Mark E Posted April 11, 2005 Report Share Posted April 11, 2005 STAFF REVIEW System: PC Developer: Irrational Games Publisher: Vivendi Release Date: March 9th, 2005 Freedom Force was always one of those games that never forgot to add in the fun. I belabored this point quite heavily when I picked it as last month?s spotlight title for my "Cheap Game Hunter" article, but it certainly doesn?t hurt to repeat it. It had its issues, but overall it was one of the best superhero games ever made. In movie terms, you could call it the Spider-Man of the genre. Considering that lofty setup, I'm happy to tell you that Freedom Force versus the Third Reich (FFvtTR) is nothing less than the Spider-Man 2 of the genre, a superhero game so enjoyable it practically begs to be played. FFvtTR picks up a year after the original Freedom Force, with the successful defeat of the arch-villain from that title. With Patriot City free of crime, the Freedom Force is down to a skeleton crew. A chance mishap in Cuba, however, featuring the return of arguably the best character from the first title, sends our heroes to an alternate future where the Nazis won the Second World War. Now Freedom Force members both new and old are off on a wild adventure through time, chock full of quirky characters, hilarious dialogue, old-school comic fun, and some very memorable moments. And you get to beat up Nazis and killer Nazi gorillas, how can you go wrong? To say any more about the story would spoil the twists and turns, and while they may be a touch predictable in true comic style, they are worth experiencing on your own. Yes, some of the best loading screens in gaming are back. Every set of missions has an appropriate comic book cover to help set the mood. Gameplay-wise, FFvtTR does little above what its predecessor did. Consider that the original Freedom Force had a fantastic tactical RPG engine that was never really copied or imitated, and that?s not as much of a detriment as it might seem. You still pick your four heroes and lead them into the fray, utilizing their powers to accomplish whatever objective stands before you. For your actions in the mission you receive prestige, useful for recruiting new heroes, and a set amount of experience points that can sometimes be augmented with certain items found in-mission. Characters who don?t go on the mission receive experience, just not as much (if the numbers hold true from the first game it should be roughly two-thirds of what the mission team gets). That's pretty much de rigeur for most RPGs these days, but let's not downplay the fact that it's good to be able to pick your team based on your desires and not who has been in the field the most. Also, FFvtTR has some of the best mission design I?ve seen in an RPG in ages. The original was good, but you could see the designers working within the limitations of their engine. For this game, it feels like Irrational was so comfortable with their technology that they could really start to tweak and make bolder changes, and it shows. Special one time events happen on a number of occasions, working outside the boundaries of what was done in the first game, and these really help up the 'just one more mission to see what might happen next' factor. Roman Legion getting you down? Just another day at the office for the hardworking heroes of Freedom Force! One thing that I don?t think Freedom Force, as a whole, gets a lot of recognition for is that it more accurately models the superhero genre than any game in recent memory. A large part of that stems from the damage model Irrational has worked into the engine. These people are superheroes, not regular people, so you would expect there to be a fair bit of collateral damage when they throw down. And, by that token, there is. Many characters can uproot trees, lanterns, park benches, vending machines, etc, and use them as projectiles to pummel their foes (this is a very useful strategy, by the way). Your stronger heroes can even lift nearby vehicles and give them a toss. All of this has impact on the environment too. So trees crash, buildings crumble, and villains, heroes, and civilians all go flying. After that?s all done, you can pick up the debris from your destruction and throw that as well! Physics are not exactly realistic, but it is fun, which is in keeping with the comic theme. Falls will hurt people, and a number of the more useful powers let you send enemies flying into the air and then crashing into the ground for some heavy damage. Better yet, the Freedom Force experience can be completely different for any two people who play it. This is largely thanks to the myriad number of heroes you have available to you and the additional ones you are free to recruit or ignore at your leisure. The sheer numbers alone promote replay value, as you will inevitably be forced to give some heroes the short end of the stick as you?ll tend to play with your favorites. Most importantly, all of the heroes have something to contribute. From the Green Genie who functions as a support character to The Ant who is FF's Spider-man analogue and a potent little pugilist. It?s quite possible to play through the game with any of them, though my lone strategy tip in this review would be to suggest that you, as in the first game, recruit Man O? War as soon as possible. Look, things were said, punches were thrown, buildings got destroyed. Let's just try and put it behind us and get on with our lives. It doesn't hurt that Irrational has really gone the extra mile in accommodating these choices. In numerous parts of the game, the action will pause for cut-scenes and dialogue. Rather than having only heroes who are required to go on a mission handle all the talking, FFvtTR has recorded sound bites for each optional character so they can all have their two cents worth. This is a great touch and it really helps get you into the game and its characters. Also, the sequel rewards those of us who have gone through the first title with little asides here and there but does not punish those who are using the sequel to finally get in on the action. Finally, if you can?t stand any of the heroes, create your own! Unlike the first game, which didn?t give you enough prestige to recruit everybody, FFvtTR gives you plenty for additional characters, including any you choose to design with the robust editing function. Irrational's graphics engine looks roughly the same, although the models are a little more detailed and have some nicer particle effects. It's the minor extra bits of detail that are really nice though. When you move around the map in Patriot City, for example, you can see sunlight reflecting off myriad windows. Mechanized billboards also dot the skyline, all helping to make the world feel more real. The engine does a much better job with damage than its predecessor, however, and buildings that are partially demolished show their inner workings rather than some non-descript gray blob. There's also a nice shift in art style when the team goes back to the 1940?s too. It's very subtle, but still helps to differentiate those missions from the 60's era the game is typically recreating. Performance-wise, you can see my system specs at the bottom of the review, but I was running moderate-high detail at 1024x768x32 and had exactly one brief instance of slowdown during the game. I went back and cranked every detail and shadow to maximum with the same resolution and the game was still running acceptably smooth. In the sound department, a lot of sound effects have been lifted wholesale from the first game, so nothing new there. The music, however, is much improved. There seems to be a lot more by way of themes, and the World War 2 setting gives FFvtTR a greater variety of styles to play around with and they certainly make the most of it. The music is never obtrusive and just sits there in the background, quietly adding to the action on screen. Some segments have specially written themes, and the one that shows up during the final mission of the game is particularly nice, a rather stirring little number helping prod our heroes on to their hopeful victory. Is there a downside? Of course there is. The biggest flaw in FFvtTR is that many would consider it to be too short. The game is a very respectable ten hours or so, and the mod scene will no doubt add as much support as it did before, but some people will see that as a detriment. For me, not so much, since it never got boring and the storyline wraps up very nicely. And you have to take it in context as well. I put around sixty-four hours into Final Fantasy VIII and maybe fourteen of those were actually enjoyable (yes I have masochistic tendencies when it comes to gaming). FFvtTR, however, kept a big ol? grin on my face from beginning to end. It?s a great story with fun characters, and if you?re like me you?ll be itching for another adventure shortly after this one?s done. Technically there is a multiplayer component, but it?s basically deathmatching and it?s not even worth mentioning when held up to the single-player experience. This series is screaming for the inclusion of co-op play, which I hope makes it into future installments. Freedom Force versus the Third Reich is the best superhero game I?ve ever played. Bar none. It?s fun, and it perfectly captures the sixties stylings it?s trying to replicate. It improves on the original in almost every way and is very accessible to the new player. You could do a lot worse than giving this one a try. And remember! Never time travel on a stomach full of chimichangas! Reviewed on: AMD Athlon 64 3000+ 2.0 Ghz, 512MB RAM, Radeon 9600 PRO Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Join the conversation
You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.