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Being a latent comic book fan, the cover of this game immediately attracted my attention, looking like the cover of a Marvel comic with the Freedom Force logo emblazoned across the top and the 5 heroes of the game in a typical superhero pose.
Flipping the case over I then proceed to find a little more about the game
"The Fate of the World is in Your Hands"
Or so it proclaims.
"From a distant corner of the galaxy, an evil alien race sets in motion a sinister plan to conquer Earth. It unleashed a powerful catalyst - ENERGY X - that imbued the planet's worst miscreants with super-powers to bring the planet to its knees. Now Earth's only hope lies with a new breed of heroes ... The Freedom Force"
The game descibes itself as a "Herioc Tactical RPG" - loosely translated this means it is a little like a real time strategy game (i.e Command & Conquer, Total Annihilation), but you control a team of Super Heroes instead. If that still doesn't illuminate you as to the simplicy to the game, all you have to do is click on your character and tell him where to move/attack, and he will run off and do it.
Popping the CD and running the Install program (this happens automatically if you have autorun enabled), brings up the Freedom Force lanch program which allows you to do a number of things.
1) Play the game (Assuming you have the game installed)
2) Install the game (obviously the first thing to do)
3) Uninstall (once you've finished with the game and want to free up some disk space)
4) Direct X (this sets you up with Direct X version 8.1 if you do not already have a better version)
5) View the Read Me file ( most games have a readme file of some description, these should always be read as they contain important infomration about changes made to the software after the manual was printed. They can also contain technical data which can help you sort out any problems you may have running the game)
6) Go to the Freedom Force Website (which is just as comic book as the game)
7) EA Help (Lauches the Electronic Arts help application containing support numbers etc)
8) Exit - Quits the Launch program
Well I want to play the game so I'm going to have to install it first. Clicking on the install gives you an option of 3 languages (English/French/German) and the starts up the install routine. After a little bit of disc whirring you are the asked for your CD-Key (a code on the back of the manual), once thats in you get an option of 3 install type
Typical - recommended for most people.
Compact - low disk space installation - runs mostly from the CD - only use this if you have a fast CD-ROM
Custom - a mix of the two above
I chose the compact one as I have a fast CD-ROM and it took about a minute to install!
You are then asked to if you want to register the game.
Bingo - game installed!
The game itself
Clicking on play launches the Freedom Force game itself. After cycling through the logos of the three companies involved in the games creation (EA/Crave/Irrational), you are treated to a comic book/1960's Batman style intro - including the cheesy voice-over man. This sets the mood for the rest of the game which is presented in a very episodic format.
Once the intro is out of they way you get to the main menu which presents you with 8 options
1) New Campaign - The story of Freedom Force begins there
2) Load game - Allows you to restart a saved game
3) Multiplayer - Lets you have hero fights with your friends
4) Character - Lets you create you own superheroes, either for use in the multiplayer game or they can even be brought into the main game alongside the main hero.
5) Options - Allows you to tweak the graphics and sound settings of the game.
6) Quit - Leaves the game and takes you back to Windows
7) Replay intro - So you can see the wonderful intro again
8) View credits - find out who did what whilst making the game
Obviously to start with you will want to plunge straight into a new campaign (possibly after creating a new hero but I'll touch base on that later).
Starting a new campaign treats you to to the next episode entitled "The Secret Origin of MinuteMan" (stop the sniggering thats Minute as in 60 seconds not as in tiny!), in which you find out how Frank Stiles became MinuteMan. After that installment of cheesy comic book goodness you are then propelled into your first mission. This is basically a tutorial so tell you how to play the game, explaining how you move and fight, and is a nice gentle opener to the game. Once you have finished the mission you get some more comic book style story and get to do some stuff between missions. Once you complete a mission you are awarded Prestige points and experience points, Experience is used to keep track of how good your heroes are and if you have enough point your character will go up a level and you get a chance to increase your powers. Prestige points can be used to recruit new heroes, the more powerful the hero the more prestige points you will need to recruit this hero, so keep this in mind when making your own heroes (see below)
Once you have done that it's onto the next episode of "Freedom Force" where the story carries on.
The story is well written for a computer game and wouldn't be out of place on the shelf in your local comic book store, and the fact that the game is presented as such makes is a very enjoyable and light-hearted game to play
The main game aside, the other fun part is making your own hero, they are a little sexist here as there are about 6 basic looks for male heroes and 2 for females, but the Freedom Force website (http://www.myfreedomforce.com) has plenty of other hero types to download. You can choose both the costume (much spandexy goodness here) and your powers (you too can be Wolverrine or Cyclops from the X-Men). Although you won't be able to play as your created hero as the main character you can bring him into the game at a later stage, you can also use him to beat up your friends heroes in a multiplayer game. Each created hero has a value in prestige points, the more powerful the hero he greater his value, this has two effects, how much he will cost to bring into the campaign game (if you make a very powerful one you may not be able to recruit him till very near then end) and the value is also used to try and keep the sides fair in a multiplayer game (i.e. each side is only allowed 10,000 points worth of heroes)
The story is well written for a computer game and wouldn't be out of place on the shelf in your local comic book store, and the fact that the game is presented as such makes is a very enjoyable and light-hearted game to play.
