Mark E Posted March 20, 2005 Report Share Posted March 20, 2005 Welcome back, Cheap Believers! When we last left our wallets, they were about to come under attack from an onslaught of fresh, expensive software. The vile forces of shiny new toys are conspiring to drain your cash flow dry and leave you eating ramen for a month like you were still doing an undergrad degree. But fear not! Like the heat from an out-of-control angel burning up on re-entry, the Cheap Game Hunter returns in a blaze of glory to battle back those who would try to leave you broke, penniless and a target for every Communist turncoat on our fair continent. Here to fight off the twin evils of low cash flow and high levels of boredom with one mighty blow from his word processor! With a build-up of such blistering bombast, this month?s cheap game can only be? Freedom Force The superhero RPG was long the holiest of holy grails for many gamers. Since a lot of us, me included, conform to the geek archetype, there was a certain allure to the notion of mixing up our comic books with our computer games for some good old villain-stomping. Even the idea seemed like it was ripe for mining by any company with an ounce of talent and determination. And so we waited, and waited, and waited. One of the most surefire concepts in gaming history languished while many of us were anxiously awaiting the chance to pummel villains in garish spandex. The first glimmer of hope came in the early 90s when the popular pen and paper superhero RPG Champions was licensed by Konami, who had then started to make inroads into publishing PC games. It looked for a long time like this would be the answer to our prayers. Champions even garnered a cover and very cool-looking preview in a 1992 issue of Computer Gaming World. After that preview, however, the game quietly sank into oblivion and was literally never heard from again. In 1994, Steve Meretzky released Superhero League of Hoboken, which was a combination RPG/adventure game put out by Legend. While by many accounts an entertaining game, the title was played strictly for laughs and didn?t even attempt to replicate the feel of a traditional comic book adventure. In the late 90?s, the superhero RPG was looking like it would never come to be when MicroProse announced Guardians: Agents of Justice. This was to be a tactical RPG in the vein of X-Com and was being headed up by Simtex, designers of the first two Master of Orion games and Master of Magic. By this time in its history, however, MicroProse was well on its way out of business and the game simply got canned before completion. So, when Irrational Games first announced Freedom Force it was greeted with no small amount of skepticism. History had shown that getting hopeful for a meaty superhero RPG was about as realistic as hoping for a Superman game that didn?t suck. Irrational had already shown they could do a good job when they helped design the superlative System Shock 2 back in 1999. But would Freedom Force ever come out? And could it possibly deliver the goods? It did, and it could. What About the Gameplay, Old Chum? Freedom Force?s core gameplay is essentially a real-time strategy/RPG set-up where you take control of a team of four heroes from your ever-expanding justice league and lead them into a series of missions to thwart some evil baddie. The game is a lot more ?tactics? than it is RPG, to be sure. You accumulate experience points and prestige during missions, the former being used to upgrade your current heroes and the latter being used to recruit new heroes who might be prompted to join up. However, each hero has a fairly straightforward upgrade path and there aren?t any items or armor to accumulate either beyond your new powers. With that in mind, don?t think that Freedom Force skimps on RPG details like rolls, critical hits, status effects, etc etc. But to get it in the proper context, picture the combat system from Baldur?s Gate 2 with capes and comic book sensibilities and you?d have the right idea. Mind you, Freedom Force runs a lot faster than that game, looks better, and has an entirely different mindset. Each mission leads you into a top-down view of an area, whether it be an aircraft carrier, secret lab, cityscape, or underground domain. Helpful arrows are often on hand to point you towards your goal and there?s an excellent in-game tutorial. That being said, don?t think the game is a total cake walk either. Freedom Force isn?t hard, but it is challenging. Some missions have you working to prevent a certain amount of property damage or save specific buildings and if you don?t coordinate properly you?ll never manage it. One nice thing here is the environmental interaction. When we think superhero brawl, we tend to think of cars flying and buildings getting demolished. Freedom Force knows this and embraces it. If you have strong enough heroes, you can toss cars, park benches and garbage cans every which way, and use lamp posts and telephone polls as impromptu blunt clubbing objects. All of the games heroes are memorable (though in some cases it?s because admittedly because they?re annoying) and unique, ranging from the fiery El Diablo, a Latino Lothario with a penchant for tossing off fireballs, to the patriotic Minuteman, whose rhetoric makes Captain America sound Communist. A lot of classic heroes have representation in the game, with Minuteman a clear analog for Captain America, El Diablo as the Human Torch, Mentor as Professor X, and The Ant a clear Spider-man for the group. The team interactions that go on both during and between missions are classic comic book material, with romance, butting heads and deadpan humor. The game?s sense of humor should not be discounted; you can overhear some hilarious villain conversations if you sneak up on some goons and there?s a memorable encounter that Mentor and Minuteman have with a street hustler that always makes me laugh. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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