Freedom Force, by MacPlay
Posted: 16-Jun-2003

3 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: MacPlay Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Jim Melton Class: GAMES

When you first start up Freedom Force, you feel like you are in the middle of a Saturday morning cartoon. The game starts with a long cut-scene explaining the origins of Minute Man (the first SuperHero you control). The premise follows the motif: you control a band of Super Heros who must protect the world from Super Villians, or else Earth will fall prey to an intergalactic, inter-dimensional despot intent on ruling the universe.

Game play is primarily from a "God's eye" view, although you can change camera angles if you wish. You move your character by clicking where you want to go or on the item you want to interact with. Most characters and items have reasonable default actions, so the game play is not complicated. However, the game will be much more enjoyable if you have a two-button mouse, since there are a lot of "right-click" gestures (remember that control-click is the Mac equivalent of right-click).

The game starts with easy tutorial levels that walk you through the basic game play. After you master a few basic skills, you begin to add members to your team. At first, the game chooses your team for you, but later on you can recruit additional heros. Each hero has different strengths and weaknesses; the villains you face similarly vary in abilities. Choosing a balanced team is essential to dominating the bad guys.

The game is rich with cut-scenes. All of the major characters have a 2-minute or so "secret origins" cut-scene, as well as segues between missions. These stories are done in the style of an animated comic book.

Your team consists of up to 4 heros, but you can only control one at a time. One of the most annoying defects of the game is that heros don't have a "stand your ground" mode; unless you explicitly tell them to attack an enemy, they don't do anything. They will sit still and take damage without retaliating, until you notice they are getting hurt and direct them to attack. Then, after you defeat one enemy, they will not attack another without explicit direction.

The environment is completely interactive. You can rip up street lamps to use as clubs (a great way to take out a band of thugs), pick up and throw cars and dumpsters, explode flammable barrels, etc., not to mention the bad guys and civilians to interact with. At higher levels, the number of objects seems to overload the game. When things got hot and heavy, the game controls lagged behind the action. Since everything is mouse-based, you cannot play if you cannot control the mouse. At times, it was extremely frustrating.

At the higher levels, there can be a lot going on at once. Sometimes your objectives include protecting civilians from ruffians. Unfortunately, often the action takes place off screen, and there is no way to "zoom" your focus to the area of interest. A "mini map" would help a lot.

Also, the number of objects can overwhelm the rendering engine. It is difficult to describe, other than "it loses its mind." The screen degenerates into random parts of buildings and enemies, and mouse control is all but lost. This is particularly a problem with some of the larger villians, and the first-person perspective camera angle.

During our evaluation, my sons complained of the game crashing, although it never crashed when I was playing.

It has an ESRB rating of T (Teen) for violence, but I can't figure out why. This game is no more violent than the Superman cartoons that showed on Saturday morning in the 60s. I am very strict about what I allow my pre-teen to be exposed to, but this game is very mild. It is a subtle point of the game that no one is ever killed, just knocked out.

The game was evaluated on an eMac (800 MHz G4, 256MB). I used to think that this was a fast machine, but it was barely up to the challenge.

Freedom Force has a multi-player mode that was not evaluated because each player on the network must have a game CD.

Summary
Freedom Force uses a clever premise for a role-playing game that is consistently applied. The story lines are enjoyable, and the game controls are not difficult. The environment is fully interactive, and visually stimulating. The graphics are primitive, but intentionally so to fit with the motif. It is clearly a sophisticated game. However, game controls don't keep pace with the action, and get in the way of accomplishing your objectives.


Pros

  • Rich, interactive environment
  • Interesting premise, enjoyable story lines
  • Lots of fun cut-scenes

Cons

  • Game controls can lag behind the pace of the game
  • No automatic attack of enemies
  • Insuffient "situation awareness"


Overall Rating

3 out of 5 Mice