The graphics are simple yet amazingly effective, the in-mission graphics have been wonderfully modelled and look like what a 3D representation of a comic should be. Theres even old style Batman "KAPOW"s and "THWACK"s as your Heroes strive to save the day. Out of the missions as I have stated before its like reading a comic book, the pictures are wonderfully drawn and the fonts used are classic comic book typesetting.
The music is very atmospheric, you notice it there but it does not overpower the sounds effect as it seems to in so many games, for once I could leave the music volume at its default volume rather than fade it down so I could hear the sound effects (this would be done in the options menu from the main menu of the game). The sound effect are fantastic, from the thwaks and kapows to the voice acting from Mr Cheesy VoiceoverMan and My StereoType CommieTraitor, with tremendously great war cries like "For freedom! .... for justice!"
The game interface is very simplisyic and by the time the tutorial mission is over it will all feel second nature. The majority of the game is controlled with the mouse, by selecting from menus, but there also a whole ream of keyboard shortcuts if you want to use them, all conveniently displayed in the manual.
>Level of violence
I know a lot of parents are concerned with the level of violence present to thier children in video games these days, in this game I would say its level of voilence is comic book level, to fit the style of the game. If you are comfortable letting your children watch superhero catroons or reading the mainstream Marvel/DC comics, you should be alright letting your children play the game.
The game comes in a DVD style case, like most PC games nowadays, containing the Freedom Force CD, the manual, and an easy install pamphlet.
The manual is a very easy read and breaks down the game into logical sections so it easy to find what you are looking for.
It does appear that they may have been a few bugs in the main release but there is a patch with can be downloaded from the Freedom Force Website mentioned above
OS - Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
CPU - 300 MHz (Intel PII recommended but it works fine on my AMD)
Memory - 96 MB
Hard Drive - 31 MB
CD-ROM - 4 Speed
Graphics - 16 MB (Direct 3D compatible accellerator required)
Direct X - Version 8.1 or higher
Input - Mouse/Keyboard
Netowrk - TCP/IP Compliant
Internet - 56.6 Kb/s
Lord Dominion has a supply of Energy-X which he intends to bestow upon the criminals of our society, giving them supernatural powers which will enable them to assert their dominance over the rest of us. Mentor discovers this plan and steals the Energy-X with the aim of bestowing it upon upholders of justice. Mentor's ship is shot down and the Energy-X distributed amongst various members of society some of which constitute your Freedom Force team.
Freedom Force is very comic book like and this graphical style fits well with the story and characters. Your view of the world isn't limited, the camera rotates very well to permit you to view it from different angles. You can also play the game at different speeds i.e. slow motion, fast etc.
Your characters build up with exp earned from completing mission objectives however you will only be aware of the primary mission objective. The secondary objectives are ones you will only know if you stumble across them. This is a little bit annoying but it does mean you'll probably want to replay the game.
Overall the graphics are ok, bit dated now, the sound isn't too bad. The game in general is fairly camp so it's certainly more for those who like light hearted fun. I personally didn't mind it but it's not addictive, there's nothing that will really hook you to it, it's more of a time passer.
