FreeJack, I had hoped, would give back some of that fluid movement to the sport. After all, a fall in a video game does not end your life -- greater risks can be taken. When we picture parkour in our heads, we see superhero-like movements, leaping between buildings, or balancing on wires. In most ways, FreeJack delivers this experience. It also features some really cool graphics, fantastic customization and great social systems.
But in the middle of all that fun, the game can just stop you and make you feel more human than ever.
%Gallery-102590%First of all, the story mode in FreeJack is really fun. I like the little cutscenes, and the characters are beyond outrageous. I love when a game owns its wackiness and runs with it. Basically, you start out as a newbie runner who needs to prove herself to the local gangs. Yet while the level of challenge climbs slowly, suddenly you'll find yourself being hammered by oncoming traffic. I was astounded at how the game could carry you along on such thrill rides, only to stop you dead in your tracks. A superhuman with the ability to climb walls would not be stopped by a simple pedestrian, nor would she completely collapse if she missed a very basic move.
I think the issues arise from many sources, but generally the confusion sets in when the difficulty is so suddenly ramped up that you have no idea where to go or what to do. There I was, listening to my mentor, completing training mission after training mission. While I trained, I also enjoyed the first two story quests. Suddenly, though, I was asked to run at such a higher level of performance that I literally had to log out in frustration. I went to the forums, asking for help. Most players were helpful -- in game as well -- but they essentially told me to finish the training missions and to learn the appropriate moves.
I tried the missions again and hit the same wall. It was as though the game forgot that I was new and further confused me by not thoroughly explaining what to do. Still, there were players who seemed to have it down. For every complaint on the forums, those expert players had conquered everything. I pictured those kids in the arcade, running in place on the dance-based video game pads -- those kids are insane. They play it for hours and hours, developing the coordination of a (video-game-playing) ninja. I've been a drummer for most of my life and an artist as well. I think I have some degree of coordination -- but something about this game made me feel like a complete putz at times.
So much of the game does flow, though, and feels so fun. If you are lucky enough to have a good race, the world zooms past and you find yourself responding perfectly to the digital environment. But why, then, do you have to stop dead in your tracks when you smack a fat pedestrian, or when you miss a simple leap? The animations are fantastic, but they often miss connecting to one another. I might slide around a corner, but when I come back to a running position I'll be facing the wrong direction. Sometimes the game bugs out, and I find myself in a permanent slide.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things to do while you wait for the racing to be smoothed out. The customization is awesome. I will admit, with no shame whatsoever, that I enjoy playing virtual dress-up with my characters. In fact, ask even a hardcore raider about looking good, and she will tell you that looks are important in an MMORPG. I am not sure if it is because of the "demo" state of the game, but I had tons of money to throw at the cash shop. I outfitted my character with new hair, glasses -- even a kitty backpack. Despite starting out with a pre-set character, I was able to make her look completely unique.
The housing system is fun; you get an instanced apartment that can be decorated just how you like it. I love how everything in FreeJack, including the furniture and items, feels chunky and solid. Many MMORGPs have amazing-looking realistic graphics, but the world doesn't fit together. FreeJack feels like one world and one art style. It's colorful, young and sharp.