With great minds comes great gameplay
Have you ever noticed that a majority of video games that feature super-heroes (licensed or not-licensed) are in the action adventure genre (with the exeption of Marvel vs. Capcom)? most likely. Although there is one game that did break that formula and instead of it being an action adventure game, it became a strategy RPG. That game is Freedom Force.
The story is about a super-hero team called, Freedom Force (obviosly), who have obtain their powers by being exposed to this chemical called, "Energy X". Energy X is the "secret weapon" that is created by this alien race called, "The Dominions", which controls almost all of the planets in the galaxy, except for Earth. To take over Earth in an amusing fashion, they decided to give the Energy X to the most evil and sinister people on the planet and have them be the ones who take over the planet for the Dominions. Before it happens, this spy of another alien race, named Mentor trys to foil the plans of the Dominions, by stealing the Energy X canisters and try to give them to the most good-hearted people of earth to try to defeat the Dominions. Unfortunatley, his ship carrying the canisters, is spotted by the Dominions and attack Mentor along with the canisters in the ship. Mentor's ship explodes, while the canisters are randomley scattered around Earth's Surface and would usually hit humans and other things booth good and evil. There is also more to this story, but I don't want to spoil it for you.
A majority of super-hero games would usually take place in a modern day setting. That isn't the case with Freedom Force, which takes place in in the early 1960s which makes the game reminiscant of the silver age of comic-books. That also applies to thed designs of the heroes themselves.
Speaking of heroes, There is good number of them which all have their own distinct statistics, attributes, powers and origins (which are played through cutscenes that have this comic-book esc. presentation to them). They even have their own personalities and feelings. Even if it is somewhat stereotypical.
Anyway, I should really be talking about the gameplay in Freedom Force. When I read most reviews of Freedom Force, they would categorize the game as an RPG, but if you did view Freedom Force as an RPG, you would think that this game would suck. Freedom Force is more like a Squad-based strategy game, with RPG elements. At the begining of each mission, you select the heroes you wish to control and then complete the objectives.
Most of the missions require defeating a certain villian or object, but you will forget about the small amount of mission variety when you get into the battle system. The system is in real-time, but you can pause the game and give orders to your heroes (similiar to games like Baldur's Gate). As mentioned earlier, your heroes have their own unique assets that contributes greatly to the battles played-out. I should bring up that the enemie variety isn't so great and you can often encounter the same enemie numerous times (especially if you are speaking of only one chapter), but onlike other games, it dosen't make the game boring. Although, the only thing that did bother me about the bother me about the battle system is that they can only attack the enemy you selected manually. Basically, say one of your heroes kill a bad-guy, and another one is attacking him. Your hero will not attack the guy, until you command him to do so. Another scenario is when you have a hero attack a vililan with an energy-consuming attack, he won't continue fighting until you command him to do so. This is a big problem that should be fixed in games with real-time games, especially ones that have as much strategic depth as Freedom Force does. Although A.I. problems aside, the battle system is still enjoyable.
To break up the tedium of fighting battle after battle, you can explore the area of the mission to search for canisters that improve your selected-character's EXP and/or ones that can give your "prestige points" which can be used to recruit new heroes. You can also obtain more prestige by doing these side-quests that are within the mission to obtain extra prestige. Although, despite the majority of recruittable heroes having their own involvment in the story, there are 3 heroes that you can recruit that don't have their origins told in the comic-book style cutscenes or have any involvment in the story. It makes them seem like they aren't in the game world in the first place.
I also had problems with the linearity and lack of replay value. In fact, there is no replay value because you can't revisit any of the missions if you wish, to get extra prestige that you missed out on. And despite the number of side-quests, I wish I could select the missions in a non-linear fashion. Also, despite being a minor complaint, I wish players had the ability to become a villian while playing the game similiar to games like Black & White.
The graphics for Freedom Force are pretty good and the designs for the heroes and villians are very well done. Another thing that seperates Freedom Force from other super hero games are the good use of action ballons (that says "BLAM!!" and "POW!!") whenever you a attack somehting, which makes it unique. The audio is also great, with music similiar to 1960's spy movies which is really fitting for a game like this. The sound effects are also well done. As for the acting...it's mediocre, but you can't blame the actors with even more mediocre dialog. Although, it is fitting for a game like this.
There is also a multi-player mode, which may make you think, for a game like this, that it's cooperative like Diablo or Phantasy Star Online. It isn't sadly. Instead it's multiplayer mode is similiar to first person shooters because there's a deathmatch mode. I didn't bother playing the multiplayer version because I heard that it isn't worth checking out.
Overall, Freedom Force is a very well-made strategy game that strategy fans or comic book fans looking for a different game experience. Unlike other super-hero games, Freedom Force is a very well-made game.