Tag Archives: Freedom Force

Video Game Roundup – Summer 2008 Edition

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about video games, largely because I was going through a bit of a dry spell in that arena. That all changed about a month ago when, after about three years of nagging from a friend, I reinstalled City of Heroes. ((This is not an exaggeration. I had characters that were inactive for well over 1200 days.)) Well, technically, I installed City of Villains, but the fine folks at NCSoft bundle the subscriptions to both, so “upgrading” to City of Villains got me 30 days of free play on both games.

Now that I’ve got my game on again, I’ve taken a belly flop into the pool of pixelated entertainment. Here are the games I’ve been playing over the past couple of weeks:

  • City of Heroes (PC)City of Heroes/Villains (PC) I’ve only played three Massively Multiplayer Online Games, ((The other two: Earth & Beyond and the original iteration of Star Wars Galaxies.)) but City of Heroes is by far my favorite. A friend at work has been trying to get me to join the cult of World of Warcraft for several months, but elves and orcs don’t appeal to me as much as capes and cowls. I meant to create a few villains during my 30-day “trial” period, but was having so much fun with my cadre of heroes that I never bothered.
  • Destroy All Humans 2 (Xbox)Destroy All Humans 2: Make War Not Love (Xbox). Long-time readers of this blog will undoubtedly know that I’m not especially good at completing video games. I once lost a bet because I couldn’t finish two games in a year. Every once in a while, though, a game grabs hold of me much in the same way a crocodile siezes a wildebeest, its jaws clamping down on the unwary ungulate’s throat until the final twitch is twutch. Destroy All Humans 2 had all the elements necessary to be that game, plus I began playing just when Laura and Kyle fled to Florida for a week, leaving me free to play and play and play some more with no one wanting to watch The Wonder Pets! or (worse)The Closer. ((Seriously, Kyra Sedgwick’s accent drives me up the wall. I’d much rather hear Ming Ming duckling say “this is sewious” than listen to Mrs. Kevin Bacon drawl her way through another interrogation. That’s why she’s so good at what she does: five minutes in a room with her is enough to make even the most hardened criminal confess to anything as long as she will just shut up, fer crissakes!)) The story takes place in 1969 and follows Cryptosporidium-138, an alien invader who (in the first game) managed to infiltrate the White House. Now, however, the Russians have destroyed his mothership and he’s out for revenge, uncovering a vast conspiracy (and meeting a dangerously enchanting female KGB agent) along the way. The dialog is amusing (rife with innuendo and not at all appropriate for young kids), the missions are challenging but almost never frustrating, and the variety of weapons that Crypto acquires for himself and his flying saucer as the game progresses make destroying humanity fun for the whole family. Except the kids. And probably wife.
  • Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC)Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC). I own this roleplaying game for both the PC and the Xbox, ((But not the Game of the Year edition that includes both the Tribunal and Bloodmoon expansions. No, that would be too convenient.)) but I’ve never really taken a character beyond Seyda Neen (the village in which the hero begins the game). Once upon a yesterday I named Morrowind as my “Island Game”, the single title I’d take with me if I were stranded alone on an island and somehow miraculously had both a computer and the electricity necessary to play games all day (instead of building a raft or a signal fire, I guess, which seems very typical of me). I’ve heard so many good things about this game (and even better things about Oblivion, its successor) that I’m determined to play it through, come hell or high water.
  • LEGO Indiana Jones (PC)LEGO Indiana Jones (PC). Having enjoyed both LEGO Star Wars games immensely on the Xbox, I was disappointed to learn that LEGO Indiana Jones would only be available for “next generation” consoles. ((Please, for the love of Adam Sessler’s anime-inspired hair, stop calling the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii “next generation consoles”! They’re here, for cryin’ out loud! They’re current generation! Just…knock it off…really.)) So, when I was wandering through Best Buy and found myself reading the system requirements for the PC version, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my aging desktop computer met those requirements. Alas, the recommended system specs were considerably higher than the minimum specs, so the game ran rather poorly, at least until I upgraded my PC. Even so, the keyboard-based control scheme in the PC version is sadly inferior to the Xbox controller setup; so much so that I may put this game aside until I can buy an Xbox 360 controller. ((For those who may not know, wired Xbox 360 controllers are USB devices and compatible with Windows.))
  • Homeworld (PC)Homeworld (PC). I blame Sam Chupp for this one. He casually mentioned that he couldn’t stop playing Homeworld and I suddenly developed a nervous tic that wouldn’t go away until I dug out the install CDs for not only Homeworld, but Homeworld: Cataclysm and Homeworld 2. This 3-D realtime space simulator has everything: beautiful graphics, compelling story, intuitive interface, engaging gameplay, and some of the best sound effects and music I’ve ever heard in a video game. Very few games have been able to pull me so completely into their universe, but Homeworld is definitely one of them.
  • Command & Conquer Generals (PC)Command & Conquer Generals (PC). Ah, the alphabet. Because I have my games arranged alphabetically, I stumbled across the Command & Conquer Generals discs in my hunt for Homeworld and then next thing I knew I was installing the game. Generals never really ran well on my PC, but it’s beautiful now that I’ve upgraded. I have never finished an RTS (though I came close with StarCraft and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos), but there’s a first time for everything, or so I’ve heard.
  • Freedom Force (PC)Freedom Force (PC). Now here’s a game I have finished. In fact, I finished the sequel (Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich) in about a week, which was (at the time) entirely unprecedented. I need to scratch my superhero gaming itch, and this is definitely the game that’ll do so. The first time I played through I was only concerned with completing the story, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Destroy All Humans 2 it’s that completing one hundred percent of the game—leaving no stone unturned, no objective unaccomplished and no shiny ungrabbed—is immensely satisfying. My goal with Freedom Force is to complete every secondary objective of every mission; no mean feat, as usually the secondary objectives are only revealed after the mission is complete.

