Freedom Force vs the 3rd Reich - Reviewed by Spider
In FFvsT3R you once again gain control of the squad of super heroes known as Freedom Force. In the beginning only four of the heroes are available (the rest are on vacation) but as the game progresses all the old characters will become available. For those of you who haven’t played the first game, these include the very patriotic Minute Man, the wise-cracking insectoid The Ant and the magic-wielding The Alchemiss. Yes, there are more than a few resemblances to classical silver age heroes. There are also a few new characters to get to know and love. And if that isn’t enough you can always create your own character to recruit into the team.
A few of the old villains return as well and are joined by new interesting ones such as Red October and Blitzkrieg. Speaking of Blitzkrieg, if there ever was a classic comic book villain, it would be him. He really shows the meaning of the term comic book evil and is good for a few laughs. Of course, all the villains bring with them their share of followers and through the games you will battle against various nazi soldiers, warlocks and even killer gorillas.
The game starts with a brief recap of what happened in the first game to bring everyone up to speed and then it’s time to get to it. It starts with a tutorial mission that goes through the controls of the game but also kicks off the story. Without giving away too much of the story let’s just say that the premise is that somehow the Nazis got access to Energy X, the mysterious energy that creates the superbeings, and managed to win World War II. Now it’s up to Freedom Force to travel backwards in time and stop that from happening.
The story is written in the same spirit as the comics the game pays homage to and it’s all good fun. Personally I am not a huge fan of time travel stories, but in this setting it works. Nothing can be taken too seriously and with that in mind it’s definitely a clever and engaging story with its fair number of twists and turns.
I’ve read somewhere that there is a new engine in place in this game compared to the first, but it really doesn’t show. And that’s a good thing. The graphics are very similar to those of the first game and while they may not be as visually stunning as some of the games currently on the market they are perfect for the game. They are very stylized and it really feels like the characters are walking through the pages of a 60s comic. Most of the terrain can be interacted with in one way or another and it’s really great fun to throw cars at your opponents while the city around you falls apart.
The sound in the game is also very good. From sound effects to the musical score, it all fits just perfect. Especially the voice acting really helps to create the games atmosphere. All actors from the first game are back and their performance is just as good now as it was then (which is very good) and the same is true for the new cast as well. It’s all very over-the-top dramatic, which is just as it should be.
The game controls are also quite excellent. The interface has been streamlined a little, so now it’s clearer than ever what a power does and how much energy it will consume. And the basic powers of any character have had their energy costs completely removed, so you no longer have to deal with a hero incapable of even throwing a punch. At its core the game is still the same though. It’s still a real-time strategy game that you can pause at any time by hitting the space bar to either think or issue commands and you still control up to four characters each mission. The action menu, which you access by right-clicking when a hero is selected (which also pauses the game), is also there of course.
Since the game has a mission-based gameplay it really stands or falls with its missions, but there is no need to worry. A lot of the missions are of the bash-all-bad-guys variety, but there is also a lot of variety. In fact, I was surprised of how clever some of the missions were plotted. There was not a single mission that felt boring or like a chore and that is very unusual. Even the first game had its dull moments.
Between missions you get the RPG elements of FFvsT3R. Your characters gain experience points and this is when you get to spend them. Characters get more experience if they go on missions, but even those who stay at home get a little. You get to choose what powers on a character you want to increase and what new ones to get. The experience cost for different powers have been changed in comparison to the first game, more specifically a lot of the powers have become much cheaper. Also, powers start at a higher level, after all this is the Freedom Force’s second adventure, so it makes sense they’ve all grown more powerful since last time (although not as powerful as some was at the end of the first game).
So far this has been nothing but positive and that is simply because I loved this game. But there are a couple of things that brings it down a bit though. First of all the game was a bit too easy for my taste. I played it on the default difficulty and I only had to reload twice. Both my reloads were in the last mission and once I discovered that a character mandatory for the mission had a power that was extremely powerful that mission also became a cakewalk. To make things worse, the power I mentioned is also extremely cheap to upgrade, although I didn’t notice that until after I completed the game. Now, I would love to think I felt the game was extremely easy because I have such a natural talent for super hero battles, but I know I messed up on a couple of missions and still managed to beat them. I guess I should have just cranked up the difficulty once I noticed this, but I am of the belief that the default difficulty should be the appropriate one for a first play-through. Once I finished the game I did start a new game with the difficulty set to "impossible" and that definitely made the game a lot tougher. All of a sudden the weakest minion had more hitpoints than any of my characters. As far sa I can tell, adjusting the difficulty had no other effect on the game other than increasing the hitpoints of the adversaries, but I only played a couple of missions that way.
The second thing that bugged me was the games length. It felt much shorter than the original and this is not a good thing for a sequel. This could be due to my lack of reloads, but I think a few more missions wouldn’t hurt. In the end though this only detracts a little, due to the quality of what it offers. In a way, I guess me wanting the game to last longer is one of the best compliments I can give.
Once the campaign has been finished there are a few things to keep the game going a while longer. There is a multi-player part with a few different modes, but to me it’s nothing spectacular. There is also a single player feature called the Rumble Room where you get to pick a squad of characters (and here you can pick any creature in the game, not just Freedom Force character) to battle waves of enemies. Its fun for a little while, but quickly gets tedious.
So to sum things up, Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich is a great game that is loads of fun. It’s a bit too easy and could use a few more hours of gameplay, but what is there is excellent. Graphics may not be top notch by todays standards, but they are definitely good enough and suit the game perfectly. It’s definitely a game you should be playing rather than reading about.