The original Freedom Force was a tactical role-playing game released for the PC in 2002. While the phrase "tactical role-playing game" might suggest that the game involved lots of boring number-crunching and rolling 20-sided dice, the actual game was fast-paced, colorful, and engaging. Freedom Force let you control a stable of superheroes based on classic comic-book characters, complete with shouted catchphrases, garish costumes, and flamboyant patriotism--and a corresponding hatred of communism. It was also loads of fun.
The original game included a mission-based single-player campaign in which you'd join up with new heroes and attempt to stop a dastardly villain's plot. It also included an editor that let you create your own custom superheroes by changing their appearances and customizing their special powers. The editor went on to inspire the player community to create countless custom hero skins based on their own favorite comic characters. Finally, the game was powered by a 3D engine that allowed for extremely interactive environments, including objects that could be used as weapons. For instance, the engine let you pick up cars and hurl them at your enemies, or tear lampposts out of the ground and use them like clubs to swat thugs. The engine also allowed for fully destructible buildings.
Irrational Games has finally taken the wraps off its upcoming sequel, Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich. In the new game, the Freedom Force team must travel back in time to World War II to battle a new supervillain named Blitzkrieg, who is the defender of the Reich. The heroes will also encounter all-new supervillains, including Red October, and new superheroes, such as Tombstone and Sky King. They'll also have access to new hero abilities, like dancing dead, Aztec mercy, and whirlwind tour. The new game includes an enhanced 3D-rendering engine, as well as improved artificial intelligence. For more information on this intriguing sequel, we were graciously joined by Jonathan Chey, project lead at Irrational Games' Canberra studio in Australia.
GameSpot: We understand that Freedom Force 2 will be "an ongoing story." Can we expect to see all our old favorite superheroes from the original game? Will the sequel, in fact, move over to a different style and era of comics as preliminary talks about the games suggested? For instance, can we expect to see darker, more-brooding 1970s-comics versions of the heroes of Freedom Force rather than the upbeat Silver Age versions from the original game?
Jonathan Chey: Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich features all the original characters from Freedom Force. Time has moved on, but it's not the '70s yet in the Freedom Force universe. Instead, we're a few years on from the events of the first game and are still dealing with some of the fallout from those happenings.
We'll also be going back in time, so you can expect to see some radically new Golden Age characters making an appearance, as well as some brand-new Silver Age ones.
GS: How will the game be structured?We expect to see a single-player campaign, like in the original game, but will there be any new gameplay modes? For instance, are there any plans to include single-mission skirmishes? Any plans to incorporate any of the multiplayer modes that were developed by hobbyist modmakers?
JC: We'll be fully supporting the danger room mode that we added to the original game as a patch. And we're completely overhauling the multiplayer component. There will be more game modes, better matchmaking, scoring, and so on. I can't go into any detail yet, but we're very excited about this aspect of the new game.
To Victory! For Freedom!
GS: One of the most engaging aspects of the original game was the hero and special powers editor, which led some players to spend hours and hours creating their own custom characters or attempting to re-create their licensed comic-book character favorites. What plans are there to expand and improve upon the editor in the sequel?
JC: Why mess with something that works so well? But, seriously, we're not planning to radically revise this part of the game. Instead, we're focusing on tuning and balancing it. We want to make it easier to create cool stuff and get rid of some of the broken and unbalanced options from the original. The interface will be getting an overhaul to make it faster and more intuitive, and the way that characters are unlocked and brought into the game has been substantially revised.
GS: And one of the most unusual and satisfying aspects of the original game was its interactive terrain (especially cars that could be hurled at villains and buildings that could be knocked to the ground). How does the team plan to expand on this environmental interactivity in the sequel?
JC: More, more, more! For example, the new building destruction sequences we've been working on look much better than the old ones. Another example: Now you can pick up manhole covers and fling them at enemies. And I love grabbing the giant hammer from outside the hardware store and pounding Nazis with it.
GS: We understand that the sequel will not only feature improved AI, but will also feature an improved graphics-rendering engine to make the sequel look even better. Could you give us a rundown on the technical improvements to be featured in the new game? Which seems like the most impressive?
JC: We'll be making a more-detailed announcement about the graphics enhancements soon. Here's an example, though: Imagine dynamic lighting on the effects so that El Diablo's inferno properly lights the things that are about to be charcoaled.
As for the AI, we're mainly focusing on improving the independence of the heroes so that they will take action on their own initiative. There's a lot of back-and-forth testing required for this kind of technology upgrade to make sure that we don't break anything in the existing game systems. For example, what we don't want is the AI playing the game for you or doing things that you really didn't want it to.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Freedom Force 2?
JC: I'm very excited to be finally talking about this product. It's been a long time with no news on the Freedom Force front. I hope that the message is now out that Irrational is fully behind the future of this franchise, and we're committed to doing a lot more with it over the next few years. For those who have been waiting for us to say or do something, I hope the wait has been worth it.
GS: And thanks very much for your time.
JC: Thanks for letting me talk. For Freedom!