It’s hard to nail down that one game that I find to be my absolute favorite. I’ve played some great games over the years, some of which I’ve sunk countless hours into. However, none of them compare to the greatness that was the “Freedom Force” games! So, what is Freedom Force? This was a game series that drew elements from classic comic books from 60s.
It was a tactical role-playing game that let you choose from a slew of retro superheroes to fill your party. The first game had about 20 different heroes, while the sequel gave you a bunch more to work with! Both Freedom Force game gave you a ton of missions to complete, and allowed you choose your favorite heroes for most of them. Heck, you didn’t even need to choose any of the game’s already available heroes at all! Why? This is due to the game allowing you to create your own!
Much like what City of Heroes was doing at the time, the game allowed you to tailor-make a hero to your liking. Unfortunately, you couldn’t customize their looks like you could in CoH. The game did allow you to choose from any pre-made character mesh in the game, while also giving the player access to some custom meshes. If that’s not enough for you, there are ton of mods out there that give you even more custom skins to use!
That’s right, Freedom Force had a huge modding community back in the day. Much like how games like Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and Torchlight get mods by the thousands, Freedom Force still receives mods even after a decade and a half after its release. Back in those days, a game with a large modding community was insanely rare. Freedom Force and it’s sequel were one of those odd exceptions.
Before I go further into what makes this series great, allow me to tell you how I was introduced to this venerable franchise. It was my 11th birthday, and I was big into my superhero phase at this point. I spent the 90s chilling and watching superhero cartoons like Spider-Man, X-Men, and The Tick. So, for the longest time I was mainly into superheroes.
For my 11th birthday, I received two superhero-based things: A poster of various Marvel heroes and villains, and a game called “Freedom Force”. I had never heard of this gave before, nor had I ever played a game that was based on superheroes that weren’t related to Marvel or DC. So, I was naturally very intrigued by this game. I booted up this game in 2002, and experienced one of the greatest superhero video-games I had ever played in my life.
No joke, I enjoyed these games more than City of Heroes, Chroma Squad, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, or Viewtiful Joe! Now, these are all fantastic superhero games, but nothing really compared to the raw joy I got from these tactical RPGs. Sure, they aren’t complete masterpieces, but they are definitely the games I played the most in my pre-teen years.
Freedom Force set itself apart from most tactical RPGs with its immense amount of moves and abilities. Characters can a learn a ton of moves, and be decked out with all kinds of insane powers. Want a character that can throw acid bombs and fly? You can do that! Want a character who clone himself and shoot lasers? You can do that as well! The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating a character.
In fact, I often found creating a character to be more fun than using the pre-existing ones. Sure, characters like Tombstone and El Diablo can be a ton of fun to use, but nothing beats making my own weapons of super-powered destruction! Now, the game isn’t perfect. While I dig the 60s comic book style the game goes for, it can rather awkward during the animated cut-scenes.
Characters are often depicted as barely animated 2-dimensional drawings during cut-scenes, so it can often look pretty awkward to see them bouncing around and trying to fight each other. On top of this, I was never a huge fan of the story in the first game. This was mostly due to the fact that it felt very episodic in nature, with most of the individual stories not tying into each other that much.
The oddly titled sequel known as “Freedom Force Vs. The Third Reich” mostly fixed this issue. The story was focused around a more singular narrative, while only occasionally delving into side-stories. Another problem with both games is that the graphics haven’t aged that well, which is to be expected with much older games.
Considering how cheap you can get both games now, I highly recommend grabbing them. At the very least, grab the second game. I find Freedom Force Vs. The Third Reich to be a marked improvement over the original in almost every way! I recommend playing Freedom Force, especially if you’re a fan of Irrational Games’ older works. It’s no Swat 4 or Tribes: Vengeance, but it’s still a fantastic game series nonetheless!