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Freedom Force Review
A Visitor's Perspective

EverythingXen, 2002-04-17

(This review has been written by a frequent visitor and forum member of RPGDot)

Freedom Force grabs the spirit of 60s comics and integrates it nearly perfectly with todays graphical superiority. It seizes the spirit and doesn't let go, doesn't slow down, or break genre for the entire rollercoaster pace of the game.

In some ways, especially in magazine ads, Freedom Force is like the old live action Batman. The voice acting is over the top, there are comic book 'thuds' 'kraks' and 'pows' when you attack, and it's set in the 60s.

HOWEVER... it is MUCH better written and acted than the old Batman show. Sorry Mr West... but George Ledoux does it much better in this game. It's a 3D comic book from start to finish. A 60s comic. The Silver Age as it came to be known. Heroes were over the top because, with the cold war in place, kids needed them to be. Heroes were heroes. There were no Spawns, Punishers, or Wolverines.

A Living Comic

The voice acting is superb. I don't want to know how many times they had to read their lines to get the inflections right (and keep a straight face!). You can tell they were having fun doing it and since over the top is what the 60s comic scene was all about, they were more than happy to oblige.

The story is fantastic. Some complain that it's too linear. Of course it's linear... it's a comic book! But it's so well written that you won't CARE that you have no choices. The story captures the spirit of the 60s comics PERFECTLY. It covers the usual... bank robbers, alien invaders, giant robots, dinosaurs, evil clones... and it does it FLAWLESSLY.

My only (minor) complaint is that since it's written around the pregenerated characters (Freedom Force), your own character has no speaking parts in the cut scenes (duh).

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The sound is perfect. Absolutely perfect. Aside from a few stutters (most likely system related, covered later), the voices are PERFECT for their role as 60s over the top superheros. Sound effects are excellent... be it the 'sping' of a bullet bouncing off a wall, the ripping metal sound as you pull a street-lamp out of the ground (batter up!), the wall shaking explosion sounds of something detonating, or the rising rumble of a collapsing building... the sounds fit perfectly. The music is subtle, and really, really good. It sets the mood without fail in every mission.

The graphics are impressive. They are fully 3D. Most of the time you'll want to be zoomed right out so you can see what's going on on the map (it's a tactical game, after all, and if you're zoomed in looking at your feet someone a block away is going to shoot you)... but when you go to cinegraphic view (the 3rd person camera following view used in Gothic) and watch your hero rip a lamp-post down or unleash an energy blast... it's like being in a comic. Add to this the ability using a graphical editor to customize the appearance of your character (or to surf the internet and grab other people's heroic endeavors for those of us less artistically inclined.) and everything is nearly perfect. Yes, it uses a polygonal engine and sometimes the character animations aren't perfectly smooth and buildings tend to collapse in blocks... but everything is so smooth and crystal clear (even at 640x480) it won't distract you at all.

The physics engine is the most robust I've ever seen in a game. Online I've played in car bank shot contests... bouncing a car off the top edge of a building and seeing if you can get it to spin. Throw a garbage can with superheroic force into a car, and it will swerve and take out a lampost, which in turn may crush a hapless civilian. Miss with a full powered energy beam or a car or something and rest assured... the building behind the guy WILL fall. At least the front wall, if not the entire building. Accidently took out a block like that with one full powered blast... cost me a lot of points on the mission

Came a Hero
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Creating your own customized hero is where Freedom Force truly shines. Character creation is easy and there are BILLIONS of combinations you can make. You can recreate any superhero with a little work, or make your own. The more powerful your character, the longer it will take to be able to use him or her in the game, unfortunately. The game is based around the pregenerated characters. They're Freedom Force. Your character gets recruited if you so desire when you've earned enough points to 'buy' him.

Recruiting Batman or Wolverine can be done quickly. Recruiting Superman takes longer. This is for game balance. If you made Superman and dropped him in fighting thugs in mission three you'd have no challenge. Sort of like using an atom bomb to get rid of a mosquito nest.

Each pregenerated character has a list of powers and attributes that you can level up when they get experience. Each has two 'tiers' of powers to work with and you can buy your way through them however you want.

Your own characters are much more freeform. Can't afford regeneration if you want to put him in the game at a certain point? Fine. Buy it when he levels up. The only drawback to the custom character level up as far as I can tell is that you can't modify existing powers (though you can 'level them' to increase their base abilities... damage, accuracy, etc). For example: If you buy a 20 point damage attack with no area of effect and want to put an area of effect on it you have to buy a second power. I'd like to have seen the option of modifying the power and paying the cost difference with your level up character points.

Still, I see why they did it. If you could modify it like that you could have a fire beam if you know you're going to fight ice warriors, then after that's done modify it to an electric beam if you know you're going to be fighting robots. It would disuade you from using the other members of your team (who each have their own strengths and weaknesses).

