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Codex Review RPG Codex Retrospective Review: Freedom Force

Infinitron

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Tags: Freedom Force; Irrational Games

After making System Shock 2 but before they become known as the BioShock company, Irrational Games released several other titles from a variety of genres. Among these was 2002's Freedom Force, a colorful superhero-themed real-time tactical RPG inspired by the so-called Silver Age of comic books. Although well-received at the time and successful enough to merit a sequel in 2005, Freedom Force ultimately seems to have been too niche to remain in the public memory for long, its homebrew setting obsolete in the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm not sure why Mr. Magniloquent decided that now was the time to write a (magniloquent) retrospective of this underappreciated title, but we're happy to publish it. As you'll see, he's a big fan of the combat:

Did I mention this game is true real-time with pause? There are no hidden pseudo-rounds. Timing is everything. From how fast you move to how fast you can act. The real-time action makes it possible to micro your character to dodge attacks--it’s often vital to do so. Hustling your hero behind a car for cover from a gangster robot raking his Tommy Gun across the avenue will feel genuinely cinematic. The duration of the execution and action point costs is correlated with how potent a power is. In true comic fashion, ultimate attacks are flashy and highly telegraphed, giving you time to respond by marshaling your defenses, fleeing for cover, or attempting to interrupt them. Interruption is an important tactic, and made the Alchemiss character’s quick and inexpensive Repulsion ability invaluable.​
Freedom Force makes full use of its 3D environment. Beyond your character’s own RNG, your attacks will have to contend with constant movement, line of sight, and range itself. It will be commonplace to miss your intended target or hit unintended ones. Collision is consequential, as both bystanders and environments are destructible. This isn’t pop-a-mole. Vantage points and cover will be destroyed, so don’t get too comfortable.​
Prestige will be lost from harming innocents and destroying civilian infrastructure, no matter the perpetrator. Your priorities will be impacted by the nature of the enemies you face because of it. A grenade wielding maniac who demolishes a building because you’re atop it will still incur prestige loss. It is frequently necessary to put your heroes in danger for the greater good in true comic book fashion. Collateral damage also makes discretion the better part of valor. Large explosions and penetrating ray attacks are dangerous to more than the villains. Non-urban environments where you can let loose will become cathartic because of it. On the same note, environments are often usable. Freedom Force was tossing exploding barrels 10 years before Larian made it cool. You can also throw cars, mailboxes, and other objects if strong enough. In melee, wield traffic signals and streetlights for wide and satisfying swings.​
No comic can be complete without rooftop action. Solasta made much ado about elevation, but this is another feature where Freedom Force was decades ahead. A higher position provides unimpeded line of sight, or can be a refuge from a blundering brute. Furthermore, fall damage is significant. Knocking a knucklehead from a lofty ledge or flying felon is often more damaging than a direct attack.​
All powers cost Action Points. Even the lowliest of basic punches will cost a few AP. All powers can have their potency increased or decreased, which also modifies the AP cost. The savvy player can be economical by diminishing their powers against weak or vulnerable enemies. This can often be a crucial tactic for success on certain missions. Likewise, you can also elevate your powers when you need it to count, or overcome a powerful foe's defenses. Be fore-warned, if you use more AP than is currently available, there is a scaling risk that the action will both fail and stun that character. Gripping scenes emerge when you execute a double-empowered ultra-attack just in the nick of time to save the day. Everything about Freedom Force works to exude super heroic style. Play this game already!​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Retrospective Review: Freedom Force
 

laclongquan

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"real-time with pause? There are no hidden pseudo-rounds. Timing is everything. "

This is the key. It change Freedom Force from a fake RPG to a true tactical game. I dont feel like playing a mediocre RPG, but a good tactical game with changeable gender/costume is a good thing to try any day.
 
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Darth Roxor

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Freedom Force is one of these weird games whose demo I played way back when and liked, but never actually checked the full deal, though it's been on my to-do list since forever. This revio definitely made me put it on a higher priority in that list.

Hell, I've actually had it INSTALLED FOR FOUR YEARS NOW and still haven't launched it.
 

Sjukob

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Oh man, this looks like a cool game and I've never played it before...
real-time with pause
b0392e0f35825b0f666d34d707c576366870d46ffa58914c.jpg
 
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Deuce Traveler

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I'm a big fan of Freedom Force and its sequel, Freedom Force vs the Third Reich. Irrational Games did a wonderful job emulating the Silver Age comic book feel and the pair of games are the best of the Superhero genre. Great job on the review, Mr. Magniloquent , and thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Some stuff from my memory:
- Out of the early characters, I never could keep Minuteman as strong as the other characters you pick up in the latter portions of the game, but El Diablo was almost always a keeper throughout.
- Poor Man-Bot. He just couldn't catch a break in either game.
 

BrotherFrank

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Sadly whenever i tried playing this or its sequel i’d always encounter some sort of bug preventing me from progressing (stuff like pathfinding getting borked and being unable to go to where i was supposed to go).

