Monday, 17 November 2014

Freedom Wars

I feel a little bad for the PS Vita. It's not doing that well in sales lately, Sony seemed to be focused on mostly rehashing PSP titles for it and there are- as far as I know- no upcoming big releases scheduled. When I say “big” I mean Uncharted territory, but sadly nothing like that is on the horizon. In yet another attempt to sway some Nintendo users away from their 3DS's and into the PS Vita camp, Sony are at it again with yet another title that desperately wants to be Monster Hunter. Is this latest PS Vita release good enough to become a flagship title for the struggling hand-held? No, but putting expectations aside, it's a game that every PS Vita owner should have in their collection nonetheless.

Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment in collaboration with Dimps and Shift and out now on PS Vita comes Freedom Wars, a mash-up of Monster Hunter and George Orwell's 1984. One element of Freedom Wars that doesn't have Monster Hunter written all over it is its story, as instead of dragons, monsters and leather armour, there's robots, mechs and crisp white suits. The game takes place in the year 102014, and it's a world in which humans have been forced to live underground in mega cities called Panopticon's, due to the Earth's surface being deemed a wasteland. Within these Panopticon's humans live under the iron fist of the elite, and with all resources in short supply, the act of being born or simply living is seen as breaking the law. All who break the law are giving a 1 million year sentence. The catch is that criminals can reduce their sentence by venturing to the surface and destroying robots called Abductors. Under constant surveillance and the only hope of freedom being attainable through reducing your sentence, you take on the role of a character that, like everyone born within this world, is a criminal.

Freedom Wars is an action action RPG and its gameplay focuses on two main locations- within the Panopticon and outside on the ravaged Earth. Life inside the Panopticon is entirely without freedom, but you'll treat this bleak, dark and Big Brother-esque location as your main base of operations. In fact, when inside the Panopticon you need to earn certain entitlements. For instance, you'll need to earn an entitlement that allows you to run for more than 5 second when inside the Panopticon. Breaking that rule will increase your sentence. Don't worry though, these restrictions mean nothing in the outside world, but while preparing for an adventure or mission, they do add a great sense of bleak atmosphere to the game.

Once outside the Panopticon it's a different story, and this is where Freedom Wars truly offers the player, well, freedom! Just like Monster Hunter gameplay in the outside world relies on exploration, and seeking our various pieces of gear, items and weapons through combat. Combat allows the player to cover quite a broad range of weapons both in terms of melee and ranged combat, with the player also being able to instantly switch between both different types. Ranged weapons cover everything from rocket launchers to machine guns, as Freedom Wars boasts quite a varied selection of firearms in its extensive armoury. Though there are a lot of segments that favour using guns, melee combat is just as if not more important and useful than firearms. From spears, swords and lances that all have a very steely and futuristic appearance to them, in terms of weapons at hand Freedom Wars perfectly follows the ethos of Monster Hunter- more, more and more of everything! Combat attacks generally focus on merely using two buttons, but while that may sound quite shallow, you'll also need to be quick on your feet and evade attacks. When it all comes together it keeps combat fast, frantic and a whole lot of fun.

However, one addition to gameplay that shakes it up quite nicely are Thorns, which are essentially whip-like weapons that grant the user different abilities. They have many different uses which include restraining enemies during battle, powering up your allies abilities for a short period of time and also healing your party members. Each Thorn can power up in stages and this ability, next to the pretty effective combat mechanic, keeps combat feeling fresh throughout.

Though the story put in place is genuinely interesting, dark and somewhat unique, Freedom Wars doesn't manage to keep that momentum going throughout its duration. Eventually it all just kind of falls apart, and you'll quickly find yourself bored with secondary characters, particular plot points and generally where the narrative finds itself. Still though, if you make use of the varied combat system, embrace the countless pieces of loot and gear you'll find, and dive into the pretty impressive online multiplayer mode that's packed alongside Freedom Wars, you'll no doubt sink a good few hours into it. It may not be Monster Hunter for the PS Vita, but it's a fantastic game in its own right.

Freedom Wars is your next PS Vita RPG and gets a 4/5.


Denis Murphy 

Freedom Wars at CeX

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