Review by The Manx
"Waddaya know? A superhero game that's actually good"
Superhero video games have a bad rep. This is because most of them are licensed from cartoons or comic books, and because of the necessity of licensing fees coming from the game's budget, most are pretty anemic. Superman 64, anyone? Which is probably why Freedom Force is one of the only really, really good superhero video games it has been my pleasure to play. It features no famous mainstream superheroes or villains, but that means that money went into making a great game instead.
The plot kicks off with the alien tyrant Lord Dominion planning to seed earth with something called Energy-X which will give people super-powers, and we'll supposedly use those to beat the snot out of each other so he can just waltz and take over the weakened human race. An alien called the Mentor tries to steal the Energy-X and use it to find people who will help him fight Lord Dominion, but he gets shot down and good and bad folks alike get saturated with Energy-X and grow super-powers. The story unfolds as your team gets bigger and the villains get stronger.
So you control Freedom Force, a collective of individuals who developed powers from Energy-X, then decided to put on funky outfits and masks and fight crime. And despite what I said about no mainstream superheroes above, some of them are awfully familiar (the Ant, for instance, was the school geek who got bitten by radioactive bugs and has the powers of those insects now, including the ability to stick to walls...). You start off with just Minute Man, but before you bet your first super-villain you'll have Mentor, El Diablo, and Man-Bot to help out. And during just about every episode another guy joins.
There are heroes who do not automatically join the team, however, heroes you have to trade in ''prestige points'' to recruit. The stronger the hero, the more he costs to recruit. There's also a feature allowing you to make up your own heroes or simulacrums of comic book heroes if you download skins from the internet, and these can also be recruited with prestige points.
And prestige points are a mark of how well you did in each level, awarded for completing your objectives and beating as many bad guys as possible while minimizing property damage and civilian casualties. All they matter for is letting you get new heroes, though.
Before each mission you pick up to four heroes to take. Sometimes you can't take one guy, sometimes you have to take one guy. And you don't HAVE to take four guys if you don't WANT to...but I don't know why you wouldn't with the small army of bad guys looking to fill you full of lead in every level. After that it's an overhead strategy deal, where your heroes take on the forces of evil in various locales, but usually city streets. You want to beat the bad guys down but keep innocent bystanders from getting hurt and buildings from getting wrecked. After a couple levels against general enemies (if you can call robots and dinosaurs general) you battle a super-villain boss, then move on to the next episode. If you can find them, there's canisters of Energy-X lying around that either give you more prestige, experience points, heal one of your heroes or refill his super-power bar, depending on what color they are. After the level you can spend experience points your heroes accumulate to beef up their powers for the tougher battles later on.
The game manages to be campy without being stupid or juvenile, which by itself nets this game several points. Once you get into it you'll have a lot of fun experimenting with the different heroes and figuring out who to use in which missions and against which enemies. If you've waited long for a decent superhero game, your prayers have been answered.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/04/04
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