Publisher: VU Games/Digital Jesters
Developer: Irrational Games
Release Date: Spring 2005
The original Freedom Force title was one of the greatest success stories that hardly anyone knows about, in that not only did it somehow manage to actually get released despite its rather pioneering ideas but it also managed to be one of the few titles that really didn’t have too many weak points. The original title pitted the Freedom Force, a collection of brave superheroes such as The Minuteman, the Mentor, and El Diablo, to name a few, against a cast of diverse henchmen and nemeses spanning a variety of locations, held together by plot elements that twisted and turned like the story of out of, well, a comic book. Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich is essentially Irrational Games realizing that not only what wasn’t broke doesn’t need to be fixed for the sequel but that there was still room to polish up a few aspects.
Off the bat though, it must be mentioned that even we members of the press are getting kept in the dark as to what exactly is the plot of Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich, and how it involves Nazis. Even though we’ve seen these things that we can’t mention, we can’t tell you about [censored], or about who [censored] is. What we can tell you is that the gameplay of Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich remains largely the same squad-based, click-and-move affair that made up the previous title, barring a few much-needed improvements. In the original title, it was almost tedious to command multiple characters at once, since every single action had to be specifically instructed, though thankfully it could be done by pausing the action first. In the sequel, managing the actions of your squad seems much more humane, made additionally so by the inclusion of the characters' ability to fight using a standard melee attack of some sort and their tendency to now fight back when attacked.
Of the heroes who we can mention, the Mentor and El Diablo make their comebacks as well as new characters such as Quetzalcoatl and Sky King. The Mentor is the leader of the Freedom Force and uses psychic powers, while El Diablo is a high-flying, hot-tempered Latino crime fighter. The first of the known new characters is Quetzalcoatl, a mysterious Aztec warrior who uses magical attacks, and the second being that of Sky King, a movie-star-turned-superhero who uses chain guns and his trusty jetpack to bring the fight to the skies.
The engine itself seems to have undergone an extensive overhaul from the previous iteration. The interface and menu scheme retain their comic book styling, as do all of the in-game fonts from the subtitle text during cutscenes to the “BLAM!” and “POW!” sprites that appear when a character really takes a hit. The real meat of the engine improvements comes in the form of advanced shaders and lighting, real time shadows, a generous upgrade to the look of the special effects, and ridiculously sharper textures which are displayed in high contrast to give the title's visuals an authentic comic book look. Now, when a building comes down during a heated battle between Nazis and a guy flying around throwing fireballs, you can not only expect to be treated to a spectacular display of crumbling debris and smoke, but afterwards, you can look inside the sections still standing to see appropriate furniture and appliances. For instance, smash up a diner, and you'll see barstools and countertops mounted on a checkerboard floor.
Though the build we received was short by any measure and really only representative of a fraction of what the final version will have to offer, Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich looks to uphold the same level of quality gameplay of the previous title in the series. Not only does it expand upon the gameplay itself by fixing what small nuances bothered fans of the original title, but it also sports a new engine that really brings the comic book action to life. As stated, we don’t know exactly how the Third Reich fits into things, but suffice it to say that it's always a fun time to send a Nazi foot soldier flying three stories into the air and slamming through a billboard on top of a nearby building. If the rest of the title is as entertaining as the build we received, one can expect Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich to once again become a staple of comic book game fans everywhere.
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