Big Brother's Big Blunder
The government is bad and so is this game. That's a sentence that I hate writing because I expect bad governments but want good games. Liberated takes the idea of a bad government that watches everything you do to an extreme, with the government using a social credit system to keep track of its citizens and jail them if they even think there's a crime. Is this story enough to sell the comic book styled 2.5D shooter, or does it need more to liberate money from your wallet?
After a terrorist attack on a school claims the lives of numerous children, the government decides to start policing people's thoughts in an even more extreme way. In response to this, a group called Liberated begins to fight back, hoping to take them the newly oppressive regime. You'll take control of characters on both sides of the argument, both fighting police and government agents to stop the spying, and playing as a police officer tasked with bringing down a terrorist organization. The story is quite in your face and blunt about its message, and there's nothing wrong with that. Not every story needs to be totally subtle. However, it plays out basically exactly how you'd expect. There's pretty little to say about Liberate's actual story, and it ends feeling more like the first chapter of a bigger plot.
Does Big Brother Have a Big Mother?
Each of Liberated's four chapters takes place in a comic book, with the panels serving as both cutscenes and gameplay. You'll constantly be zooming from panel to panel, making it feel like you're "reading" Liberated's story. The idea isn't bad, but it's a bit sloppy here. Gameplay always happens in these long rectangle panels, and nothing that creative is really done with the format. You never climb from one panel into another, or break the fourth wall, or even just get a vertical panel or an extra big one for a unique environment. It's always just hallways to support flat gameplay.
Liberated is a 2.5D shooter, letting you side-scroll while shooting cops, robots, Liberated members, and more. You can aim using the right stick, and most enemies can be dropped with a few bullets. Sadly, this is where problems start to come in. Aiming feels sloppy, and I never quite feel like my character points the gun where I'm aiming. You get new weaponry outside your standard pistol, but their accuracy is crap across the board and there's no way to switch back. They have unlimited ammo, but no bottomless magazines. So, if you're hurt while reloading, you're trapped in a stun lock cycle you can't break out of.
Liberated's biggest problem is that it absolutely loves to catch players in these awful "gotcha!" moments that are pretty clearly supposed to get you killed. Enemies will spawn behind you while you climbing up ladders. Elevator rides have enemies waiting in spots you can't see. Robots fly in during fights and kill you while you try to battle the sloppy controls. Thankfully, it's possible to outmaneuver many of these moments thanks to awful AI. Partway through the campaign, I realized enemies had issues shooting up or down, and would only attack if you were within a very specific area in front of them. It turns out, you can beat anyone with the hilarious tactic of "shoot while moving backward."
Occasionally Liberated attempts to be something else, and these moments are equally clumsy. Often, this comes in the form of puzzles that are little more than connecting wires or playing the board game Mastermind. There are quick-time event segments, none of which are particularly great. Occasionally, I had to run away from explosions, all while having to awkwardly stop and shoot people in the back in a way that just felt silly. There are stealth segments, but they're all either super easy or impossible to sneak through, so you end up shooting everyone anyway.
In one early segment, the police raid a character's house. They tell you to freeze, and you get the choice to run away or put your hands up. Should you choose to bolt, you go through a QTE and then a rooftop parkour platforming segment. Despite his best efforts, your character falls from a rooftop into police custody. If you instead choose to put your hands up the comic literally zooms out, skips all the gameplay panels, and the character teleports to an alleyway, picking up as if he chose to run but without actually running. It's all kind of a strange mess.
In an attempt to make Liberated look striking, its visuals consist entirely of a black and white comic style. For the cutscenes, this works. Liberated captures the look and feel of a comic book rather well when you're not playing. However, the black and white art style actively gets in the way, often obscuring gameplay elements. Several times I couldn't see QTE buttons well as they blended in with, or were hidden by, the background. This also happens to key progression items like ladders or ropes, and sometimes even with enemies.
Liberated Review | Final Thoughts
As I reached the four-hour mark and finished up Liberated, I had trouble feeling much of anything other than disappointment. I loved the art style in the cutscenes, and I thought the story was interesting. However, there's so much that simply doesn't work as intended. I would love to get another trip to this world in an attempt to bring down the obviously evil government. I just hope that, when the goverment sees these complaints, they can fix the problems without arresting me.
TechRaptor reviewed Liberated on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by the developers. It is set to launch on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One later this year.
- Story Has Some Interesting Notes
- Comic Book Aesthetic Looks Great For Cutscenes...
- Story Ultimately Doesn't Satsify
- ...But Awful For Actual Gameplay
- Gameplay is Super Clunky
- Lots of Ideas Don't Pan Out
- Hilariously Bad AI