Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich Updated Impressions - New Hero, New Interface

The new adventures of the superheroes known as the Freedom Force will involve time travel, gadgeteers, and at least three different kinds of punching. Get the details here.

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2002's Freedom Force was a colorful and surprisingly engaging game that let you control a legion of superpowered superheroes that could have come right out of the Silver Age of American comic books from the 1950s. You controlled a small squad of these heroes and fought against America's traitorous enemies by using such superpowers as superhuman strength, telepathic powers, and mastery of the mysterious "Energy X," an alien energy source that turned mere mortals into superheroes and manifested itself as a limited meter that powered the use of your heroes' individual abilities. Obviously, Irrational wasn't satisfied leaving well enough alone, because the studio is revisiting Patriot City with Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich, a new game that will include an improved interface, an all-new story, and an all-new cast of heroes and villains that recalls the Golden Age of comics from the 1940s. We took an updated look at the game in action and have new details to report.

The mighty Sky King joins the proud ranks of Freedom Force.
The mighty Sky King joins the proud ranks of Freedom Force.

We had the opportunity to see some of the new heroes in action, like Sky King, the movie actor-turned-superhero, and Quetzalcoatl, the living incarnation of an Aztec deity. Unlike the heroes of the first game (who all return in the new game, with the exception of the enigmatic Man-Bot), the new heroes will not have the powers of Energy X. Instead, they'll mostly be "gadgeteers," who are heroes that use cutting-edge technology (from the 1940s anyway) to battle the forces of evil. The new game's story involves time travel back to World War II, where the Freedom Force finds new enemies but also garners new allies, including Sky King, Quetzalcoatl, and Blackjack.

Sky King is a movie actor whose claim to fame is a rickety jetpack that was originally a movie prop. However, the patriotic urge to help the Allied troops in World War II inspires him to seek a means to make his jetpack work. Despite his lack of innate superpowers, Sky King's ability to fly is a remarkable power (or at least, it would have been, back in the 1940s). Quetzalcoatl is a different story. This young boy whiles away his afternoons listening to boring stories of Aztec lore from his grandfather, only to acquire the powers of an ancient deity through a series of accidents. Quetzalcoatl's mystical powers let him wield a feathered serpent (his namesake) in battle, and his powers also grant him divine healing abilities.

We were also shown the "secret origin movie" of Blackjack, the British scientist-turned-crimefighter. Like in the original game, all new heroes in Freedom Fighters will be introduced by a brief cinematic that shows the origin of the new superhero, along with a series of narrated comic book panels. It seems that the new hero was a junior scientist--with a penchant for playing cards--who was working with a senior scientist on a top secret means of jamming the radio systems of German fighter planes. One day, the young scientist, en route to conducting a series of chemical acid tests, eavesdrops on a conversation his mentor has with a British security minister...but he quickly realizes that the official is actually the German supervillain Blitzkrieg in disguise. The young scientist can do nothing to affect the powerful German spy, so he does the only thing he feels he can do: He dips one of his playing cards in the powerful acid and hurls it at his mentor's throat, silencing him forever and thwarting the supervillain's plans. From that day forward, the young scientist assumes the secret identity of Blackjack, the card-throwing, gadget-using hero who joins the Freedom Force in its fight for, well, freedom.

We also had the opportunity to see the game's new engine and updated interface in action. Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich is now powered by NDL's GameBryo 3D engine, which let the development team create a more extensive suite of special effects for superpowers, as well as enhanced 3D geometry for the destructible skyscrapers and other buildings that will appear in different missions. Fans of "smashing stuff" should be glad to hear that Irrational has also tweaked building destruction. The first game was full of destructible objects, like tall buildings, cars, and lampposts, but destroying the city cost your heroes "prestige" points, which were needed to acquire the services of new heroes. In the new game, you'll lose fewer prestige points for any collateral damage your enthusiastic heroes might cause. In plain English, that means you can feel free to pick up and throw more cars around.

You can expect to see heroes from the first game, like El Diablo, make their returns, and thanks to AI and superpower upgrades, they'll be better than ever.
You can expect to see heroes from the first game, like El Diablo, make their returns, and thanks to AI and superpower upgrades, they'll be better than ever.

The new game will also feature improved artificial intelligence for your superpowered comrades, since the original game was commonly criticized for the way your team of superheroes would sometimes do very little to defend itself if you weren't actively managing each member. To remedy this issue, Irrational has implemented a more-aggressive AI for your heroes, along with a suite of new superpowers that has zero energy costs. These new features have been added to make sure that your superheroes don't run off and expend all their energy while you're not looking. The new game will also segment your heroes' energy meters into three parts to provide a clear indication of whether or not you have enough energy to perform more-powerful abilities--like ones that might cost a specific hero two-thirds of an energy bar or even one entire energy bar.

Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich seems to be coming along extremely well. The game has been in development for quite some time, but it's still on target for a release next year.

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