From The Vault: Freedom Force

by IG.Ratana on April 19 2012

21 comments

2012 isn’t just when the Mayans think the world’s going to end, it’s also the 10 year anniversary of Freedom Force, Irrational’s take on comic-books. Most fans know the game was followed 3 years later by Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich. What many don’t know is that there were two other sequels in the works.

“We had actually had two games we almost made,” recalls Ken Levine, Creative Director at Irrational Games. “One was set in the Bronze Age of comics – the ‘70s – and Robb Waters [long time concept artist at Irrational] actually did a huge raft of concepts for it, and then we had a game called “Freedom Force Console” which was going to be a console game, more action oriented, and that was going to be more modern day.”

The dip back into the bronze age wasn’t totally lost however. Gamers who bought Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich got a glimpse of four of these original concepts:

The Bullet, Eve, The Ant, and El Diablo…

But dozens of characters have remained stuck in the archives, until now. “Robb did a lot of characters that never made it into the game,” recalls Ken. “It was an embarrassment of riches. For every character I’d come up with, he’d then draw another 5.”

So let us introduce a few for the first time anywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, Computress!

Computress’ big distinction was that she was an extension of one of Freedom Force’s classic Villains, Mr. Mechanical. “She was intended to be his ultimate creation – a sort of a Bride of Frankenstein thing,” says Waters. But like all evil creations in comic books, things would have gone wrong right from the start. “She’d up killing him, and then seeing all humans as inferior beings to be conquered by an army of cyborgs in order to take over the world.” And while the plotline never panned out, Waters still has fond memories of what might have been. “I thought it would be great to have her enslave microwave in sort of a love tryst!”

Most of the unused characters in Freedom Force, however, weren’t directly tied to the existing plotline. Witness Young Star, the Man Who Was Never Born!

“This character was inspired by the cosmic themes that were prevalent in the ‘70s,” explains Waters. “I started with the name and drew inspiration from the outlandish KISS costumes.” When Ken Levine saw the original concept, he coined the tag line  “the man who was never born.” And what does that actually mean? “I’m not sure,” says Waters, “but it sounded great and it would have been fun trying to explore that fiction.”

Occasionally, characters would get off the page enough to develop a life of their own, complete with powers and descriptions. Such was the case with one unused villain – Shifty:

“This was to be an attempt at making a stretchy plastic-man type character,” says Waters. A key to the appeal of the Freedom Force series was its homage to many super hero tropes – but always with a signature Irrational twist. “I saw him as a whimsical villain. He could re-shape in ways that would give him appropriate abilities, such as steamrolling enemies as a giant bowling ball and flying as a pterodactyl.”

Another “homage” character was the unused super, Primordial:


“This was my tip of the hat to the 70’s swamp-men of comics,” recalls Waters. “He was sort of the 70’s tree-hugger character. He just wanted to heal mother earth at any price. He wasn’t necessarily a bad guy in this way – he’s just blinded by his beliefs.”

And sometimes, it’s not that a character didn’t quite fit. Sometimes, they actually fit too well. Witness the straight-down-the-middle Thunderclap!

“ I love his design,” says Waters fondly. “But I think he was maybe a bit to on the nose, even for Irrational.” A quick look at the picture tells you pretty much everything you’d ever need to know about this Native American hero. “With a thunderous clap of his hands he would be able to generate an electric bolt to strike his foes down.”

And finally, some characters were designed as tributes that never quite made the cut. Such was the case with Outback.

“I needed a new villain and wanted to finally tip my hat to our Australian team,” recalls Waters. “I thought he could be a sort of Kraven the Hunter [enemy of Spider Man] meets Crocodile Dundee. He would make sport of hunting down various members of Freedom Force to claim as his ultimate trophies.”

While it’s fun to think of what might have been, the good news is that thanks to distribution platforms like Steam, the games are still playable on modern PCs – and hold up quite well given their age. “I actually just started replaying Third Reich again,” confesses Ken. “I love the franchise. Because they were comic book characters, and intentionally simple, I don’t look at it and think ‘man I wish we’d had another million polygons.’”

Avatar Image Posted this April 19 2012 09:20 am, under From the Vault,
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From the Vault
  • adventurene | April 19, 2012 9:50 am

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    Freedom Force is one of my favorite games of all time. I loved the hero generator and I still quote Deja Vu even though very few have an idea what I am talking about.

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  • japester | April 19, 2012 11:48 am

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    I played the hell out of both games. So much fun for someone who grew up reading comics in the 70’s. Morph’s special attack immediately reminded me of Bouncing Boy from the Legion of Super-Heroes. LOL. All the unused designs are interesting. It would be great seeing how they would look in-game. Must be tough for Robb and others when they give birth to all these characters only to see them remain on the page.

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  • icegrove | April 19, 2012 11:59 am

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    Good old memories.

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  • mbourgon | April 19, 2012 2:09 pm

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    That’s the one big down side to Irrational getting to be so big – it’d be hard to justify doing another one, given the sales it would have to generate.

