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Freedom Force Vs. The Third Reich

"FOR FREEDOM!" Yes, Minuteman and his band of rag-tag heroes are back to take on the most overused villain in video games, The Third Reich. Fortunately, Irrational Games uses their comic-inspired creativity and spins the tale as if we had never heard of the Nazi party. Not forgetting its predecessor, the story line picks up where the original Freedom Force left off. Man-Bot has sacrificed himself to preserve the continuity of time and Alchemiss is hell-bent on blaming herself for his demise. Add in a collection of new heroes along with some old favorites and you have a fast paced adventure filled with time travel and alternate realities. Once again, the presentation of the Freedom Force world oozes with brilliant ingenuity and a genuine grasp of comic artistry. Each mission is presented as an issue of a comic book that immerses the gamer in a thematic, playful world of super-heroism.

If it's not broke…

Irrational decided to keep the same GUI (graphic user interface) as seen in the original game. You can switch from hero to hero using your mouse or the handy pictures in the bottom left corner. Also, the hero's chosen power is listed underneath the picture when selected. Alternatively, you can switch powers by right clicking on your hero and selecting from the menu. The combat system is primarily about balancing the strengths and weaknesses of your four heroes. Power switching for different strategic situations can become tedious at times, but it's the nature of the game. My most used button is actually the pause button. Without it, my virtual heroes would be lying dead on the colorful landscape.

The create-a-hero mode is another aspect that's been carried over from the previous game. With an expanded set of powers, the creation of a unique hero has never been easier. While some of your heroes will be unavailable in certain missions due to the ongoing storyline, a custom hero will always be an option for any mission. While the inception of a custom combatant can be entertaining, Irrational has provided so many extra heroes your disposal that you really don't need another hero in the mix. For fans of DC and Marvel comics, Freedom Force fan sites offer many skins of your favorite characters from those respective universes.

The AI, enemy and heroes, within this game can be troublesome at times. Occasionally, directing a hero into an enemy's line of sight will not alert the villain at all. While this makes the game relatively simpler, spending time thinking up an approach strategy is wasted effort. Your teammates will also lack in common sense occasionally. Directing a teammate to a certain location can be perplexing when they cannot maneuver the landscape correctly. Additionally, the speed at which the heroes move is frustrating. A speedy character, such as Bullet, is always the first to battle and the first to die while a slow character, such as Sky King, will take forever to reach the battle which may be over by then. Character movement requires a vast amount of micro-management, which can take away from the heat of battle.

Beyond the 21-mission, 12 - 15 hour single player game, there are a couple new features that give this sequel a bit more replay value. The first is a single player skirmish mode that sends a continual onslaught of villains at your hero. Skirmish mode can grow thin after a while due to repetition of the combat system. The other is a 4 player multiplayer mode which can take place online or over a LAN. It's a wonderful riot taking a custom creation into battle against an online adversary. Unfortunately, lack of online players severely detracts from the usage of this mode.

While the added modes only slightly add to the replay value, Irrational offers mods tools via their website: The mod community is spending considerable time creating their own comic book adventures. While the voice acting can be horrific at times, these mods are superb for people craving more single player action and extensions of the existing Freedom Force storyline.

The graphical elements of this sequel are representative of the previous game. The level environments are colorfully detailed and slightly more interactive. The character models haven't noticeably changed, but that doesn't detract from the art direction. The origin stories are still feel unique in the comic book format. Perhaps the main lack of polish can be found in the cutscenes. The voices do not sync up to the lips of a speaking hero, nor do the characters feel lifelike. Also, the stiff nature of the character movement during the cutscenes cheapens the experience.

This is one aspect of the game that really shines. The voice actors and actresses that were featured in the original Freedom Force have returned to give life to their characters. The voices recorded for the new heroes are quite spectacular as well, especially the Jimmy Stewart style of Sky King. In addition, the dialogue is as witty as ever. The sound effects haven't changed, nor has the rousing opening theme song. The rest of the musical score has been retooled and improved upon for all of the levels. This level of attention to acoustic detail is not seen in many games, hence why Freedom Force garners so much attention.

The Freedom Force series is a wonderful experience for any fan of superheroes or comic books. That being said, it's a tough game for a novice to jump right into due to a lack of understanding the combat system or the RPG-style of leveling. Also, if you haven't played the first Freedom Force game, do not pick this sequel if you want to understand the story details. The original game can be found for 10 bucks at most stores. As for what this game is worth, look for it when it hits the $25 range.