Atomic Wolf and L.INC’s noir dystopian thriller Liberated comes to life on PC after releasing on Nintendo Switch previously. The game offers a comic book side-scrolling shooter which has a heavy focus on story. Is it worth a punt though.
We take a look at Atomic Wolf and L.INC’s comic book style Noir-themed thriller, Liberated on PC. A side-scrolling shooter bathed in a dark and moody visual style coupled with minor puzzle elements. The story sees players take-on several roles commencing with a character who joins a rebellious movement of hackers/activists. The theme rests within a dystopian society where government control has ventured way out of its remit to become an imposing surveillance state. Sadly, the majority of people err on the side of ignorance which is where the Liberated group rise up from within. The government forces deem Liberated as terrorists, but the group’s goal is to highlight how badly the government and their forces manipulate the populace. It’s not an entirely original story-line, but the presentation is top-quality for fans of Western style visual novels and comic books.
Unfortunately, Liberated the game, offers a stop-start approach to gameplay where in one moment you’re listening to people talking, or taking in a selection of scenes (in true comic frame-by-frame style). Then in the next, taking control of a character and walking, running or shooting your way through various areas. This isn’t one smooth movement, instead, the player needs to press a button to proceed each frame. An automated process might have fared better here.
Looking at the combat then, and again there are some complaints especially in later issues where it just feels like you repeat the same actions over-and-over. There’s no variety unfortunately. Players can choose to use stealth, but this isn’t intuitive and doesn’t reward the player in any way. In most instances it’s far easier to line-up a head-shot for the quick-kill and suffer no consequences for making noise. It seems Liberated wants to toy with action, stealth sequences, but never really excels in either. At the end of the day, most players will resort to gunning their way through. Players do get a shotgun, machine pistol and handgun to use, but these come with infinite ammo, and no choices as to when to use them, it’s all rather forced. The game could have made the combat far more engaging with limited ammo, a choice of weapons and noise having an impact on enemy aggression levels – giving stealth more reason to exist here. That said, when it works, the combat is fun especially when head-shotting multiple enemies in quick succession.
As for the puzzles, there some lateral thinking required to help characters navigate specific areas. Switches to activate, and blocks to push or pull. The deeper puzzles come in the form of making circuits by rotating dials, hacking a code by deduction, and spinning hexagons to create complete circuits. The game offers no hints with these, so expect to spend some time here if the idea of how to complete them doesn’t immediately “click”. The game does offer an easy mode where combat is reduced and the puzzles toned down in favour of leaving players open to enjoying the story-visual elements.
In terms of visuals, Liberated looks great with its dark, brooding hand-drawn visual style. There are no real complaints aside from some of the character animations can look a bit stiff at times. These are easily forgivable when looking at the game as a whole though. What is especially neat are visual exclamations when characters get shot, offering a real comic book flavour. That said, looking at the level designs and it appears the opening episode offers the most visual variety with its train station, city walking, driving scenes, dark woods, and base infiltration. The other two issues settle for interiors which don’t really show off how nice the game can look save for some short moments here and there. Either way, the game does look great in 4K and for those sitting further back from their screens the text bubble size can be increased.
Audio is of a mixed bag here with some solid music to drive the game’s action scenes. However, some of the voice acting is not so good, with performances feeling too much like reading a script rather than feeling the plight of the characters. Still, it’s good the game has fully voiced audio where it could have opted for text only.
In terms of length, player can complete all four of the starting chapters in around three hours. Some moments might change depending on your actions but at the end of the day there’s no real reason to dive-in again. Perhaps a one-hit-kill mode could be added at a later date for added challenge and replay value. The game offers two additional DLC segments offered for free, but these weren’t available at the time of review.
Liberated then offers an entertaining yet highly predictable story with a selection of forgettable characters unfortunately. There is too much chopping and changing perspectives which means you don’t really get to feel invested in either side of the battle. Whilst the combat remains satisfying, some of the puzzle elements feel a little out-of-place at times in terms of pacing. The game’s length and no real replay value means it’s a hard sell, where it comes across as an abundance of visual style over substance. With more refinement of gameplay mechanics, Liberated could have been a slick and enticing foray into a dark vision of the future. Instead it doesn’t quite reach the mark with its multitude of aims where it never really excels.
Score 5.5/10 – Review code supplied by the publisher