Freedom Wars (Available exclusively for the PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: SCE Japan Studio, Shift, and Dimps
Release Date: October 28th, 2014
Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Freedom Wars T for teen because of blood, mild suggestive themes, and violence. It’s not overly gory, but you’re challenged with taking down giant robot-like enemies with all manner of weapons. The story also touches on some mature themes so the teen rating is just about spot on.
Plays Like: Freedom Wars is an interesting game, it plays similarly to Monster Hunter in that you have a wide array of weapons at your disposal, there are tons of resource gathering, and how you complete each mission is entirely up to you. You can charge in using nothing but projectile weapons, or you can get up close and personal and deliver striking melee attacks. The freedom offered is extremely impressive, and over time you will develop your own play style. Missions take typical shooter fair and mix things up just enough to give the game its own distinct flare. You typically have to rescue captives from giant Abductors (mech-like robots), but sometimes you’re pitted against another team which plays out more like a team deathmatch. There’s a ton of mission variety, but we’ll discuss that in further below.
Review Basis: Finished the campaign using both the AI and real-life cooperative teammates.
Freedom Wars is one of the best PlayStation Vita games to come along in a while. The fact it’s an original game makes it even more impressive. It’s a perfect pick-up and play game, but also has the chops to keep you glued to your Vita for hours on end. If you’re a fan of Monster Hunter or Soul Sacrifice, you’ll love this game. From the incredible game world that pulls you in with each and every aspect of the game, to the great weapon and combat system, Freedom Wars absolutely shocked me with how much fun it is to play. If you haven’t played a Vita game in a while, this is one to look into.
I’ve played a lot of games over the years, but very few have pulled me into their game world like Freedom Wars did. Everything about the game makes you want to know more about this unique world. First off, you play as a Sinner, basically someone that has been imprisoned for being a worthless drain on society. Because you’re so useless, you’re sentence is a small one, a million years of forced voluntary military service. I love the way the game continuously reminds you of just how useless you really are, and how you’re ‘volunteering’ for everything, even though you have absolutely no choice. Completing missions will slowly decrease your sentence, but until you’ve earned enough money the restrictions placed upon you are hilarious. You’re not allowed to pace more than five steps in your cell or else you’ll be charged with another decade of imprisonment. Want to go to sleep, no problem, but you can’t lie down. These seemingly ridiculous restrictions play into this insane world perfectly, and help flesh out the Entitlement system which eventually allows you to fast-travel, change your characters clothes, and more. You will eventually your stay more habitual, but it’ll take a while before you’re truly free.
The core gameplay also plays into this unique theme perfectly. Each Panopticon, which is essentially a city, is represented by a group of Sinners. I selected Los Angeles because Montreal wasn’t an option. For shame! The more missions you complete, you not only reduce your imprisonment, but you gain notoriety for your Panopticon. There are 50 in the game, and these act almost like leaderboards. The higher your placement, the better rewards you get for in-game events. It gives a true sense of belonging to this messed up world. One important way to improve your Panopticon is to steal citizens and resources from rival cities. There are giant mech-like machines all over the place called Abductors, and you’re constantly charged with bringing these giants down in order to snatch the civilian inside. Once you have the person, you make a break for the closest transport tube. Securing these people will raise your Panopticon’s rating, lower your rivals, and again, lower your sentence.
- Weapons are a joy to use and you’re gameplay style will directly alter the way you play the game. Let’s say you want to focus on melee combat, well that’s an option, select all the weapons that fit your fighting style and you’re all set. The same is true for projectile attacks. Each weapon feels genuinely unique, and no two players will play the game exactly the same.
- The Thorn, is a grabbling beam of sorts, which you can use to propel yourself to high up platforms, but can also be used as a weapon. You can latch on to the Abductors to slash away at their armor, you can pull them to the group for a team attack, and more. What’s interesting with the Thorn is that there are three distinct types, one for healing, one for traps and barricades, and one for grabbles. Yet again your play style will determine which variation you use most often. The Thorn also gives the game an incredibly fast-paced feel because at any moment you can zip along the side of a building, you can pull enemies off platforms, propel yourself to a specific target, and so much more.
- There’s also a great variety of missions. While the bulk are about you rescuing captured civilians, you will also experience unique takes on capture the flag, king of the hill, and more, but all wrapped around the citizen rescue theme. For example there might be a mission where you and an Abductor are racing towards a runaway civilian. Your goal is to grab the person, and race towards the rescue tube before the Abductor can stop you, therein lies your capture the flag game. I adored the way the game played on this classic gaming conventions.
Team-based gameplay rocks whether or not you have real friends in your party. Every mission you go on is a group affair. Your teammates will typically follow your lead, so if you bring down an Abductor, they’ll do all in their power to finish it off. You’ll have a great time if you decide to bring some friends into the mix because only by working together can you effectively take down three or four Abductors at once. Doing so is a huge reward too.
Full PlayStation TV support. Being the very first Vita game I’ve played from beginning to end on my new PS TV was a delight. Using a DualShock 4 proved a perfect way to play the game. It controlled flawlessly, and looked beautiful upscaled to 720p.
While on the subject of graphics, the game looks extremely detailed. It’s amazing how much juice the Vita actually has under the hood. There’s great use of color, the environments look wonderful, and the action is always rock-solid, with the frame-rate being constant throughout.
The soundtrack is fast-paced to match the action, and die-hards will be happy to hear that the original Japanese voice acting remains in-tact. Some serious production values went into the development of this game.
+/- The story is alright. It’s a shame too because the game world is so perfectly tied to the gameplay and overall theme that you would think the story would fit just as well, but it doesn’t. It ends up slowing things down, forcing you to walk around and listen to dialogue. There’s a ton of lore here too, but I found myself constantly skipping the dialogue sequences just to get on to the next mission because the gameplay is so much more entertaining.
+/- The camera lock-on mechanic takes a little getting used to. You can tap it on or off, but that’s not the issue, the issue comes in when you’re locked on a target and move too close to said enemy. Suddenly the camera is turning and spinning out of control all over the place.
+/- There’s an overly complex crafting system here that yields random results. Over the course of the game you’ll acquire massive amounts of supplies, however you’re only ever going to use a handful of weapons so there’s very little need for all the resources at your disposal. I think a reworked crafting system would have added even more to an already impressive package.
Being Japan’s number one selling new IP on the Vita, and a Monster Hunter clone Vita owners can be proud to call their own, it’s a sure bet Freedom Wars will get a sequel sometime next year. With any luck the developers can fix some of the minor complaints I raised here and deliver the Vita’s true killer app. I also hope that game reaches Western shores as well because this is a game that truly surprised me by how deep and genuinely enjoyable it is. If you own a PlayStation Vita, do yourself a huge favor and check out Freedom Wars.
Final Score: 8.8/10