Dystopian-themed video games are about as common as cereal, and tend to feature the usual tropes that you’d expect from the genre. Liberated is no different in a lot of ways, to the point where it might as well be plucking its all-too familiar clichés from a list. This side-scroller attempts at creating a gritty world with staunch commentary on resisting the oppressors, but it just feels toothless.
The plot is about as ho-hum as you could possibly expect. Futuristic world, government surveillance, cops are bad, a resistance faction is trying to fight back, must revolt against the oppressors – blah, blah, blah.We’ve seen this sort of stuff time and time again, and it’s no different, or any more interesting, here. Each chapter focuses on the perspective of figures collaborating against the oppressors, and also for the police. Its writing can be a tad forced at times. Liberated: Enhanced Edition will gobble up a few hours of your time with the four chapters on offer, but there are two additional ones to enjoy as well, as part of the Enhanced Edition. None of these feel like worthwhile additions, however – it’s just more of the same.
If there’s one thing that stands strong, however, it’s the art style, which is said to be inspired by graphic novels and film noir. The murky, gritty backgrounds and rugged appearance of characters during cutscenes are nothing short of impressive here. If only they didn’t drag on for so long, though. Nevertheless, this released version features full voice acting across the board, which ranges from decent and convincing to lifeless and unfitting. The in-game visuals also try to go for that comic book-style look to them, with cel-shaded graphics stripped of colour and onomatopoeia popping out whenever you’re firing a gun or killing people. The gameplay takes place in the panels of a comic book, too. The graphics look a bit primitive, even though runs optimally on the Switch. The animations are passable, with a few notable glitches that may crop up (I swam through water and hovered upward inches away from a rope as the detective in the Resistance’s hideout). Sometimes enemies ragdoll on death, like after a stealth attack. Seeing them pogo on the spot after getting their neck snapped or face perforated is unintentionally funny
Whether you’re strolling through the damp streets or sneaking through a murky factory, you won’t be taken aback by the unimaginative setpieces or level designs. Most of the time, all you need to do is go from left to right, all the while climbing a ladder or flipping a switch. There’ll be a few moments where you’ll have to do some very brief backtracking, climbing and swimming as well – none of these moments stand out at all. On the plus side, you won’t be getting lost in this one, and there are checkpoints aplenty to help you along. Those who are more interested in the story than challenge (of which there’s little to be found) can also play on the ‘Reader’ difficulty mode as opposed to ‘Player’.
Each character you play as is packing a pistol with a mere seven shots – reloading at the right time is crucial here. Nevertheless, defeating enemies is a sinch, proving you pop their brain like an overripe melon. You’ll also get to use an Uzi, commandeer a drone to plant bombs, and more. Enemy drones are also to be expected – the awkward aiming on the analogue stick doesn’t help during these encounters. In any case, combat is a mindless, skilless affair, and fails to offer any satisfaction whatsoever.
In between the action – and what dull, underwhelming action it is – you’ll take part in a number of quick-time events that simply equate to ‘press these buttons so you don’t die.’ You’ll be given just enough time to input these, so they’re not too imposing or annoying, at least. The puzzles aren’t too bad. Usually they tend to involve connecting circuits or guessing a correct sequence of numbers. There’s no timer, which robs it of any sense of urgency, but it does make them less unnecessarily frustrating as a result. They’re thoughtfully designed and won’t waste much of your time, either.
Liberated: Enhanced Edition is an underwhelming and undercooked experience. Despite its distinctive art style during the comic book cutscenes, and the half-decent puzzles on offer, the wonky aiming, unremarkable storytelling and barebones gameplay results spoils the title. If only there was something about this game that could’ve liberated me from boredom…