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Publisher: MacPlay    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.1    CPU: G4 @ 400 MHz    RAM: 192 MB    Hard Disk: 600 MB

Freedom Force
February 17, 2003 | Chris Barylick

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I was never meant to be a super hero for the following reasons:

1. The strength of a thousand virile men does not flow through my veins.
2. Intentional exposure to nuclear radiation has only led to costly hospital bills.
3. Good sidekicks are hard to find. Ones that will willingly take the brunt of a physical beating are that much more difficult to locate.
4. A battle cry of "Not the face!" does not intimidate the forces of evil.

Even so, other parties are of the belief that everyone should have a chance to fight the forces of evil. Freedom Force, developed by Irrational Games, ported to the Macintosh by Omni Group and published by MacPlay is the first super hero RPG for the Macintosh.

Your Choice of Spandex
Perhaps the best game a Jack Kirby fan will ever lay eyes upon, Freedom Force brings the comic book world to life and does it with a fair amount of style. From petty thugs to big time gangsters, communists to dinosaurs, robots to alien super-villains, it's all there, lovingly translated to a digital format.

Like any great comic book, it begins with an unlikely hero. As former Manhattan Project scientist Frank Stiles sits in dejected retirement on a park bench, his suspicions about the communist ties of a former coworker are confirmed when he overhears an illicit exchange between the acquaintance and what seems to be a Russian spy. Discovered, Stiles is shot in the heart and left to die. Desperate, he reaches out to the strange glowing statue of a minute man, his body absorbing a strange new energy. Younger, faster and stronger than he ever thought possible, Stiles is the first to be infused with the mysterious Energy X, the weight of age having been cast aside. From this day forward, Stiles is the Minute Man, defender of Patriot City and the first of the Freedom Force.

It's this kind of theme, narrative and energy that pervades the game. The extreme is the norm, evil must be punished and American values must be protected in the fictional Patriot City, during what seems to be the Kennedy administration when good and evil were as clearly defined as Mary Tyler Moore dresses and the casual Fedora. Fortunately, Minute Man is not the last of his kind, players discover and recruit new characters to add to their squads as time passes and missions are completed. Whatever the Energy X is that created Minute Man from the dying Frank Stiles, it seems to be affecting others and sides are being chosen...

Wanted: Evil Genius. Plans for World Domination a Plus
From a graphical perspective, Freedom Force excels. Stylish graphics and terrain solidify the comic book style, the settings and scenarios seeming to have been ported over from the collective conscious of the silver age writers and artists that established the genre in the first place. The colors, textures and gradients are as close to "comic book" as anything and with a few exceptions of selected enemies or characters looking a tad blocky, overdone or cheesy, everything is where it's meant to be, in order to establish the look and feel of things to come.

Perhaps most impressive is the game's physics engine, which had some nice surprises in store. Freedom Force's selling point, especially during its hype period, was the idea that players could take on the powers available to the characters and use them to their advantage. Abilities like wielding a freshly-torn-from-the-concrete street lamp, telephone booth, boulder, crate, oil drum, debris or car are complimented by realistic sensibilities as to their weights and amounts of damage they can take before becoming useless. Height-based physics were also remarkably impressive, as taking a flying character to the top of a building, tearing an air vent from the roof and dropping it onto an unwary thug yielded remarkably realistic results. As a final welcome surprise, the physics engine yielded a nice sense of "dominant object" analysis, if such a thing exists. If an enemy is firing an energy beam as you hurl an object towards it, the engine will consider what damage the object takes, which object prevailed as they collided and react accordingly, sometimes neutralizing the effect of both projectiles or having the two randomly bounce off each other. Nice touches like a transparency feature that kicks in when a player is behind a building, causing the camera to zoom in, make things more enjoyable. The game anticipates the player's need and acts upon it. This engine was someone's baby, well loved and nourished to near-perfection.


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