Be aware, however, that if you build a custom hero with only one or two powers and super-heroic attributes (as opposed to the heroic attributes and 10 powers the pregenerated characters come with) he will be 'tougher' than the pregenerated characters and possibly even able to beat the game alone. This isn't a bad thing if you want to see your Hulk level cities... but it has led to some criticism from other fans that the game is too 'easy' if you make a min-maxed number crunched perfect hero (Or anyone with a speed of 10). Imagine that.

Holy Simple Interface Batman

The user interface is really, really good. It's so simple. Select a character. Right click on the character's sprite for personal effects (shields, invisibility, fly). Right click
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on another sprite to get a list of powers you can use on them (punches, kicks, city quelling beams, vorpal rabbit assault). From the right click menu you can also choose power intensity (overcharge or undercharge) by clicking on the arrows beside it. Ta da. That's it. Right clicking pauses the game. So does hitting the space bar. Issue orders, hit space again (or select something from the right click menu) and watch the fireworks ensue.

There are a number of built in hotkeys as well. Hold down control to attack things you normally wouldn't (buildings, civilians, other team-mates). Pressing 'c' while selecting a power and target has the character continuously target that opponent (or building, or whatever) with that power until it is gone. Pressing X will maximum power your attack, possibly knocking you out but definately making whatever you're aiming at have a bad day.

The Real Enemy, The duo of Bugs and Multiplayer
However, the game is, sadly, anything but bug free. In particular, it seems to detest GeForce cards. I had to go back 3 levels of detonator driver (to the last windows hardware qualified ones) in order to stop recurring blue screens of death. As well as update my sound card drivers. Once I did all that, crashes to desktop became rare (but still present). Irrational says they're doing what they can to address this in a patch. I hope so, as there are people who can't even play it. (I was pretty much one of them until I fixed it).

Some people can't figure out how to rotate the camera for whatever reason. There's a setting in options called 'camera rotation'. If you select it, holding 'alt' and moving your mouse rotates the camera. It's not too hard, and its explained in the manual. Though I can't figure out why it's not 'checked' in the first place and explained during the excellent tutorial mission.

The manual, amazingly enough, is especially useful, as it describes what certain power effects do (fire, energy, disrupt object are pretty self explanitory, sure... but what the heck does mercy or balance do?).

Multiplayer is the last thing I'm going to cover. And boy is it a doozy. Right now, it's Freedom Forces least tapped potential. The game was released with only one style of play: Deathmatch! And why it is INCREDIBLY fun to have Hulk vs Superman city leveling brawls, a lot of people (myself included) want a co-operative mode. You know, four humans teaming together to fight a computer controlled bad guy force. Sounds like a comic to me.

(Or team deathmatch at the least... as it stands, you can call yourself a team... but after the other 'team' is defeated... well... as a certain immortal trenchcoat wearing guy with a sword points out "There may be only one!!")

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Irrational says EA was pressuring them for a release so they had to admittedly rush multiplayer. They had time to get one form working properly, and they thought that pitting custom heroes against each other would pass the time until they address multiplayer concerns in a features patch.

They're right, and it is fun (aside from all the l33t guys min/max building the exact same character who cannot be beaten.. but people are people.). 10,000 point characters are best for multiplayer... the matches tend to be fair. Unfortunately, 30,000 is the default and people don't get the fact that the 30,000 is for a 'squad' of heros. 3 or 4 characters at 7500-10,000 each. One 30,000 point character is exponentially stronger than a 10,000 point. In fact, he'll probably demolish your three 10,000 without batting an eye. Fortunately, the host sets the point limit.

Of course, I can see why people want to use just one hero. Controlling a squad against AI is one thing. Against another human opponent it's entirely another. The characters have NO AI scripting. They will NOT defend theselves at any cost. Playing one character solves the possibility of having your squad decimated if you take your attention off them for a millisecond (all it takes a flying opponent with a decent fireball power).

In addition, right clicking pauses multiplayer as well. Most games are probably spent 80% paused while people give orders or react to what just happened or will happen. There's an option for a slow motion pause instead, which tends to get used multiplayer. It still gives you time to react to that car flying at you from a block away without making everyone else stop dead in their tracks (though a good player takes the opportunity of another persons pause to issue their own orders). It's also kind of cool to watch your character dodge Matrix-style in slow mo.

Making the game have a turn based multiplayer option would help there, some claim. But it's real time with pause(or slow). Also, certain powers (such as the expensive 'flight') would count for a lot less in turn based. Right now you can dodge incoming cars by flying out the way if you see it coming and right click then move. Turn based would have you move up,them throw the car, you get knocked out. Faster than a speeding bullet doesn't do Superman any good if he mysteriously finds himself unable to step out of the way of an incoming bus. I think it's fine as is.

The Verdict
Graphics (15%) 90%
Sound (15%) 100%
Control (25%) 95%
Fun (45%) 95%
Overall 95%


Reviewer's System
Version Freedom Force (No Patch available)
CPU Intel Pentium 3 1 GHz
Graphics Asus V7100 GeForce 2 MMX
Sound Creative Sound Blaster Live! Value
OS Windows ME, DX 8.1

Average Reader Ratings: 7.59 (37 votes)
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