Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Walkabout Games
Developer: Atomic Wolf
Release Date: June 2, 2020


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Liberated'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 20, 2020 @ 1:45 a.m. PDT

Leap into the frame of a graphic novel, where classic motion comic storytelling transitions into fully playable action sections in a story about technological surveillance squeezing society’s freedom away.

When I was younger, one of my favorite games was the Sega Genesis offering, Comix Zone. I enjoyed the way it combined a literal comic book setting with the fun of beat-'em-up gameplay. The upcoming Liberated by Atomic Wolf isn't quite a spiritual successor, but it has a similar idea. It is set in the black-and-white world of a comic book called Liberated, with the story told through panels and text boxes. Each level comprises an "issue" of the comic book. We had a chance to get some hands-on time with Liberated in a short demo that shows segments of the first two issues.

Our demo begins with an overview of the setting. It's a dystopian future where cameras are on every street corner, and every man, woman and child is monitored in real time. There's a small group of freedom fighters, the Liberated, who seek to bring freedom back to the masses. It's difficult to get more narrative from the demo, since it jumps between sections with little context, but it appears that the story will follow multiple protagonists from all sides as they delve deep into the dangerous world of Liberated.

The first segment of the demo, which takes place in the first issue of the comic, puts you in control of a hacker on the run from the authorities. Initially, you get a basic demo of the straightforward controls. The right analog stick aims your gun, while the right trigger fires, and the right bumper reloads. You can jump and hide behind certain environmental obstacles. In the tutorial, you're tasked with shooting down drones, which gives you a sense of the gameplay.

Then you're tasked with sneaking onto a guarded base. The specifics are obscured, but the idea is that you sneak in and shoot your way to the goal. Being shot damages you, and a few shots will kill you. If you can't avoid damage, you'll slowly regenerate to full health, and you regenerate faster if you can find a place to duck in to. Enemies die in a few hits as well, so combat boils down to catching them off guard and finishing them quickly.

This portion ends with a brief puzzle. You're asked to puzzle out the password to hack into something by selecting from 0-9. You need to find four numbers, each can only be used once, and you're told if a number is correct, incorrect, or in the wrong position. It's not too complex, but this hints that there may be other minigames and puzzles in the finished version of Liberated.

The second segment of the demo is more involved. You control a different character, an older policeman, as he delves into what seemed to be the secret lair of a group of masked Anonymous-style rebels. Like your previous protagonist, he has the ability to aim and shoot. He can also sneak silently, which allows him to disable enemies without making noise by moving behind them.

This segment involves more planning. If you blindly run forward, you'll get shot to death, so instead, you need to move slowly and figure out how to disable enemies without attracting any attention that will get you killed. In the demo, this usually involves eliminating enemies quickly and not leaving yourself open, but there are a few twists. One activity has you taking control of a demolition drone, and you have five explosions that you can drop to disable five enemies in the crowded upcoming area. Use them wisely, and the next segment becomes a lot simpler, while poor usage means more chances to die horribly.

There are also a few basic puzzles in this area. One has you pulling switches and pushing boxes to gradually create a path forward. Another is more of a jumping puzzle, where you have to take careful leaps to enemy-guarded platforms, and you need enough time to disable enemies without getting shot full of lead. A brief underwater vignette hints that later areas of the game will get significantly more complex.

So far, Liberated has all the makings of a charming indie title with an intriguing plot. The core gameplay is by the book, but it seems to work smoothly, and the comic book setting gives it a distinctive feel. We'll see how the final version fleshes out the tale when it hits all consoles and PC later this year.

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