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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RPG

 

Publisher

EA / Crave

 

Developer

Irrational Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

April 2002

 

- Great character design

- Challenging levels

- “Tick-like” Super Hero humor

- Tons of downloadable skins and heroes from fan sites

 

 

- Lack of fully rotating camera 

- Lack of information in level preview

 

 

Review: Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (PC)
Review: Icewind Dale II (PC)

Review: Planescape: Torment (PC)

 

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Freedom Force

Score: 8.8 / 10

 

It certainly is a good time to be a fan of superheroes.  Not only are we seeing a resurgence of quality superhero films (X-men, Spiderman, Ang Lee’s Hulk, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, and The Watchmen all here or coming soon), but, finally, the videogame industry has managed to put together some excellent superhero themed games.  Most superhero games past and present are based on the major licenses – Superman, Batman, Spiderman – but the best of the current crop is a tactical RPG that features a completely original creation (though they are certainly based on easily recognizable types).  That game is Freedom Force (FF), and it is a wonder to behold.

 

freedom-force-1.jpg (116813 bytes)        freedom-force-2.jpg (114483 bytes)

 

Fans of 60’s era mainstream comics will recognize the art design of FF immediately.  It is easy to see the influence of legends like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in both the character design and the artistic style of the game.  This art design is complimented by the ideological environment of the game, which is based on the Cold War/Red Scare elements common in those early comics.

 

In FF, players control a superhero super group (like The Justice League or the Avengers).  The group is made up of both preset characters and user-created ones.  These heroes have just the kind of powers we have come to expect from super heroes.  They can fly, punch really hard, pick up a car and throw it, use mind control to subdue an enemy, and various other “neato” tricks straight out of dime comic books.  The game does an excellent job convincing the player that they are in control of a group of living, breathing superheroes.

 

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The gameplay of Freedom Force is straightforward tactical RPG. Each level is broken up into must-complete primary objectives and "complete for bonus points" secondary objectives. Players move one or more characters around the screen in old-fashioned point-and-click fashion.

 

FF is very challenging. Levels feature a large number of enemies that often come in waves. The ability to “health” up

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is limited to once per character per stage (at least early on) use of the “heroic remedy” power and sparsely placed health canisters that never seem to be there when Hero X really needs them.  This meant, for me at least, a lot of restarting levels because one of my main group had died.

 

The Hero X mentioned in the paragraph above?  He doesn’t exist.  At least he doesn’t come in the box.  One of FF's strongest features is the ability for players to create their own superheroes and recruit them into their super group.  Customization options are vast and the resulting characters are often very amusing and fun to play.

 

As much as I liked the create-a-hero feature, the characters that come with the game are some of the most complete, entertaining character creations I’ve met in years.  In fact, at the moment, I can think of no games that featured more appealing main characters.  My personal favorite is the default leader of the group, Minute Man, a Captain America inspired creation constantly spouting off phrases like “for freedom” every time he smacks a bad guy in the head with a delivery truck.

 

The cheesy (on-purpose), over-the-top dialogue and even cheesier narrator (“will El Diablo reach the others in time…”) will likely turn off a few potential customers, but I found it to be a perfect compliment for the Cold War era story the developers are trying to tell.

 

freedom-force-3.jpg (125473 bytes)          freedom-force-4.jpg (126869 bytes)

 

The only complaint I have with the game is that the player is not given enough information about an upcoming level before he or she makes character choices.  Choosing one character over another is often the difference in completing the main objectives and not.  It is frustrating to fail to complete a level with a certain team only to realize that a slightly different team could have breezed through the level.

 

That complaint aside, Freedom Force is an excellent game, one that has restored my enthusiasm for the comic characters of old and their exciting, ideologically simple-minded pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

 

- Tolen Dante

(May 16, 2002)

 

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