Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Freedom Force (PC)

I've owned this one for years, but I can't remember why I stopped playing it, or much of anything about it in fact. Maybe I'll be able to appreciate it more this time around.

Click the pictures to see them in their original resolution.

Our tale begins with mysterious canisters falling onto the Earth from a crashing spacecraft... then we join elderly Frank Stiles as he sits in a park, thinking about all the good times he had working on the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project... until they fired him for accusing a co-worker of being a communist spy. All sounds perfectly likely so far.

But then, by pure chance, he happens to spot that very same co-worker walking across the park to meet with the world's least subtle Soviet agent! Our hero shuffles over to eavesdrop on them, but accidentally gives himself away.

So his old co-worker shoots him in the heart.

Fortunately Frank's still got enough life in him with a bullet in his heart to crawl over to a glowing Minuteman statue nearby, saturated with power from one of the alien canisters. The Energy X flows from the statue into his dying body, giving him super powers and a mullet.

No more will Frank Stiles have to deal with communist traitors pushing him around! No longer a frail mild-mannered disgraced nuclear scientist, now he is THE MINUTEMAN, and he's going to beat the shit out of them with his stick.

To be honest I love this cheesy 60s style. The art look like it's straight out of a classic comic book, the voice acting is incredibly hammy, the story is campy, but it works.

The music's great too.

And now the guy's suddenly wearing a superhero outfit! I guess he must have brought one in his bag just in case. He was suspiciously quick at picking out a name for himself... like he had one ready.

The game is actually a real time strategy game. I give Minuteman commands with the mouse rather than controlling him directly. The right mouse button brings up a menu of skills. Different skills have different effects, and cost varying amounts of energy. Fortunately it seems that my energy recharges, or else I'd be out of juice after three good swings with my rod.

Also I can change the intensity of each attack, just to complicate things.

I'm not sure it was a great idea for the tutorial to send me off to the edge of the map like this. It kinda ruins the illusion that I'm in a park when I'm staring into the void.

Oh, also, the tutorial's totally skippable. Which is nice.

It wasn't my idea to rip this expensive piece of public property out of the ground, the tutorial told me to! It also implied that I should wrap it around the back of these guys' heads, so I will comply.

It's okay, they're all traitors, the pop up message box told me. I don't know what inspired the Soviet agent to bring 20 thugs to a secret meeting, but it seems to be working out for him so far.

I can still give commands and move the camera while the game is paused, which is good because it's been a real struggle so far to get the thing pointing in the direction I want. Unless there's something in the options I've missed, it seems I have to toggle between being able to move the camera, and being able to rotate it. And when I rotate it, the view snaps back to Minuteman. It's making it a real pain in the ass to scout for enemies.

Apparently someone is being mugged around here, somewhere. Fortunately I don't have to see them to save them, because I can't be bothered fighting with the camera right now.

I just hope there isn't someone with a gun hiding around the corner.

Well the Soviet agent has made his getaway, but I've tracked down the traitorous scientist that shot me. And he's going to shoot me again unless I figure out a way to deal with ranged enemies.

I've got a temporary skill called 'National Guard' that gives me some defence against bullets, but it's pretty damn temporary and costs energy. I think I'll just run up and hit them.

I managed to make it through level one, though only just. My super hero needs a bit of an upgrade I reckon. The tutorial commands me to level up the passive defence 'Eternal Vigilance' skill until I can buy the ranged stun attack 'Minute Missile', so I shall obey.

I don't seem to see any 'shoot enemy with a rifle' skills there though. Didn't minutemen typically carry rifles? At least the ones depicted in statues do.

Damn, I clicked to see what Eternal Vigilance does and got a screenful of info in my face. I think I'll come back to this later when I know more about what I'm doing. Because it's kind of off-putting at the moment.

I've found a lead to the location of the sinister Soviet spy, but first I need to sneak across the rooftops unseen. Because some of those thugs down there have guns and I'll never be able to take them all out fast enough.

Not that I actually know where most of the thugs are. I've managed to find the option to switch on camera turning, so I have a little more control now, but that doesn't help when the thugs don't even appear on screen until I'm close enough to run into them.

Shit, I dropped down to sneak behind some enemies, and walked right into another group that I couldn't even see. Now they're all coming after me, I'm one hit away from death, and my health doesn't recharge.

I've got a health restoring skill but I can only use it once per level. I should probably quick load instead, but for all I know it'd just turn out worse next time. I really have no plan here.

I don't even know where the target is, all my guide arrows have deserted me! I'm just wandering around aimlessly.

My refilled health bar lasted about 10 seconds as I struggled to get away. Fortunately I've spotted a full-health pick up behind that fence.

This is about limit of my view distance by the way, and I don't seem to have a map. Without those arrows I'm finding it easy to get lost.

Oh of course, right after collecting the health I get immediately blown up. I gotta admit, I'm really not liking this gameplay much so far.


This time I ran away from the goons with guns until I eventually reached a mysterious mentalist with the power to cloud men's minds.

Oh shit, it wears off! Now I'm back in the same situation I was last time.

The other hero turns out to be pretty useless in a fight and gets knocked out as I run away.

Yes, yes follow me you assholes! Follow me around as I leap from building to building and get you stuck on geometry as your puny minds cannot calculate the route to reach me.

