E3 2001 Hands-onFreedom Force

We check out Freedom Force, Irrational Games' upcoming game of superheroic action.


Freedom Force

Irrational Games' Freedom Force is a tactical adventure game that lets you create and maintain a group of superheroes. Although there are plenty of precreated characters, one of the game's more exciting features is that you can create a hero of your own. Heroes can be given different powers and weaknesses, and these will affect everything from how other members of the team react to them to how difficult certain enemies are.

The core gameplay is a combination of real-time and turn-based strategy. The action unfolds in real time, but whenever you input a command, everything freezes, and you can give orders to your units in a style that's vaguely similar to that of X-COM. Missions will have you duking it out with supervillains, and because the environments are totally interactive, you can punch enemies through buildings or pick up cars or street lamps to hurl at them. Doing too much damage to the city does have its consequences, as you are given prestige points based on how you perform. If you defeat the bad guys but leave the city in ruins, you won't get many prestige points, and therefore, it will be harder to recruit new heroes for your team. There are a total of 14 characters, and you'll see at least eight of them as you play through the game, adding more depending on how well you do.

Freedom Force is being made with completely original characters. The graphics use NDL's NetImmerse engine, and everything has been skewed to look like a full-motion comic book, right down to the sound effect of balloons that pop up as you engage in combat. Most of the storytelling is done through in-game cutscenes, but each character has a "secret origin," which is told through a series of comic panels. These are remarkably similar to the classic '60s comics by Jack Kirby that the game is inspired by.

The version of the game we saw running was a pre-alpha, although we were told the game should be ready for release in time for Christmas. Superheroes and video games have had a pretty shaky history, but if what we've seen is any indication, Irrational Games is managing to succeed where others have failed.

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