Freedom Force Finished!

Freedom Force vs. The 3rd ReichFreedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich

I just wrapped up Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich, which can mean only one thing: the game was too short. I installed it on 01 August, a mere seven days ago and finished it without using cheats, walkthroughs, user forums, or any other assistance. To complete a game in a week is simply unheard of around here. I demand more!

The nice thing about the game is that I can go back and play it through again at a higher difficulty level and/or using different heroes for each of the mission. Before each mission, you assemble your team of four (usually) heroes. Sometimes, certain heroes cannot be selected for one reason or another, and the Freedom Force roster grows as the game progresses. I definitely favor some characters (I use Bullet just about any time he’s available for a mission, El DiabloEl Diablo was the inspiration for one of my City of Heroes characters, Conflagrante. The two have similar powers and ethnic backgrounds, though their origin stories are quite different. is another favorite and Man-Bot is a walking tank) and shy away from others (Mentor is a wimp in the early game, as is Law), so it’d be a challenge to run through the game with characters I don’t normally use.

Though I’ve only had it for a week, Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich managed to suck up hours of time at a sitting. The game combines an engaging story with well-developed (yet very familiar) characters and excellent play mechanics.

The story takes place in both the Silver (1956-1974) and Golden (1938-1954Dr. Frederick Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent had a hand in bringing the Golden Age of comics to a close. Wertham blamed comic books for pretty much everything that was wrong with young people in America. The guy would have had a field day with modern video games.) Ages of comic super heroes. In 1962, the heroes of Freedom Force grow restless after the defeat of the Time Master (in the original Freedom Force game). The reappearance of an old enemy sets in a motion a series of events that leads them to travel through time to 1942 in an attempt to stop Germany from winning World War II. The plot is a good blend of Silver and Golden Age storylines, complete with outlandish, stereotypical villains and over-dramatic heroes.

The characters in Freedom Force tend to be interesting and clever versions of one or more classic comic book heroes. Minute Man is a flag-waving Captain America type, complete with a Bucky Barnes-like sidekick named Liberty Lad, while Man-Bot is a cross between Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk. Law and Order are very similar to Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, and Bullet is the Flash with a southern drawl. Man-o-War is a fishy cross between Aquaman and Sean Connery and Mentor is a hybrid of DC’s Martian Manhunter and Marvel’s Professor X.

This might seem like mere copycatting, but Freedom Force is more an homage than it is a ripoff. The familiarity of the characters is part of how developer Irrational Games managed to capture the feel of classic comics. Everything about the game owes something to those classic comics, and even the load screen for each mission is presented as a comic book cover (price: 12 cents).

Gameplay is fairly straightforward: select a hero and then give him or her a command (run/fly to a location, attack a villain, activate a specific power). The action can get pretty hectic, and the ability to pause the game to issue orders to your heroes is absolutely critical; without it, the game would be pretty much unplayable. Pausing lets you jump from one hero to another, coordinating various aspects of combat to ensure that each super-powered crusader is doing his or her part in the fight for truth, justice, and … well, you know.