My scheme actually works for once. With all the enemies lured away I'm able to meet up with my new ally safely and together we hunt down the Soviet agent.

Onto the next level.

Oh crap, don't tell me there's friendly fire in this too? I can't do anything more than a basic punch without ending up hitting the other hero accidentally.

I can't even move them around in an automatic formation to give them a bit of spacing, they just run up in a group and when I give them a command, they'll run up to get in range by themselves. And they don't care who gets in the way.


THERE! I got you, you bastard. Now I just have to give the ice a quick punch, and the Soviet spy Sukhov will shatter into a thousand frozen fragments!

But I don't get to, because my new friend drags me off saying that "we must depart". Shouldn't we at least call the police? I mean it's obvious the guy's just going to break out and get ice powers, my ally basically even hints at himself before we leave, so lets just sort it out now!

Nope, our two heroes run away having achieved basically nothing except turn a villain into a super villain.


You'll never guess what happened. Turns out that Sukhov became a super villain with ice powers and froze the park and everyone in it. Who could have seen that coming?

Anyway, we're here now to save the day, except we're actually just hitting each other with our powers still. Good work mind-wiping your super strong team-mate Mentor, now you're going to have to hit the enemies all by yourself with your painfully slow attack.

Right I'll pause the game, tell Minuteman to throw this table at the enemies, and order Mentor to get the hell out of the way.

How the fuck did I ONLY hit Mentor? Oh sure there's a couple of  '5's popping up, but Mentor's the only one flying back.


I haven't even thrown the damn thing yet, I'm just picking it up. You useless pathetic excuse for a super-hero.


True to form, as soon as they reach their nemesis, the duo are immediately frozen and captured.

At least it wasn't my fault this time.

BUT WHAT'S THIS? A new hero arrives, and he can fly and he's competent! Or maybe I'm just so used to suffering with friendly fire that controlling only one character seems slightly less annoying.

Of course it helps that he's got fire powers, and they're all ice villains. His attacks are super effective!


I rescue Minuteman and he suckers me into joining his team. So much for my short lived career as a successful super hero. I guess we should go thaw out the other one too then.


This is actually working out better now. With Minuteman able to stun enemies at a distance, and the new guy having ranged attacks, I'm able to engage groups without getting my ass kicked.

Oh, plus I have Mentor to run around and draw fire. Yes that's right evil henchmen, aim for the pink target on his forehead!

Wait, nuclear warhead? WHAT? How the hell did we get from saving people in a frozen park to talking about nuclear warheads? Actually you know what, I don't care. This is where I turn it off.

I checked the reviews, and apparently the game was showered with praise and critical acclaim, so it's possible that maybe it's my own damn fault that I'm finding it impossible to enjoy. Perhaps it gets way better when you get more characters and skills, or maybe I just plain suck at the game.

I can't recommend it, and I can't say the reviewers are wrong either...

I think I'll just uninstall it and play something else.


  1. I remember playing the demo for "Freedom Force Versus The Third Reich" when it was released, and I basically felt the same about that one.
    It's one of these games where the blurb at the back of the box is more exciting than the game itself: "you're a superhero, you've got plenty of amazing powers and you kick ass!!". When really it's rather slow and boring.

  2. "Perhaps it gets way better when you get more characters and skills, or maybe I just plain suck at the game."

    A little from column A, a little from column B. I'm replaying the nigh-identical sequel and the gameplay doesn't really stop being frustrating, but it gets some charm.

    The new characters and skills give the combat some heft. A fourth squad member joins to take down Nuclear Winter. Once these guys get their Freedom Fortress, the game offers some (namely, any) ability to build the team from a growing, diverse roster. Four people isn't exactly the Normandy Landings, but it's more room for things like crowd control and buffing. That mission with just Minuteman and Mentor is a pain.

    Later on the devs throw in another wretched solo mission with Liberty Lad (because of course there are sidekicks.) Urrgh. I like the games but they're better in small doses.

    Once the heroes are assembled and blowing themselves up less often, I find there's a glee to the games. I like to set the pause to be one-sixteenth speed instead of a complete stop, so I can watch nazis float past the camera. That competent hero can learn to blow up background objects, like ones the enemies have just picked up. Tee hee hee.

    The style really helps: the first game strikes a good balance between dumb cheesiness and sincerity, and sticks to that, throwing in a steady stream of giant ants, robots from the future, malicious clones, dinosaurs and whatnot. This is a great setup when it's not being a pain in the ass.

    1. I remember that getting enough Prestige Points to do anything useful with your team to be a right pain in the butt. About half-way through the game I decided I was done with trying to manage a team and just put all my points into one absurdly powerful dude. The only character model the game had that wasn't one of the heroes or villains from the main story was a man in a red suit, so that was my party from then on: Agent Carlton (because he looked a bit like Carlton from the Fresh Prince) and his super high speed, glide power and ridiculously powerful Disrupt Object ability. As long as there was some kind of object lying around, Carlton could zip through the map and blow it up with enough force to throw everything within fifty metres flying. Couldn't do anything else, but he didn't need to. It made the game pass much quicker, so I'm thankful.

      The best superhero RTWP RPG combat type game I've played, out of one.


Semi-Random Game Box