    Maybe there’s a kickstarter in the future?

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  • tmeyer | April 19, 2012 3:55 pm

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    ive never played freedom force, but by looking at this concept art it makes me think it would be a great first person multiplayer game. like gotham city imposters. just sayin..

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  • 1019ice | April 19, 2012 7:46 pm

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    Freedom Force was the first game I played from Irrational, there’s definitely a soft spot in the industrial-strength trash compactor that I replaced my heart with for it.

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  • felonious | April 20, 2012 10:56 pm

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    Always great to see some more of Robb Water’s art!

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  • psychopanda | April 21, 2012 1:49 am

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    I would love to see Freedom Force come back to life as well. I remember being pretty excited about hearing the rumors of a 70s and more modern era (Silver Age maybe?) editions. I imagine the announcement of a new Freedom Force game on Kickstarter would take off like wildfire. The Wasteland 2, Shadowrun computer game revivals have been very successful thus far. How about it Irrational?!

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  • perfectdarkling | April 21, 2012 9:06 am

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    I love getting looks like this. I loved both FF games to pieces.

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  • shawdaman | April 21, 2012 4:08 pm

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    This was a treat, thanks folks. LOVE LOVE LOVE both games. Played the campaigns several times. The community at freedom reborn is still quite active. Sure wish the series had been continued.

    I REALLY want to know what the heck happened to Alchemiss and who “energy X” actually was. ;-P Too cruel, irrational.

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  • gilbert | April 21, 2012 7:33 pm

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    I don’t think i’ve cared so much for any other game than Freedom Force and FFVT3R. Everything about the game just seems so right and perfect to me. Like a good book, it’s really very hard to put down.

    These new concepts, ideas and character designs are really interesting and downright cool. Why must they remain forever locked in a vault? Why?!!!! (sobs)

    But it’s still good to know that Ken Levine still hasn’t forgotten or lost his love for the game. Well, like i said. It’s that good of a game.

    I agree that after all this time, the game is still very much playable in modern PCs. And i hope i can still play them for many more years to come.

    Thank you Irrational, for giving time and space in honor of this unforgettable game.

    For Freedom!

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  • bentongrey | April 21, 2012 11:38 pm

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    The Freedom Force games are, without a doubt, the best superhero games of all time. They were so great, and they still hold up so incredibly well, that it’s hard to imagine anything being too much better. I’m one of those dedicated fans still creating content for these fantastic games, so it’s a thrill to see these glimpses of what might have been! Thanks for posting this article, and especially all of these images. I’ve been hoping for a while that there were more of these 70’s concepts than we’d seen. I hope that if there are any more you’ll let us see them eventually!

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  • tobenalexander | April 22, 2012 5:46 am

    It’s always great to see any FF related news. As a recent backer of the Shadowrun, Double Fine, and Wasteland 2 games on Kickstarter, I must say that I would try my hardest to promote the crap out of an FF related kickstarter.
    And really, it doesn’t even have to use a new engine, let the fans continue using their custom content with the new game. It’s the story that is the real prize.

    Actually, I’d be really happy if it was ported for iOS devices, that would be fantastic.

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    • bentongrey | April 22, 2012 11:39 pm

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      Yeah, I should have said that, but I would DEFINITELY support an FF III like crazy, and like Toben said, I’d be pretty darn happy with a sequel using the same engine. Just tell the 70’s story you had in mind, and I’ll throw my money at you!

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      • bentongrey | April 22, 2012 11:40 pm

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        A kickstarter, I meant, of course. However, I would certainly buy any FF-related game y’all made.

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  • harryhindu | April 23, 2012 7:40 am

    Cool stuff, but most of these new powers (shapeshifting, Primordial’s ooze transformations) can already be done with the FFX add-on and some scripting. Flying Melee, Wrestling, Water Control, Electrical teleportation (like Electro), Drivers and their Vehicles (Ghost Rider and his bike, Arabian Knight and his Magic Carpet, Batman and all his vehicles, etc.) plus so much more that has already been done by fanatical fans, that sequels weren’t necessary. Actually, fans would have preferred fixes and more support for FFvTTR than there was provided. If FFvTTR is any indication of what these sequels would have been like, then I’m happy Irrational and us fans went our separate ways with the game.

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  • muskellounger | April 25, 2012 7:58 am

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    Happy birthday Freedom Force! Your old, but still great. Man, wish I could get my hands on the comic series.

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  • cmdrkoenig67 | May 6, 2012 4:14 pm

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    Great article…I do wish there was another sequel, but I love the original two games.

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  • shadw58hawk | October 15, 2012 5:07 pm

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    Pleae Come out with a Freedom force 2 not ffv3r and a patch for windows seven love this game and don’t want to lose it.

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  • volsung | December 25, 2012 5:44 am

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    The world needs a third Freedom Force !
    Launch a kickstarter and fans will throw their money at you! : D

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  • november17th | January 20, 2013 3:02 pm

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    I remember reviews of this game when it came out and thanks for the art.

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