All in all, Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich is a worthy successor to one of my favorite PC games in recent memory. Everything that made the first game so enjoyable has been preserved and expanded upon. New heroes and villains (complete with new powers) have been added to the mix. The graphics have been updated, though not to such a degree that they lose that Silver Age feel, and the game features the same wonderful, cheesy voice acting as the first installment. My only complaint is that the story was far too short, though I’m hoping that the wide variety of heroes will give it a decent replay value.

Master Chiefs and Minute Men

HALOHALO (Xbox)

Chalk up another one in the “W” column. Miscellaneous G™ and I made the final push to complete HALO last night, thus finally finishing the first game I ever purchased for the Xbox. The journey was hectic and often frustrating (jumping sucks in this game) but the outcome was quite satisfying. I was a little surprised with the brevity of the closing cinematics, however. After slicing through the Covenant and the Flood like a hot knife through so much screaming, writhing butter, I expected the finale to be a little more… dramatic.

Afterwards, I installed a new driver for my Radeon 9600 and fired up Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich. I was able to play through the entire “Hunt for Red Oktober” mission without incident, so it would appear that the problem has been resolved. The members of Freedom Force will have little time to celebrate their victory, however, as it appears that Nuclear Winter has pulled a snow job on Red Oktober and plans to bring about an atomic apocalypse. Now that she sees the truth, the witch is only too eager to see her former colleague brought to justice and has provided Minute Man and his cadre of courageous compatriots with details regarding the Russian rogue’s sinister scheme.

In other news, the ‘rents were in Toledo last night and should arrive sometime this evening. I should stop and pick up some of that “Crime Scene – Do Not Cross” tape to put across my office door. Thankfully, untidiness is only a misdemeanor.

Freedom Force vs. CSI

Freedom Force vs. The 3rd ReichFreedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich (PC)

After dinner and an episode of CSI ((I have a love/hate relationship with CSI. On one hand, criminal forensics is fascinating. On the other hand, the show takes ridiculous license with what can and cannot be accomplished with some evidence, particularly photographs. For instance, gleaning the color of a person’s eyes by interpolating the colors from a single frame of black and white security camera video. Huh? Or maybe enhancing a blurry photograph to determine not only who the subject of the photo is, but also that there is a porthole behind the photographer. That’s right, a blurry 3/4 body shot is sharpened to such a degree that the forensic detective is able to zoom in on the subject’s eye and pick out the detail of a porthole in the reflection!

And then there’s the silly stuff like last night’s crossover with the crew from CSI: Miami. During a scene in which a diver is going in to find a submerged car, David Caruso is standing by with a rifle to fend off alligators. Jump ahead 10 minutes and the same diver is now going after a gun. No David Caruso. No rifle. Apparently no fear of alligators.

Watching CSI makes me feel like I’m turning into my dad. Why? Because there’s apparently a limit to how far my disbelief can be suspended. Several years ago, watching Speed with my dad, I rolled my eyes after he said, “There’s no way that bus is still going fifty miles per hour after hitting those barrels!”

Dad, I know how you felt.)) last night, I installed Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich. The installation went smoothly, so I launched the game… and two hours disappeared. This is exactly what would happen when I played the original Freedom Force. After taking a brief break, I returned to the game again and another 45 minutes slipped away and it appeared that I was well on my way to losing another two hours.

And then the game crashed.

Well, it more than crashed. The video changed from a group of stalwart superheroes battling belligerent bad guys to a blank blue screen. The audio stuttered on the last two seconds of music and dialog. No amount of Alt-Tabbing or Control-Alt-Deleting made any difference whatsoever. My computer was completely locked up.

So I reset my computer and tried again. Same mission, identical crash. There may be a pattern here, I thought. The keen observational powers of my well-honed analytical mind are not to be underestimated.

So I did the unthinkable: I read the ReadMe file for the game. In the section labeled “Known Issues” I learned that there are some problems with ATI video cards running outdated drivers. As it so happens, I recently installed a new ATI video card in my computer and neglected to update the driver afterward. That’s right, I’m using the driver that came on the installation CD! My computer geek license ought to be revoked.

Before going to bed, I started downloading the latest driver from ATI’s website. When I got up this morning, I verified that the download completed successfully (as far as Firefox can tell, anyway). Tonight at some point, I’ll install the driver and try the mission again.

It is imperative that Minute Man, The Green Genie, Bullet and El Diablo locate Nuclear Winter’s new partner, the witch called Red Oktober. We must learn more about their fiendish plot! The fate of the world may hang in the balance!