I've been quite curious about Freedom Wars ever since I completely misjudged what sort of game it would. So when I discovered that Sony had a playable demo booth set up at this year's Jump Festa, I had to try it out.
For the demo, I was treated to a tutorial video explaining the basic controls and combat features. Basically, players play prisoners, each with a million year sentence set from birth. Our objective is to rescue civilians captured by "Abductors." By rescuing civilians, a prisoner's sentence is reduced -- the end goal apparently being to reduce the sentence to zero and be freed.
Each character can equip 2 weapons and a variety of useful items to use in combat. Each player also has a vine of thorns on their left arm that can be used to pull them up to vantage points a la Bionic Commando style, or to pull and cripple enemies or for special attacks.
On to the demo, I went to a booth with three other players where a guide waited for us with 3 PS Vitas and a Vita TV hooked up to a monitor. Each player selected a PS Vita and joined the host game the guide had waiting for us with the Vita TV.
I entered the game with the other players and was met by an instructor who told me to go to one of the multiple beams of light coming from the floor to start my mission. As per my habit with any adventure/RPG, I tried talking to the instructor a second time to see if they had anything else to say and was told that private chatter would not be tolerated before getting slapped with an extra hundred years onto my million year sentence. These guys weren't kidding around.
Before starting the mission I got to select my weapon loadout. Our default weapon selection consisted of a basic sword and a choice between an basic automatic rifle, a mini-gun that had high rate of fire and a penalty to mobility, and a rocket launcher that could single-fire rockets for large chunks of damage. I figured the demo would be set to the easiest possible setting, so I chose the mini-gun, since it was likely that a movement penalty wouldn't be a problem at that difficulty.
The demo went fairly smoothly, with the 4 of use taking out 4 Abductors and saving the objective 3 civilians in about 6 minutes. It was a little short, but I got a pretty good feel for the game.
Maybe it was the nature of the quest that wasn't so much about defeating monsters but about rescuing people and carrying them to extraction points, but the vibe I got from Freedom Wars made the game feel felt less like a game like Monster Hunter or God Eater and closer to something like a capture-the-flag match in Call of Duty. I can see the game's multi-player being a lot of fun depending on how they mix up the game play and customisation options.
Gameplay-wise, Freedom Wars still feels rough around the edges and in need of refinement. The control response was a little clunky and I did encounter one glitch during combat where one of the other players latched onto an enemy Abductor's leg and the leg started spazzing out.
Also, whenever an Abductor was defeated or heavily damaged, we would be treated to a wide angle view of the creature going down, which looked nice but interrupted the combat and took a moment to readjust when the camera went back to my character. It's only momentary, but in an action game where split-second judgment is key, such distractions could prove fatal.
Overall, Freedom Wars looks like it has potential but needs work. I am curious as to the single-player mode and if it stands on its own at all, but we never really got a chance to check that out. The game is being developed in part by Shift, which worked on the God Eater series, so if they follow the same user feedback refinement model, hopefully they'll be able to work out all the kinks by the time the game is completed.
Freedom Wars is scheduled for release in Japan in 2014. No word on an international release.