There have been many superhero games produced in the past, but very few have been exceptional, or even memorable. The majority of games from this genre that have been produced can be found on the consoles and are invariably platform games. A few exceptions spring to mind, one is 'Batman the Movie' which was a multilevel extravaganza, and looked and sounded exceptional on the Commodore Amiga. Well my friends, times are changing. Freedom Force is a real time super-hero strategy game. Admittedly it does borrow some elements from well-established games such as XCOM, with squad based game play, where the action can be stopped at any time, orders issued, and the game restarted. This does not stop the game from being fantastic in its own right. Freedom force features +++++++++++++++++++++++ A fully interactive and destructible environment (maybe with one exception being the ground), buildings, cars, people, trees, fountains, etc., can be destroyed or thrown. Lampposts can be ripped from the ground and used as an improvised thug-splatter. Pick up a barrel, jump to the top of the nearest building and then drop it on somebody's head. Design your own hero, choose his or her powers from a massive list, choose from the list of skins, design your own or use the hundred of pre-generated ones on the web (all the famous heroes are there, Blade, Spiderman, Hulk, Superman, Wolverine). Once designed the hero be pulled into the main campaign, or used in a multiplayer game. 25 in-game heroes with sufficiently tacky B movie introductions, full of overwrought guilt and elated cries. Almost every superpower you can think of (except for Wall-crawling and swinging unfortunately) Powered by NDL's Netimmerse Engine (powers a lot of XBOX games) The story +++++++++ The game is set in the early sixties, and the whole thing looks like a comic book. Take a moment to ho
ver you mouse over any object, and you will be rewarded by a comic book description. For example, hovering of a normal person gets 'A honest citizen fr Patriot City', hovering over a tall building gets 'a majestic member of the patriot skyline' and so on, nothing is missed out. The player is thrown into the role of Minute Man (silly name) who was on the brink of death when he encountered a Statue oozing with Energy-X. He became super strong and agile and set about chasing the scum who tried to kill him. A nice tutorial mission shows us the basic game functions. Soon though a mysterious being from another planet joins our hero and explains the nature of Energy-X. The alien has also created a base on earth and has been looking for heroes to join him. Freedom Force is born. From this point on, a whole host of super villains and heroes are introduced in various missions. The campaign cumulates in a battle to save earth from another powerful alien being. Gameplay +++++++++ Powers are gained by earning experience points (XP). A successful mission rewards each character with 400 XP, however is a hero is left at home, they still get 300XP. This means that all characters advance at roughly the same rate, encouraging the player to swap around. Once enough XP is earned the character goes up a level and is awarded character points, which can be spent on new powers. Prestige points are also gained during missions, and can be increased by completing certain tasks (killing all baddies etc). These prestige points can be used to buy the service of new heroes, or heroes that you have created. The more powerful the hero, the more they cost. If you invent a proper Superman for instance, you will probably not have enough PP to buy him until the end of the game. On the subject of hero creation, websites are available which have all the skins you need to add any hero of your choice. Unfortunately as mention abo
ve, there is no wall-crawling skill, so whereas there is a Spiderman Skin, you will not be able to create an accurate Spidey using the in-game skills. Control is easy, using the mouse. The system is mainly intelligent with the mouse changing appropriately when hovered over objects or people, however depressing the right mouse key will give a menu of choices. The space bar pauses and resume play, and the Z key switched to cinema mode. Quick select keys (1-4) are used to select characters. The camera angle is usually from above and slightly off-centre. This view can sometimes lead to the hero going out of site, especially when in alley-ways, but a quick zoom in will usually sort this out. Alternatively by pressing the Z key the game can be played in Cinema mode where we follow the hero from behind like in Tomb raider. Eye-Candy +++++++++ This game looks fantastic, even at low settings. The scenery for the levels is drop-dead gorgeous. My favourite level is the iced over docks, with ships trapped in the ice, my second favourite is the iced park. Later levels include a huge aircraft carrier, a giant ants nest, and even a floating island above Patriot city. Hero?s / Objects are also highly detailed and it is possible to zoom right up to them to ogle the lovely detail. Multiplayer +++++++++++ Of course, like most of today?s games, Freedom force has a multiplayer option. You can play over a network with a squad of heroes and beat holy hell out of your friends. However this particular section is probably the games let down. Certainly connecting is easy enough, but there is no real balance in the games. There is nothing to stop you creating an indestructible character which is not as much fun as it sounds. Minimum Specs +++++++++++++ Windows 9x, XP, 2000 or ME (NT not supported) 300Mhz Pentium 96MB Ram 4xCD Rom 31 MB HDD space 16MB Graphics
Card (Direct3D) Direct X compatible sound card Keyboard / Mouse Game tested on ++++++++++++++ 128MB Ram PIII 500mhz processor 8Mb M1 Rage Graphics card The only let down of this aging machine is the graphics card, with todays modern games it has a tendency to fall short. It was with some trepidation that I installed the game. I needn't of worried. Even at the lowest graphical setting the game looks and plays great. The game zooms in and out with dizzying ease. Even with plenty of action on screen there is no slowdown at all. Overall ++++++++ A very easy game to get into, with a tutorial that misses nothing out. Addictive. Fun and challenging in places, with a nice difficulty curve. Nice and easy to gain your first character level increase so you can play around with hero development, but you have to really work for the other levels. Guaranteed to keep you up all night just wanting to see the next hero or villan. A promise of an expansion this year will be welcome, but until then Mods, Maps and Skins can be downloaded from the web. Websites +++++++++ www.freedomforcecenter.com - Reviews, Editors and Hundreds of skins www.ndl.com - Creators of the engine that powers Freedom Force www.irrationalgames.com - Creators of Freedom Force Game scores from PC magazines and websites ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Gamers.com 10/10 Gamespy 89/100 MGON 9.5/10 PC Gamers 94