Come forth freedom fans, and hear of the next chapter in the epic adventures of your favorite protectors of freedom! Okay, now go back and read that last line again, but imagine it is being spoken aloud by a deep voiced announcer, with lots of echo. It’s cheesy, I know, but it sets the mood for the type of RPG that Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich is. In the sequel to one of the best super hero games available on any platform to date, Irrational Games serves up more of the same cheesy dialogue, terrific action, style, and story telling that made the original Freedom Force great.
For those of you new to the Freedom Force universe, the game is modeled after the golden and silver age comic books, which were popular back in the 1960s. Full of clever/farcical adjective-filled dialogue, crazy stories, and super villains that were usually either Communists or Nazis, these books paved the way for the modern comic books that you find on magazine racks today. The Freedom Force games are modeled after these old books, and really do a spot-on job of recreating their feel and look.
Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich picks up sometime after the original game has ended. The villains of the first game have all been defeated and sent to prison, and with very little crime to fight, all but four of Freedom Force’s members have left the team temporarily to get some much needed time off. The action begins when two of their more formidable enemies, Nuclear Winter and Time Master, mysteriously escape from prison. The team sends out a call to all inactive members, as Freedom Force rushes to recapture these two very dangerous foes.
The game takes place around the late 1960s, so you may be wondering why it is called Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich. Basically, someone uses Timemaster’s powers to go back in time and give the Nazis Chemical X, which is the source of all the super powers in the Freedom Force universe. With their new super powers, the Nazis easily win World War II, and the future that Freedom Force resides in is changed forever. Unless, of course, they manage to travel back in time and stop the Nazis before they are victorious. From there, the story gets even more interesting.
The game has all of the original characters from the first version of the game, heroes and villains alike. In addition, they have added six new heroes, three from Freedom Force’s time period and three from the war-torn 1940s. There are all sorts of new baddies to face as well, the most prominent being connected to the Nazis and their allies. The characters, new and old, are all brilliantly put together and could have been taken straight out of one of the real comics from the 1960s. The voice actors that Irrational Games used did an excellent job of giving them all a personality and verve that really brings them to life. Hearing them interact, as well as yell things out in battle, is such a treat.
The gameplay in Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich is very similar to the original game. You have story-based missions that you must complete using a four character squad of Freedom Force members that you select from the active roster. You direct your squad through the environment, telling them who to interact with and which powers to use. The environments are now even more destructible than they used to be, which is excellent. Buildings can be knocked down and street lamps can be used as weapons. There is nothing quite like punching an enemy so hard that they fly into the side of a building and actually knock it down. Destructible buildings and street lamps were in the original game, but in the sequel, most everything in the environment can be attacked, thrown, and/or destroyed. The use of powers is as simple as ever. You just click on the enemy you want to wallop, and a menu pops up showing which powers are available for use by the hero you are currently controlling. Each character has character points. These act as a sort of energy meter for your powers. Each power uses a certain amount of character points, and when your meter gets too low, some of the powers that use a lot of character points won’t be available. The character points replenish slowly over time, so if you use all your points up, wait a while and they will return. This system is really quite ingenious as it forces you to use all of your characters’ different powers. Instead of using the same super strong attack every time, you have to watch your meter and use a variety of attacks to be successful.
As your characters complete these story-based missions, they gain experience points and prestige points. The experience points can be used to train your characters. Training consists of learning new powers from each character’s individual power set, and making the powers you already have much stronger. This really gives the player more control over their character’s development, and thus increases the player’s investment. The prestige points, on the other hand, are used to recruit new heroes to the ranks of Freedom Force. Everything you do during your missions will add or subtract from your prestige point total for that particular mission. The more baddies you destroy and the more mission goals you complete, the more points you get. Let innocent people die, however, and you lose points. Each character that you can recruit has a prestige point cost. The more powerful the hero, the more points it will take to recruit them. Again, this system really lets the player shape the Freedom Force team. The control that the player has over each individual character’s development, as well as the team’s roster, is extraordinary.
One area that has been improved tremendously is the multiplayer. Irrational went all out here, creating more multiplayer levels and game types. These are things that the fans of the original game really wanted. They have even included a one player mode, Rumble Room, where you can choose any four characters and fight against up to twenty-four computer controlled enemies. Irrational went one step further, even, with the creation of their story-based multiplayer. They have a whole new multiplayer section in which the person hosting the game gets to write a background story for the multiplayer game, decide which heroes can be used, and set all of the parameters for the match. They even get to pick what it will take to win the match, as well as write the winning and losing messages that will pop up. The point of this was to make the multiplayer experience more engrossing. Instead of having heroes fighting just to see who wins, now players can create whole scenarios with an actual plot that explains why the showdown is happening. This really opens up the multiplayer options for Freedom Force. The regular death matches are still options, but for those who want to have more interesting and story-driven multiplayer matches, Irrational has really created something special.
The character creation tool is still almost the same as it was in the first version of the game. You get to choose your hero’s look, powers, strengths, weaknesses, and background information. When creating your hero’s powers, you can put any effect with any animation, creating an endless combination of new powers that you can use. The most interesting part is that you can rename any power to fit better with your hero’s theme. The game only shipped with a few extra skins for you to choose from, aside from those of the characters in the main game, but there were a ton of fan created skins and meshes for the first game, and it looks like that will be the case with this one as well. Once you have created your new hero, he/she is added to the pool of heroes that you can recruit from in the one player game, as well as the pool of heroes you can choose from in the multiplayer area.
The graphics engine has been completely re-done, resulting in an even more colorful, brilliant looking game. The camera movement is so much easier to control, and allows for practically any angle you want. There is even a cinematic view that places the camera right down next to the heroes, making them the focal point. When in this mode, any movement of the mouse causes the camera to sort of orbit around your heroes. This is great for combat in small numbers, but when you get into larger battles this view will limit your field of view and make it difficult to function. The sound is excellent as well. The amount of voice acting that went into the game is amazing. The actors did a fine job of creating characters that sound as if they are from a 1960s comic book. The one liners, especially, are fun to experience. The sound effects are also tremendous. When you get into a large rumble with a bunch of enemies, the battle cries and comments the characters make, coupled with the plethora of explosions and sound effects that the powers create, really draws the player into the game.
Irrational had a hit on their hands with the first Freedom Force. They were smart and kept things mostly the same in this sequel, only making tweaks where needed. The result is a game that is another winner. Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich is tremendous fun. The graphics, sound, story, and customization are top-notch. Most importantly, however, the gameplay is amazing. Everything else just comes together, and it turns out terrific. Try it out, if for no other reason than “For Freedom!” (I couldn’t resist working Freedom Force‘s battle cry into the article.) Comic lovers and game lovers alike will be entertained for hours by this super hero-themed title. Definitely pick this one up.