Review by Mike Phillips
Are you the sort who channel-surfs past CNN in order to watch the
Justice League on Cartoon Network? Still have your Marvel comics
stored in the closet? Seen the Spiderman movie more than once? Then
you've already played Freedom Force and are far more enlightened
I had serious trepidation over buying Freedom Forceeven
the box looked like it should reside next to Spongebob Squarepants:
Operation Krabby Patty. Freedom Force is a comic bookstyled
superhero game, for heaven's sake. It would surely be fun for kids
to play, but no well-adjusted adult should give it a second glance.
I loved comic books as a youth, but I also had a fascination over
staging battles with my GI Joe dolls, and both are a distant memory
now. Okay, maybe on rainy days when I can't play outside, I do get
out the GI Joe dolls, but that's not my point.
Eventually I caved and purchased Freedom Force, fully expecting
to give it a brief glance before throwing it on my "I'll finish
it when Hell freezes over shelf" ... right next to Jekyll
& Hyde. What I got is easily the best game I've played in
quite some time. Freedom Force is fun, period! For anyone
who suffers from my antiquated ways of thinking, get over it and
buy this game already. Irrational Games has crafted something that
will appeal to everyone, and as a bonus it just oozes polishit's
the little things that will lift this title into classic status
long before it disappears from store shelves.
Installing the game gives you an idea what a treat you are in for.
Several comic book covers are displayed featuring the heroes and
villains that you will be meeting while playing the game. The covers
have an aged, read look to them, a fantastic touch. The people behind
this game thought of everything.
The opening intro provides an explanation of how Frank Stiles,
an average citizen of Patriot City who was working on the Manhattan
Project long ago, gains his super powers. An alien ship drops several
canisters of Energy-X on the city ... because Lord Dominion wanted
to rule the Earth ... and, well, Mentor kind of foiled his insidious
plan by ... then the evil Mr. Mechanical enters the picture ...
but then the Timemaster runs amok ... Forget about it, I'm not going
to spoil the story. The plot is very well conceived even though
a tad bizarre, as it should be considering the nature of the game.
The graphics aren't anything special, but in no way am I implying
they've been beaten with an ugly stick. We're talking comic books
here, folksthey don't have to be cutting-edge. If you are
expecting bump-mapping, cell shading, or even trilinear filtering,
you won't find it. What you will find is a very crisp, detailed,
alive, 3D world with automobiles and citizens going about everyday
Virtually everything can be interacted with in some fashion; buildings
can be destroyed if you so fancy. Every citizen will reply to you,
although in most cases only a few offer any valuable information
beyond a scant canned sentence or two. Objects such as cars, mailboxes,
traffic lights, street lamps, etc., can be thrown or wielded as
weapons against foes. Pedestrians often cross streets in front of
speeding cars, and obviously that's a bad thing. Again, the attention
to details elevates this title to something special.
Cutscenes are something to be Marveled over (pardon the pun). These
cutscenes are comic books in action. When a new superhero is introduced
in a mission, at the end you are treated to vignette as to how he
or she acquired his/her powers, how those Energy-X canisters affected
his/her life. The legendary Jack Kirby obviously played a major
role in the inspiration for this game, and I'm sure he would be
proud of the effort.
Sound is where Freedom Force really shines. The voice acting
is some of the best I've ever encountered in a game. The cast members
accepted their roles with an incredible degree of professionalism,
as campy and over-the-top as the roles were. This group grabbed
their parts and ran with them; they lived themhow refreshing
in a computer game. I'm compelled to mention the narrator by name,
Ian Vogel. If one conducted a nationwide search for someone to fill
the narrator role, I doubt if anyone could pull it off with more
aplomb than Mr. Vogel.
The music is also something that can't be described in printed
word. Each level has its own score, and the music is mostly sung,
with a baritone, foreboding chorus. How someone could sing "Nuclear
Winter" as if it were going to be a Grammy contender is beyond
me, but they did it, giving another aspect of the game a polished,
The game is played from a rather indescribable perspective. In
most instances the game world is viewed from something resembling
a 75-degree isometric view, until you zoom the camera in; then it's
more of a standard third-person, over-the-shoulder view. The camera
control definitely takes a while to get used to, but I can't think
of a way it could have been handled any better. When viewing the
game map from a distance, buildings, trees, etc., get in the way
of the action. Quite often, in order to fight an enemy you have
to zoom in and get up close and personal. Using a scroll wheel mouse
is the best way to accomplish this. When you zoom in, said obstacles
become transparent so you can view the action transpiring behind
them. It's very disorienting at first, yet with a little practice
it becomes effortless.
