Freedom Force

If you enjoy superhero games and RPGs, you can’t do much better than Freedom Force. Set in 1962, in the bustling comic book metropolis of Patriot City, Freedom Force follows a bold group of whimsical heroes forever mutated by the mysterious Energy X.

15_1Starting out with one hero (Minuteman) as you learn the controls, you’ll be joined by other heroes over the course of the first few levels. In later missions, after hand-picking a squad of up to four do-gooders from your roster, you enter the fray and orchestrate your team in real time or by pausing the gameplay to set moves in advance. As you complete missions, your heroes gain experience points with which they can purchase new powers or upgrade their existing ones, and the team will gain prestige points with which they can attract and recruit new members.

Your characters can lift almost any object in their surroundings — cars, telephone booths, dumpsters — and toss them as weapons, or rip lamp posts right out of the ground and swing them like bats. Flying heroes can zip through the sky and attack enemies stationed atop tall buildings. Energy-imbued heroes zap bad guys from afar. Any issue of JLA or X-Men is the only instruction manual you’ll need to manage your roster of costumed crusaders. And yes, strategies vary wildly depending on your unique roster of heroes and power sets.

You know the archetypes well: there’s Minuteman, a star-spangled Captain America type whose motto is “Right makes might!â€. Man-Bot, the tragic brooder whose armor-clad body rages with explosive Energy X. Liberty Lad, Minuteman’s teenage sidekick, and Microwave, an android foe reprogrammed to serve humanity. Flame-slinging Latino El Diablo is a fiery hothead with a salsa beat, and mystic Georgia peach Alche-Miss is a man-handling southern belle who harbors a mushy crush on Man-Bot.

In all, 14 pre-made heroes can fill your roster, each with a unique origin story melodramatically illustrated with cinematic sketches and campy narration. Together, the new heroes form the crimefighting team known as Freedom Force. Throughout the game’s 22 levels, they battle super-powered villains such as temporally displaced dinosaurs, malevolent robots, giant ants, and an army of alien invaders.

Combat strategy adheres to superhero logic: for example, frosty commie boss Nuclear Winter is perfectly countered by El Diablo’s heat blasts, and supersonic Bullet is the fleet-footed choice when you need to reprogram multiple enemy turrets in a hurry. Missions are a blast: you’ll investigate daring robberies, protect civilians, interrogate bad guys, rescue comrades, and eventually coordinate your team to defeat the supervillain at the heart of the storm.

2_1A big chunk of fun comes from Freedom Force’s powerful NetImmerse graphics engine. Patriot City is alive in lustrous 3D, awash with primary colors that pop off the screen with authentic thick-lined visuals. The overhead camera view is fully controllable, letting you pan around the cityscape or zoom in for heroic close-ups. Virtually everything in a map is deformable: buildings can be razed, cars crushed, statues toppled. Pausing the game creates a snapshot of the action: you can zoom in closer for peeks at frozen power blasts, or marvel at one of Minuteman’s triumphant poses.

Multiplayer matches can be played with up to four players over LAN. It’s a good thing superhero fans love match-ups — deathmatch is the only mode available. Select one of the eight maps available, buy a team using your allotted points, and then it’s clobberin’ time.

System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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