The company that brought you Mortal Kombat is attempting to start up another fighting series. Bio F.R.E.A.K.S. is a bloody 3D fighter that features jetpacks, shields, and other crazy stuff.
The title of the game is an acronym for Biological Flying Robotic Enhanced Armored Killing Synthoids - which of course is referring to the eight fighters in the game, mutants with weapons fused directly to their bodies. Why the drastic elective surgery? Well, the story is set in the future, after the United States has broken into separate regions, each run by a different corporation Each corporation has a fighter representing the company in battle. If a fighter wins the battle, his corporation takes over the other's territory. This fighting is a tough sport, a tough and bloody sport, even for cyborgs. Characters during a match may lose limbs, causing blood to spurt all over the place, including all over the "camera" - a neat effect the first few times that eventually becomes quite lame. Losing limbs will actually change the combos and moves that you are able to do. The control configuration is set up like Tekken, with additional buttons for firing weapons, using jump jets, and sidestepping. You have two bars at the top of the screen. One is the traditional life bar, and the other is a measure of your shield energy. The shield blocks projectile attacks (but is useless against every other attack) and collapses after too many hits.
All of this can be seen from a camera that zooms in when the fighters are close together and zooms out when they are spaced apart, as in Samurai Shodown. Although the view is nice, it can be changed to an over-the-shoulder transparent first-person view like the classic Nintendo arcade boxing game Punch Out. Its presentation as a whole is high quality. With smooth character animations and incredible lighting effects, F.R.E.A.K.S. is, at least visually, one of the most impressive fighting games on the PlayStation. The sound effects and music are also quite good - the dark ominous character voices and fast-paced techno music are a perfect match for the harsh futuristic world that the game takes place in.
The environments that you fight in are much more than just backgrounds. The levels are completely 3D, meaning players can go in any direction, even up in the air. Some levels have two or three stories that you can fly up to, but you'll have to beware of saw blades, spikes, toxic ooze, and other environmental hazards.
BF is very similar to Midway's other "other" fighting game, Mace. Mace also featured great graphics, interesting characters, and 3D environments - environments that you wanted to explore, but were unable to because the control limited your movement. Whether it was done on purpose, to keep you from endlessly running around, or just by accident is uncertain. What is certain is that when Bushido Blade, the first fighting game that featured truly unconditional 3D movement, came out, it was considered by most to be the best fighting game of the year. Why more 3D fighting games haven't mimicked this style baffles me.
In the grand scheme of things, Bio F.R.E.A.K.S. will fall into the category of "just one of those fighting games." Most should rent the game once just to try something new and to take a look at the beautiful graphics. While I'm sure it will strike a chord with some, most will probably tire of Bio F.R.E.A.K.S. pretty easily.