Undoubtedly everyone who plays Freedom Force will have a
favorite character. Mine happened to be Man o'War, not because he
was the best to go into battle with (he was a useless laddie), but
rather because of the outrageous remarks he makes. Stephen Russell
(who provides several voices in the game) does a Sean Connery impersonation
that is hilarious. I often found myself pausing the game, hoping
to regain some semblance of composure before I continued playing.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Mr. Connery should
embellish the work of Stephen for all it's worth.
Humor is a very subjective matter, but if you happen to get some
chuckles while watching Batman (no, not those recent impostersI'm
talking about Adam West, the Batman), you'll be doubled over
while playing Freedom Force. The dialog and plot give new
meaning to tongue in cheek.
Ah, the gameplay, you ask. Irrational Games refers to it as a tactical
RPG, and, well, it is, sort of. By no means is it your standard
Dungeons and Dragons kind of RPG, although the basic structure is
present, in a limited fashion. Before starting a mission you have
to choose your party (squad, team, or whatever name you prefer).
Each mission has both primary and secondary objective(s). The secondary
objective(s) are optionalthey are there for you to gain prestige
points, which in turn can be used to recruit new members to the
FF fold. Primary objectives must be completed in order to advance,
and depending on your success rate these determine how many experience
points are gained. Experience points are used to "level up"
team members upon completion of a mission.
During missions, there are various Energy-X canisters lying about.
The flavors include power, health, experience, and prestige. It's
a good plan to search the entire game map for these canisters before
completion of the primary objective. A side note: the game's initialization
file can be easily edited to add bonus characters, change the zoom
factor (which I highly recommend), or enable the console so cheat
codes can be used if necessary.
Does it seem complex? It is, but the first level of the game serves
as a tutorial, replete with an explanation of most aspects provided
by Mr. Vogel. Beyond that, mouseovers are used to give a text explanation
on options screens. A thorough reading of the manual is imperative
to understand the finer points of the game, such as creating a custom
character. Speaking of which, the manual is a sixty-page document
that covers everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to
ask about Freedom Force. It would have been further icing
on the cake if the manual had been printed in color, but I'm just
The good news for point-and-click fans is that the game can be
played using only the mouse. Keyboard shortcuts make things much
easier, but they aren't needed.
If multiplayer is your thing, it works flawlessly out of the box.
You choose your characters and have at it with other gamers on differing
maps. Hosting a game couldn't be any easier, or if you want to join
a game, meeting other players can be accomplished using GameSpy
Arcade, which is included on the disc. I must confess that I'm not
a multiplayer lover, but this game has me warming up to the concept.
Want skins, meshes, wallpaper, or have a question about the game?
A game-dedicated forum can be found here
if you need tech support, strategy advice, or just want to offer
an opinion. Feel the need to do a little modding? An editor is available
for download here.
Tutorials are available to ensure designing your own levels is as
painless as it can be.
Further good news from Irrational Games: Freedom Force is
designed to be a trilogy. While this game takes place in the early
60s (the Silver Age of superhero comics), the sequels will traverse
the 70s to present day, offering much "grittier" subject
matter. An expansion pack is also being considered.
Of course I have some complaintsmy inherent desire to whine.
The save game utility is the most confusing I've ever seen. There
is a quick-save/quick-load option that works fine. But your hard
saves are stored alphabeticallyno thumbnails, no date and
time, just alphabetically. It makes figuring out where you left
off quite a chore; I'd love to know why the programmers did this.
It's a very disturbing flaw in an otherwise excellent game.
The traditional methods of adhering to particular characters and
leveling up as quickly as possible don't work well. You may find
your favorite characters unavailable for some missions, and doing
battle with weak characters can result in restarting the game from
scratch. Not much of a complaint, but I'm trying my hardest to find
anything to bitch about.
Odd tech bits and stuff: For whatever reason FF was a bit
unstable (a few random crashes) for me while playing it under 98SE.
On the same system with the same drivers, ME handled it with no
problems. I also briefly played it under 2K, and it ran smoothly
with no problems.
In an age where you thought everything has been done before, along
comes Freedom Force, shattering genre lines, daring to do
something different, and instilling fun for all ages into a gameyou
can't ask for anything more. Grab a copy now, because it just doesn't
get any better than this.
Release Date: March 2002
Four Fat Chicks Links
Windows XP/Me/2000/98 (Windows 95 and Windows NT not supported)
300 MHz Intel Pentium II or AMD K6-2 processor (600 MHz or faster
Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor recommended)
96 MB RAM (128 MB or more recommended)
4X CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive (16X recommended)
31 MB free hard disk space
16 MB Direct3D capable video card (32 MB recommended)
DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card (Environmental Audio capable sound
Where to Find It
Links provided for informational purposes only.
FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction entered into
by any party(ies).