Liberated (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 12.08.2020

Review for Liberated on Nintendo Switch

As the real world seems to grow closer and closer to making the dystopian futures glimpsed in many games a reality, the latest port to Switch gives a glimpse into a scary future that seems more and more likely every day. Following a horrific act, the governments of the US have implemented a social monitoring system that punishes its people for not being the perfect citizens. Cameras follow every movement of the people, computers log every click, phones record every whispered word. The technology that was meant to lift society's burdens has become a chain around its neck. Fighting back against this tyrannical government is an organisation known as the Liberated. This all plays out against the backdrop of an interactive noir comic, switching up between 2D pixelated platformer reminiscent of cult classic Flashback, interspersed with the story being told as a QTE-laden interactive tale.

The premise of the story is an interesting take - if somewhat overused at this point - and a worryingly accurate glimpse of the path the world is on. The system used to monitor everyone, CCS, was originally developed as a new credit system, pulling in credit reports, debts, criminal records, and the like. This was then manipulated and abused into a monster when it was augmented with an algorithm known as Themis. This developed CCS into a method to track every part of a person's digital life. Social media postings, any purchases with contactless payments, all subscriptions - giving the powers that be a scary level of knowledge of everyone in their society. The story takes clear inspiration from pieces like 1984 and V for Vendetta, telling its tale across the course of four interactive comic issues.

Screenshot for Liberated on Nintendo Switch

There are four issues to play through in total, with characters on both sides of the fight being playable. A police captain fights through a Liberated stronghold. Other members of the Liberated cell take on armies of officers and their flying robot drones. The first "issue" of the story introduces a fugitive trying to get back to his place and scrub his computer before the cops get to it. He's been labelled a Person of Concern due to "Social Non-Compliance." He doesn't post on social media, he pays with cash, he makes it difficult for the system to monitor him, and the police don't like that kind of thing. Turns out it is worse than they think - this young man is the son of the Minister of National Security that runs the Big Brother system controlling the country, and he's going through something of a rebellious phase.

This first chapter details his fleeing the police and joining up with one of the Liberated cells. After being picked up by the muscle of the team, he's integrated into the group and sets off on a series of missions to try and overthrow the CCS software that is the heart of this big brother society. This is used to introduce some basics of the gameplay. The whole thing takes place within the pages of a digital comic book. It opens and the pages flip, with the developments of the story taking place in each cell on the page. Each cell can consist of a number of things - it could be a single frame like a real comic, it could be a brief animated scene including some QTE moments, or it could be a full-blown combat section. It is also used in a handful of dialogue sections to choose to respond friendly or arrogantly.

Screenshot for Liberated on Nintendo Switch

There are some innate issues with the comic book sections. The QTEs are far too lenient, making it far too easy. These usually act out action sequences, for example as Barry is evading capture from the police. To dodge bullets fired at him, or to swing a getaway car through lanes of oncoming traffic. A QTE for one of the face buttons will slowly pop up and more slowly disappear. Dialogue choices are a rarity, and feel out of place due to their sporadic appearance. They mostly do so in the first chapter, then right at the end of the story in a strange simulation of a social media browse, choosing whether to thumbs up or thumbs down a series of posts. Another smaller annoyance, but one that is quite impactful, is the navigation of the comic itself. To progress through the A button has to be clicked, but often a panel will look like just a simple transition where a car is moving past the camera or a pan across a desolate area, when suddenly a word bubble pops up just as A is pressed - closing the panel and removing that little snippet of story and information.

Screenshot for Liberated on Nintendo Switch

The main bulk of the game comes in the 2D scrolling and shooting sections. These are reminiscent of the 16-bit era, to games like E-Swat, and the aforementioned Flashback. These crime-noir styled sections see the character scroll through rain-splattered streets, facing off against the police, or on later stages against the liberated as the playable character changes depending on the chapter. These sections have some very basic problem-solving, and slight detours to their linear stages, pulling a switch to open a door being about the depth of the complexity. There are also a few points with little hacking puzzles to open doors. Like the old games of connecting pipes to flow water through - simple, yet fun and effective. It's a shame they're so sporadic.

The combat is sufficiently satisfying. The right analogue points a line through the air to aim, and headshots take out enemies with swift effectiveness. The shooting is smooth, but the general movement constantly feels quite clunky. This is a common issue with the presentation. While the overall style of the game looks fantastic, in action it doesn't really hold up. The Sin City-Esque noir environments, the black and white aesthetic, and the world that has been crafted is a fantastic backdrop, but the action makes the performance take a dive and it makes the flaws of the presentation really show. The sprites move with a janky hobble, climbing around boxes or jumping across gaps looks awful, and deaths result in crazed ragdoll fits.

Screenshot for Liberated on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The comic setting works great, and the story is an interesting take on the overused dystopian and Orwellian future. Liberated snatches attention with its premise and the neo-noir aesthetic, but ultimately ends up feeling unfinished. The dialogue choices and the puzzles feel tacked on and undeveloped. The style looks great in stills, but in action it's messy. It feels like this so close to being something truly special, it just needed a bit more time.

Developer

Atomic Wolf, L.inc

Publisher

Walkabout Games

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
hinchjoie, mikem52, Sasari

There are 3 members online at the moment.