Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich Hands-On Impressions - Four Heroes in Action
We get our hands on a small part of an early version of this upcoming superhero sequel. Get hands-on details here.
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The original Freedom Force, which was released in 2002, was a surprise for many. A pleasant surprise. It was a game based on comic book-style superheroes, and such games previously had a nasty habit of getting canceled before they were released. Somehow, Freedom Force made it out the door, and it was a great game that combined the character advancement of a role-playing game with tactical combat, colorful graphics, and an over-the-top atmosphere reminiscent of the silver age of American comics. And we finally got a chance to play the sequel, Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich, in which the returning heroes of the original game must face an all-new threat.
We were able to play through a single level of the game that included a total of four playable superheroes, two of which were returning characters from the previous game and two were brand-new. The level included the high-flying, hot-tempered El Diablo, the wisecracking Latino superhero with a fiery touch, and Mentor, the cranially copious alien mastermind of the Freedom Force hero team (both of these characters graced the original game). We were also able to play as the new heroes: Quetzalcoatl, the brawny Aztec shaman blessed with mystical powers; and Sky King, the Hollywood movie star-turned-superhero, whose mechanical jetpack, once a mere stage prop, has been converted into a working prototype that lets the would-be hero fly about while using conventional World War II weaponry like machine guns and grenades.
The new game's layout and setup will likely seem familiar to fans of the original, since it uses a very similar interface. The sequel also puts all the action in real time, with the option to pause at any time by using the spacebar, so you can issue specific commands to the characters in your group. The interface also puts your characters' portraits in the bottom-left corner of the screen so you can quickly assess their status, current health, and remaining superpower energy. Like with the original Freedom Force, your bigger and stronger heroes, like Quetzalcoatl, can tear out lampposts and pick up entire automobiles and hurl them at their enemies, causing major damage. But, like in the first game, destroying too much property and injuring civilians lowers your team's "prestige" rating. You'll still need prestige to purchase additional powers and skills for your heroes, or to persuade new heroes to join the Freedom Force.
Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich also has some handy new features like default melee attacks for every hero. In the previous game, it was often tempting to follow the actions of one individual hero or just a few heroes as they used their superpowers to defeat their foes, while the rest of your heroes would quietly sit things out offscreen and get pummeled by other enemies. The new game gives every hero a default melee attack that costs no superhero energy to use and also causes untended characters to fend for themselves. The new melee attack is also handy for cleaning up any defeated henchmen that try to flee the scene. The game also organizes each of your heroes' powers specifically by energy cost. Right-clicking brings up each hero's power menu, and you can quickly tell which powers you can and can't access depending on how far you are from your enemies and how much of your hero's three-part energy meter is full. El Diablo retains his fiery projectile attacks (and his fiery temper, which can cause you to briefly lose control of him); Mentor retains his suppressive mental powers; the versatile Quetzalcoatl possesses several powerful spiritual attacks and is a good fighter in a pinch; and Sky King seems rather fragile, but his gadget-based attacks are useful from a distance.
Because Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich's story (we don't want to give away too much) contains time-traveling themes, it made sense that we encountered several different enemies from Freedom Force's past, even on a routine mission. But all enemies, character models, and environments have received a graphical touch-up with new shaders and environment maps that put a clean, glossy layer on top of the comic book-style bright colors and strong lines. The game seems to be coming along extremely well. Those fans looking forward to a colorful and action-packed superhero game can get their hands on Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich when the game is released in March.