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Freedom Wars: The Most Intense October Release No One is Talking About

Vita's ambitious new multiplayer game has largely slipped beneath the radar, but it's worth a look... if you don't mind a little pressure.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

I'm currently pounding my way through Freedom Wars for the official USgamer review, but it looks like it's going to be a while. So while the topic is still relatively fresh, I wanted to at least weigh in and put the game on the radar.

My progress through the game has been, shall we say, halting. It's a fantastic portable action title, but it's also incredibly tense, and intense. I have a hard time concentrating on games this demanding when I have so many other distractions in my life; I can basically make it through a single mission at a time before getting stressed out by the action and needing to take a break to something more relaxing, like Fantasy Life.

But Freedom Wars is meant to be stressful. It combines a futuristic Phantasy Star Online multiplayer vibe with the oh-so-popular Monster Hunter concept of banding together and taking on giant enemy monsters. There's a touch of Attack on Titan with the grappling and direct melee attacks while scrambling over massive enemies. It even has a touch of Choplifter, if you can believe it: Your goal when fighting the massive enemies isn't to destroy them but rather to liberate the captives inside, then usher your rescued human to the exit.

It's all pretty heavy stuff, compounded by some of the most complex controls of any game I've played in recent memory. On top of that, the story and world are deliberately crafted to demean and dehumanize the player: Set in a miserable wasteland of a planet, you exist as a human resource for your chosen nation (I've pledged allegiance to Hanoi, where my wife's family is from). Not the good kind of human resources that gives you health insurance. The bad kind, where you're a tool for the government sent into combat because you have no other value.

At the outset of the game, you're sentenced to a one million year jail term for being injured in combat, and you have to work your way back through the ranks to freedom, performing tasks and donating supplies to the state in order to work off your sentence. You're not allowed conversation, or to walk around freely in your jail cell, or even to sleep sitting down, and the game constantly penalizes you for doing trivial actions. It's both clever and darkly satirical, but man, it really wears on you after a while.

Likewise, field actions can be super high-stakes. They generally center around massive, lumbering machines called Abductors which, as the name implies, exist entirely for the sake of capturing high-level human resources — precious humans with high levels of technical expertise — and stealing them for enemy nation-states. While they're usually accompanied by low-level enemies that harass you as your try and liberate the captives, the Abductors themselves pose ample threat on their own.

However, they're also extraordinarily fun to fight. Your grappling wire allows you to climb up and get personal with the machines, hanging on for dear life as you hack away at the robots' limbs or cut loose defensive accessories or weapon pods. You can also use your Thorn grappler to damage an Abductor's limbs, pulling its feet from underneath it and causing it to collapse into a defenseless heap for a moment.

Really, how you handle Abductors doesn't matter so much as what you do once you've managed to free its captive (or captives, as the case may be). Whether you destroy the machine or simply hack open is abduction pods, our goal is to carry the prisoner inside to an evacuation point — more easily said than done, unfortunately, since your mobility while carrying a civilian is limited and your offensive and defensive capabilities reduced to zero. You move slowly and helplessly when you have a prisoner in tow, which just adds to the tension. New enemies spawn as soon as an Abductor loses its grip on its target, including other Abductors, and they're not shy about bringing the full force of their offensive capabilities to bear on you.

On top of that, each mission has a tight time limit, and you're only allowed to make use of resources (including ammo) that you find along the way — and your country recommends you contribute those to the greater good. If you choose to hang on to high-level items, you'll even be penalized. And every time you fall in battle, your robotic companion will revive you. But you'll lose access to rewards for mission completion. Fall enough, and even if you win you'll still be penalized by the state for creating an inappropriate drain on your national resources.

All of this adds up to a complex, high-tension game that definitely deserves more attention than it's gotten. Even if it's guaranteed to make your blood pressure spike. So if you happen to see me online, be kind; I'm about one Abductor mishap from a breakdown at any given moment. Expect a full review once my blood pressure meds kick in.

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