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Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich: Proving Superhero Games Don’t Suck
Genre: Nazis. I Hate These Guys Publisher: Irrational Games Developer: Irrational Games Platform: PC Metacritic Metascore: 87
The original Freedom Force, which was released in 2002, came along when comic book fans had pretty much given up all hope of seeing a computer or video game with superheroes in it. Not only are Freedom Force and its sequel, Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich, great games, they started the trend of comic book games that shows no signs of stopping.
FFv3R features a lot of the same faces from the original, including Minuteman, El Diablo, Mentor, and The Ant along with some new heroes and villains. This time FF goes back in time from the early 1960s to 1942 to battle the evil Blitzkrieg.
The Third Reich is better than the original in nearly every way; it still keeps its campy Silver Age comic theme, but it sports better graphics, an improved interface, and more destructive environments without sacrificing its classic real-time tactical depth.
Breaking the Curse
The superhero game curse was sort of like the curse of the Red Sox; very few people deep down felt it was actually a curse, but it was amazingly frustrating to see so many promising superhero games end up as vaporware.
Games such as Guardians: Agents of Justice, The Indestructibles, and Champions (based on the popular pen and paper RPG), and a few others started out as great ideas and some even made it into the alpha build stage, but all ended up taking the dirt nap before release for one reason or another.
When Freedom Force shipped fans embraced its campy humor and streamlined gameplay that carries the torch for the Silver Age of comic books. What took some a while to warm to it was that it used an entirely new band of heroes and villains. No one had ever heard of Minuteman, El Diablo, Liberty Lad, or The Ant. It’s always an easier sell when you can tell fans that they can play as Spider-Man or Batman. Thankfully, the designers at Irrational Games are big comic book fans in their own right, so after the initial "Who are these guys?" questions subsided, fans realized that this was a fantastic RPG/Strategy game.
Mod Heaven, Sort Of
The editing tools for Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich are available and the modders are hard at work on building complex missions and campaigns, but if you never played the original game, or if you did play it and were not aware of the ridiculously active mod community, you still have some gaming to do! Unfortunately, you won’t necessarily be able (legally) to play as your favorite hero: Marvel, showing the worst kind of arrogant, short-sighted thinking in stamping down the creativity of its own fanbase, is extremely quick to threaten legal retribution against any site hosting mods based on their characters. Still, there’s a ton of content out there.
The Strangers Saga (mike.va.com.au) is a massive, 31-mission mod campaign with a sequel for the original (2002) Freedom Force.
Irrational’s Freedom Force should not be confused with the 1988 NES game of the same name by Sunsoft, which involved a counter-terrorist team, AKA the "Freedom Force." The game was one of the few that used the light gun accessory for the NES.