At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey PC/Mac Digital Jesters Irrational Games 1-4 (LAN, Online) Here
Requirements Buy from Amazon.co.uk
733MHz Processor, 128MB RAM, ATi Radeon 7000 or NVidia GeForce GTS (32MB video card), Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP, DirectX 9.0c, 4x CD-ROM, 700MB HDD Space Click here to buy Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich.

Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich review

Freedom Force - not to get confused with the other EA title, Freedom Fighters from IO Interactive - appeared on the PC back in 2002, receiving much acclaim from the critics. It was an original and brilliant title - overlooked by many - but has thankfully been granted a sequel by developers Irrational Games and new publishers Digital Jesters.

The Freedom Force themselves are an interesting bunch. A group of superheroes with a range of abilities, and a like of holidays (most of the squad are away on a short break at the start of the game). Among them are Alche-Miss ("converting bad to good"), El Diablo (a fire-wielding Latino guy), and Green Genie (who has the power to, among other things, turn enemies to flowers) - along with a whole host of other heroes, some of which will be familiar to players of the previous title. They're an interesting bunch, and importantly, all have a secret back-story that explains how they gained their powers, with the mysterious Energy X turning unsuspecting Americans into heroes.

One of the best parts of those back-stories is the way they are presented. The videos are a series of partly-animated images, reminiscent of the in-game movies of old. This comic-book style in the origins is just a sample of the way the whole game is presented; although not to dismiss the fact that it is highly enjoyable, you do often feel like you're taking part in more of an interactive comic book than a game - a testament to how well Irrational have used their source material. However, that's not to say that this is some Marvel-comics conversion; FFvsTTR is a humour-filled title, often poking fun at the characters and stereotypes that have been promoted by comic books throughout the years.

So what do you do with your heroes? Well, FFvsTTR is a squad-based RPG, where you guide your characters through left-mouse clicking, and right-mouse menus. It's fairly simple to get to grips with; a few keyboard presses, combined with the good use of the mouse makes it easy to navigate the 3D environments. Improved from the previous title is the ability to control squads as one - like RTS titles, you can click and drag with the left-mouse-button to select your entire squad, and then issue commands like you would normally, with all now following your order to proceed. The only issue with this is that the right-mouse menu, which normally provides a list of abilities for the character selected, only gives the abilities of the person in the squad with the highest number (which is decided by their order on the selection screen). Thankfully this doesn't leave your characters vulnerable in a fight, as they would have in the previous game; clever use of AI allows them to respond to attacks automatically. Choosing them individually allows you to select their powers. They'll even pick up objects such as traffic lights and telegraph poles to use against an opponent automatically - although you can also command them to do this yourself. If, however, you want to put everyone's powers to good use at once, you can use the instant pause option by simply hitting the space bar. Upon freezing the game, you can then select your heroes and issue orders. Although this could make the game too easy at times - allowing you an infinite amount of time to prepare - due to the nature of the fighting, it often feels necessary, and doesn't seem to unbalance the gameplay.

The game's story involves the nemesis of the previous title, Nuclear Winter, returning to action following an escape from prison. You spend the first portion of the game chasing him, but after capture, events lead to the Freedom Force being transported to an alternate 1960s, where the US is at war with the Third Reich. Anyone who knows of Irrational's other titles, such as System Shock 2, will appreciate their ability to write great stories, and FFvsTTR is certainly no exception. Although there are a vast array of characters available to take control of - including three extra on the bonus DVD Digital Jesters have included - Irrational have even gone as far as to include a character-creation mode. That means you can create your own superheroes, and even use the built-in animation options to create your own powers. It's an option that will be welcomed by many, and provides you with the freedom to let your creative juices flow.

There is no other way to sum up the game than immensely fun. The gameplay is engaging - if slightly heading towards over-repetitiveness when facing a continuous barrage of enemies. But thankfully scenarios are varied enough to keep you hooked in - with a variety of settings, and plenty of humour ready to put a smile on your face.

One of the other major additions of the game is the vastly improved multiplayer mode. Due to time restrictions placed on Irrational by EA, they didn't get to produce the stuff they would have liked in the original. Now there's more modes than before, and most interestingly, the ability to team up with others over a LAN or online and take part in stories of your own - complete with your own custom characters. It's online comic book fun that will be different every time. The only concern with regard to multiplayer is finding games to play. Recent visits to the mode have seen few to no games available, with people only occasionally appearing in the lobby area. Nearly three months after the game's release, this doesn't bode well for the future, and unfortunately this excellent mode will probably be unused.

Ratings

Graphics Not pushing boundaries, but instead providing a colourful, and very pleasing comic book style, that fits very well with the game. 9/10
Gameplay Immensely enjoyable, even if it can edge towards becoming overly repetitive. It's variation of styles - thanks to the range of moves and abilities of characters, and the various situations you face - that make it worth continuing right the way through. 10/10
Value With character creation, online multiplayer, and excellent story mode, and a bonus DVD-Video containing a whole range of behind-the-scenes clips, the package certainly offers good value for money. 10/10
Lifespan The story should last you quite a few hours - not least the fun you can have in carrying it through with your own created superheroes. The multiplayer mode is varied, and the story mode is an excellent idea; it's just a pity that the lack of players will leave it underused. 9/10
Audio Voice-acting is deliberately over-the-top, adding to the comic-book feel, and again mocking the stereotypes. Sound effects also accompany the action well. 9/10
Overall Style over substance? Certainly not. Although the game's visual style is a major part in its brilliance, the gameplay is also so enjoyable that it's an all-round high quality title that should appear in every PC gamer's collection. 9/10

Click here to buy Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich from Amazon.co.uk.

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