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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: February 12, 2001
Unlike movies, computer games based on novels have been largely unsuccessful in translating a captivating story to the virtual screen. Usually the PC implementation is but a pale imitation of what you remember fondly from the pages of a deeply absorbing book, lacking both the sense of boundless thrill and the room for the imagination to wander. But Red Storm believes that this depressing pattern can be broken, particularly when dealing with a highly successful author like noted science fiction fantasy writer Anne McCaffrey. The company’s new release is Freedom: First Resistance, a third-person perspective single-player action adventure game based on her Freedom trilogy of novels. Given that this series of stories is not among McCaffrey’s best work, the choice is a bit odd, but let’s see what the result is of this endeavor.
The story in Freedom: First Resistance takes place on Earth, an unexpected setting given that the action in the Freedom books occurs mostly on other planets. Nine months after the alien Catteni completed their invasion of Earth, which they managed to control in a matter of days, the human infrastructure completely collapsed: governments and defense forces disintegrated, the global economy fell apart, major cities went up in smoke, and most of the survivors ended up in refugee camps. The Earth’s government became the Provisional Authority, controlled by human traitors who served the space invaders. Only a far-flung group of heroic freedom fighters named the Resistance, with few members and little money, began to oppose the Catteni actively and attempt to overthrow the Provisional Authority. The leader of this insurrection is Angel Sanchez, an angry rebel in her twenties who has lost everything she loved through the invasion.
You undertake a series of 18 core and five optional missions to try to free the Earth from its oppressive alien domination. Since the missions necessitate the use of up to three characters, you often control Angel and others either as a single group or separately, with the possibility of placing each in a different spot. Each of your allies has special skills: for example, Claire is an athlete, Jimmy is a demolition man, and Leo is a technical wizard. You need to switch among characters as you go, kind of the way you do in Computer Artworks’ Evolva. In addition to varying use of characters, missions may involve multiple goals you need to complete in sequence. You visit several types of locations along the way, including a mansion, sewer, TV studio, factory, hospital, warehouse and shuttle bay.
Frequently critical to your progress, as in titles such as Looking Glass Studios’ Thief and Red Storm’s own Rogue Spear, is the use of stealth. Dark passageways and dynamic lighting help you hide in the shadows, unseen as you go along, and on some levels you cannot get anywhere without taking advantage of this possibility. But this dimension of Freedom: First Resistance has major problems in its implementation: Sometimes adversaries cannot seem to see you even if you are really close to them, and other times they appear to have x-ray vision in spotting you behind opaque barriers. Furthermore, stealth is impeded because in some cases, everything is too shaded for you to make out anything clearly, and in other cases the collision detection is so poor that you cannot exactly tell when you will bump into something.
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