“A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” John F. Kennedy
There is an old adage that if people are willing to give up freedom for security, they will receive neither. This rings true in the world of Atomic Wolf’s Liberated. A world under surveillance, so much so that each citizen has points they accrue depending on their performance in the rigid society. But in this society, there are those who stand out, their identities marked with “unknown” identifiers in the database of the powerful authoritarian government keeping an ever-present eye on society. The Liberated.
The artistic approach with a graphic novel style design lets the game tell its narrative in comic panels, combined with great sound design lends itself to fantastic transitions to Liberated’s gameplay. Character models are well shaded to prevent them from blending too far into the background and the sound of reloading a magazine clip hits like a gong as a way of conveying the process has completed. Gunshots ring out rather than just blasting off, as graphics with word design reminiscent of Adam West’s Batman run play out with cold, and brutally efficient messages including a satisfying “Head Shot!”.
Gameplay is tight, and heavily reminiscent of Shadow Complex, but has the appeal of the near-future dystopian feelings of the heavy dread of authoritarian conflict rather than super spy action. Neither of the main characters, a reluctant and nihilistic hacker who joins The Liberated or the veteran detective with an axe to grind with the so-called “terrorists” hackers, controls with anything other than intense efficiency. The questions of good or bad can’t breathe in a society where both sides of the conflict are willing to commit violence, and by tackling both sides in the narrative, it’s something Liberated is fully willing to explore.
In the demo you begin as the recently recruited hacker as he infiltrates a broadcasting and information hub, as part of a mission that is supposed to have no casualties. This goes out the window almost immediately as violence begins to escalate into deaths on both sides of a sudden firefight. While the Liberated succeeds, they are also pinned in the facility with the authoritarian police force surrounding them. But their goal, their mission, to broadcast the message of liberation, remains unimpeded.
The demo then cuts to the grizzled detective, where you make your way through the facility, executing one masked anarchist after another, often in brutal efficiency. There is a part of the demo, when the Liberated has barricaded themselves inside of a room, and the game requires you to use the technological advantages the authorities have: drones. Slipping a drone inside the room, you carefully plant explosives to take out the terrorists. Towards the end of the level the detective is handed an assault rifle rather than his standard-issue pistol, and things escalate heavily.
Liberated has a lot of potential to be a smash hit from the Polish developers at Atomic Wolf. With tight controls, a story that feels almost too close to our actual present rather than our potential future. As though someone could just flip a switch with today’s technology and the dystopian possibility becomes our subjective reality.
The Revolution begins when Liberated rallies forth later this year in the second quarter of 2020.