Sunday Bits

TODAY: Coming to the forefront of online gaming back in 2016, can Blizzard’s Overwatch impress again on Switch? – Plumber saving the day in New York? No, it’s not Mario, but Christopher Stone from Freedom Fighters!

Blast From The Past

From plumber to gun-toting revolutionary in Freedom Fighters

Alternate history is a great way to explore the great big ‘what ifs’ of the past and IO Interactive’s 2003 third-person shooter Freedom Fighters does just that. What if the Soviet Union had invaded New York City?

World War II had ended in this timeline by the Soviet Union dropping the first atomic bomb on Berlin, thus ending the German bid for dominance. In the wake of all that, much of Europe ended up turning into satellite communist states of Russia, and the United Kingdom was the last to succumb to the immense pressure from Moscow. This left the United States isolated and alone.

Suddenly an invasion of New York City is underway with Soviet troops, tanks and attack helicopters flooding into Manhattan as they secure the most powerful symbol of Western power left in the world. It’s a good job there’s a plumber ready to pick up his wrench and start filling the shoes of a resistance leader. You literally beat your first Soviet invader with said wrench.

All hope lies with a charismatic plumber, without a moustache – odd

The whole premise is pretty ridiculous but you can’t help but feel pretty great taking the fight to the Red Menace across various areas of NYC. This wasn’t just some run-and-gun third-person shooter either as IO had introduced a surprisingly robust, albeit still quirky, follower system where you can recruit fighters to take with you and give them commands. You aren’t fighting the Soviets alone but with a whole resistance movement after all, and the squad AI was actually pretty good.

Over time you can take more recruits with you who each favour a different sort of weapon. Making use of these recruits in the field is paramount to overwhelm the superior position and defences of the enemy. Each leap in the story would also open up a number of levels you could revisit in order to secure objectives and remove obstacles in others, like crippling their ability to use Hind attack helicopters or receive reinforcements of troops.

Our protagonist Christopher Stone even gets to build his own legend as the ‘Freedom Phantom’ by Soviet propaganda that’s broadcasting in New York. It all adds to the silliness of a B-movie plot but it’s hard not to love Freedom Fighters for it. From the overly stereotypical Russian accents, to the chunkier character models with exaggerated limbs, to the feeling of taking on the mighty war machine of the Soviet Union and slowly pushing back the invasion.

Video game music is often underappreciated or overlooked, but not here

Freedom Fighters also features some of the amazing work by composer Jesper Kyd, who has wowed plenty with his musical scores throughout numerous video game franchises. Here is no different and it’s got some pretty great pieces to accompany you on the path to regaining liberty. It’s the perfect match to leading a squad of 12 into battle hurling Molotovs and firing AK47s in the snowy streets of New York City.

Of course with something like this you need to feel as if you’re winning the day before a dramatic twist happens and steals away victory. It happens, even to revolutionary plumbers. It’s something you could kind of see coming but still gets to you and helps push you through to that final confrontation as all hell breaks loose. There’s even a bonus level on Liberty Island for the true patriot!

Where to get Freedom Fighters today?

There is no digital copy available for Freedom Fighters available to buy sadly. The 2003 third-person shooter never made the revolutionary step into the online world. You’ll need to buy a copy from a retailer, which will mostly likely be second-hand. There are GameCube, PlayStation 2 and original Xbox versions that you could look at, but we’d recommend that you probably stick with PC.

If you feel so inclined you could turn to My Abandonware and download the game, which only weighs in at 619MB.

Game Spotlight

Overwatch: Legendary Edition

(Blizzard Entertainment – Nintendo Switch)

Originally releasing in 2016, Overwatch has finally made its way onto the Nintendo Switch. While it’s not the most impressive port, it’s certainly nice to finally have the game on a handheld console. Overwatch on the Switch is the same experience you’d come to expect from the PC and current generation consoles, albeit with some caveats. The game is fully up to date, featuring all of the additional heroes and stages Overwatch has received over the years. Overwatch on Switch will receive patches at the same time as the other versions of the game, so if there’s a new event or new hero added, Switch owners will not have to wait in order to access brand new content.

If you’re returning to the game after previously playing on PC or console, it’s important to temper your expectations before purchasing. Unlike every other version of the game, the Switch version is locked at 30FPS to maintain a smooth experience both when in handheld and docked. There are two more glaring issues that we feel like we have to address: performance and the current player base.

When fights get hectic, it isn’t uncommon for the frame rate to drop below 30FPS, especially when playing undocked. We’ve also experienced the issue where character models take a while to load in. While this usually only takes a few seconds to resolve on the other versions of Overwatch, the Switch version can have players waiting up to half a minute before you can see your own model. Finding a game can take a while on the Switch version, though this may change as the game continues to age. On launch day at peak hours (7pm onwards), it was common to wait up to five minutes for an arcade match. This is extremely concerning as arcade is by far the most popular mode, so if you can’t find a game there then trying to play competitive will be a nightmare. To be fair, the game is still very new so there is a good chance this may change in the future as more people begin to pick up Overwatch on the Switch.

“Heroes never die”

One of the main features that I was looking forward to testing out in Overwatch on the Switch was its support of motion-controls. If you’re a fan of titles like Splatoon 2, you’ll know exactly how well this feature can be implemented. Splatoon 2 offered smooth camera movements and surprisingly accurate aim once you adjusted to the controls. Overwatch enables players to use Joy-Cons or the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. Having played for a while using the Nintendo Switch Lite with motion controls, we found that the controls did take quite a while to get used to, particularly if you prefer playing heroes that require precise aim like Soldier 76 or McCree. Making quick turns and snapping onto a target can feel quite tricky to begin with, but if you’re willing to put the time in to acclimatize to the controls and tweak them as you go, you’ll likely always want to play that way.

While playing in handheld mode is convenient and is a bit easier on the eyes on that tiny little screen, if you’re looking for the most comfortable experience, we’d recommend using the JoyCons detached from the Switch, or the Pro Controller. It’s far less restrictive to use the controllers in this way and you won’t have to adjust your grip as nearly as often as you would holding the entire console. That said, if you are considering using a Pro Controller, it’s worth mentioning that you’re not able to use it like a laser pointer, whereas you can with regular Joy-Cons.

While Overwatch: Legendary Edition is by no means the best version of the game, it’s sufficient enough for players who want to take advantage of motion controls, or alternatively just really want to play on the go. If your main concern is performance then its worth sticking with whichever platform you currently play on as a number of compromises have been made to get the game running on the Switch. That said, it’s great to have the option to play one of our favourite titles wherever we go, and if you haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet and only own the Nintendo Switch, it’s a no-brainer.

Overwatch: Legendary Edition released on the Nintendo Switch this week, including the full game, five legendary hero skins, five epic hero skins and five Origin hero skins. The Legendary Edition also comes bundled with a code for an individual 3-month subscription for Nintendo Switch Online, which you’ll need to activate in order to play. If you plan on purchasing the game and logging in before December 31st 2019, you’ll also unlock a Golden Loot Box that guarantees at least one Legendary item.

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