So as a result my memories of this game is mostly time spent in the character creator.
 

Morpheus Kitami

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Pretty good review. I agree with the point that most custom characters you create won't be really useful in the campaign. Despite the lovely character creation system, the main campaign isn't really built for using it too much.
 

Norfleet

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Sadly whenever i tried playing this or its sequel i’d always encounter some sort of bug preventing me from progressing (stuff like pathfinding getting borked and being unable to go to where i was supposed to go).
Usually the answer to this is flying. You ARE a superhero, after all. The sequel was not as good as the original as the character customization was really dumbed down.

Pretty good review. I agree with the point that most custom characters you create won't be really useful in the campaign. Despite the lovely character creation system, the main campaign isn't really built for using it too much.
Untrue, custom characters are generally more powerful and effective than the stock builds.
 

Skorpion

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Looks nifty, thanks for the review as Im always up for well made fun games that flew under my radar on release, which this one did!
 

deuxhero

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The mention of running it on WINE reminds me I should try the original game again. I could only ever get the sequel running on my old PC and greatly enjoyed it anyways.

Really, I've long wondered why, since Take 2 owns the IP, Freedom Force hasn't been used as a source of superhero t-shirts (etc.) in GTA and/or 2K Sports character customization. It would be a fun cameo and a fitting inclusion for clothes in character creation set in the modern day.
 

luj1

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Freedom force is a cult game and a good candidate for a retrospective unlike Pillars you shilled for
 

Darkwind

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RINGS OF REXXOR! This game needs either a remake Resident Evil style, or better yet, dust off the IP and make something new. Because of the cel-shaded graphics it has aged fairly well too though low poly count is always a thing for older titles. Freedom Force hit LONG before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a thing and everyone on Earth was suddenly 'a comic book fan'. Absolutely nailed the aesthetic however and makes me sad that there hasn't been a proper turn based Superhero game since. :-/
 

AndyS

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I'm a big fan of Freedom Force and its sequel, Freedom Force vs the Third Reich. Irrational Games did a wonderful job emulating the Silver Age comic book feel and the pair of games are the best of the Superhero genre. Great job on the review, Mr. Magniloquent , and thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Some stuff from my memory:
- Out of the early characters, I never could keep Minuteman as strong as the other characters you pick up in the latter portions of the game, but El Diablo was almost always a keeper throughout.
- Poor Man-Bot. He just couldn't catch a break in either game.
One of my favorite moves was to pair Diablo and Man-Bot together and have Diablo blast everything at full power, then have Man-Bot use his transfer power to give him an instant recharge so Diablo could let loose again right away, then repeat until everything is done. Really comes in handy for the subterranean missions.

RINGS OF REXXOR! This game needs either a remake Resident Evil style, or better yet, dust off the IP and make something new. Because of the cel-shaded graphics it has aged fairly well too though low poly count is always a thing for older titles. Freedom Force hit LONG before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a thing and everyone on Earth was suddenly 'a comic book fan'. Absolutely nailed the aesthetic however and makes me sad that there hasn't been a proper turn based Superhero game since. :-/
I seem to recall that DC had some discussions with Irrational about maybe doing licensed expansions but it obviously never came to anything. Then Marvel got bitchy about players having too much fun creating its superheroes with the character creator function. I think the problem Freedom Force had in breaking through was that it didn't come with any kind of online multiplayer/skirmish mode - the Danger Room option was patched in later - and it was too complex for players whose idea of a proper superhero game was something like Marvel vs. Capcom. Then City of Heroes came out, so that stole all the online people away, and then the X-Men Legends games came out, which action-heads viewed as "Freedom Force done right". It's too bad because the plans for the next game were supposedly to move to the 70s/Bronze Age and base the art on George Perez/John Byrne instead of Kirby.
 

Absinthe

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Man it's been ages since I've played Freedom Force. I think the sequel got buried underneath the new City of Heroes MMORPG.

Fun fact: Irrational Games was made by ex-Looking Glass Studios employees, which is why it co-developed System Shock 2 back in the day.
 
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Absinthe The sequel was not nearly as good. It looked better, but that's about it. Too much emphasis on a very weak story and lame heroes. Enemies were also uninteresting. Slightly dumbed-down mechanically and weaker scenario design. It felt like a low effort expansion pack. Whereas the first was a work of love, the second felt like work.
 

Hag

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Thank you for the review. Reminds me that it has been on my to-play list for 20 years.
 

Vlajdermen

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I gotta agree with the part on how it loves what it is. The same goes for the sequel, how self-indulgent it is and how it never, at any point, thinks ''wait, that's stupid''. It's an absolute treat.
 

ERYFKRAD

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Fucking awesome games, despite the lack of barbarians*.
Mr. Magniloquent I would argue that 7,62 high calibre is the true king of RTwP, but what it gains in the way actions play out and how time dependent everything is, it loses in environment destructibility. So, I dunno, maybe it's a draw.

*Pulp adventures mod lets you play as Conan for a bit, so there's that.
 

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