark alleys and sewers. The music varies with each campaign. My favorite is when you do battle with the Communist powerhouse Nuclear Winter. It has a real Star Wars-y Death Star feel to it that just made me laugh.
The only thing about this game that doesn't thrill me is the multiplayer. The only option is a Free-For-All Deathmatch. Each player (up to 4) picks a 4-person squad of either pre-packaged or customized heroes and they slug it out in the city. While this makes for some great battles (X-Men v. JLA, Gen13 v. the Avengers) it gets stale quickly. If there were a coop option, either to play the single-player campaign, or custom built scenarios - complete with customized villains - it would be one for the ages. Throw in the fact that transferring your skins for your custom characters to the other multiplayer folks can be excruciatingly slow - especially so if you're on dialup - makes for another downside to the multiplayer experience. Hopefully, improving all of this is in the works - because this is the only drawback to this game that I've been able to spot thus far.
This game does the same thing that comic books do - it grabs your imagination by the short and curlies and doesn't let go until the ride is over. It is the total package. It has excellent gameplay, lighthearted humor, and flawless graphic and audio execution. The only thing this game needs is the multiplayer expanded and it is perfect.
You now have my permission to stop reading this article. Go buy this game.
Stop reading. I'm serious.
Why are you still reading this? GO!
Everything. Best tactical game I've played in a long time;
- Multiplayer needs expansion, skins could be transferred faster.
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