Is there any need to Freakout here?
Twin-stick shooters may be simple, but the best ones are incredibly enjoyable. The catharsis of mowing down hordes of enemies as you deftly dodge their attacks can’t be understated, and the likes of Geometry Wars and Tesla vs. Lovecraft get it so right. Recently I’ve been playing Freakout: Calamity TV Show which seeks to find a place in a somewhat crowded genre. Let’s see how it fares!
Initially, this is presented, perhaps unsurprisingly, as a TV show in which you fight off crowds of humanoid enemies with an assault rifle in a dystopian future. It doesn’t take long for you to be contacted by the leader of some sort of resistance group who wants to free you and destroy a drug manufacturing company. You’re broken out of the TV studio and rampage throughout various locales to find and take down the baddies. It’s a very basic story, but the narrative is rarely the focus of a game of this type, the action is!
In that regard, Freakout is fairly ordinary. You choose your weapon, perk, and special move before the level and then fight off the hordes in the usual top-down, twin-stick style. You can’t change weapons mid-level, and there are no power-ups beyond picking up another special move charge. Once you’ve killed all the enemies, that’s the level done and you can move on. On occasion, you’ll need to press buttons during combat, but it won’t get much more complicated than that.
As is often the case, if you get hit once, you die and reset back to the last checkpoint. The checkpointing is quite good and you won’t be set back far when you do perish. And you’ll perish a lot! Freakout is pretty punishing, with a huge number of enemies attack at once from many different directions. The levels are laid out in such a way that makes it difficult to group and kite groups of foes meaning you really need to be on form constantly. The variety of enemies forces you to prioritise targets as you go which keeps things constantly intense.
Things are a little downhill from here though. The environments are very hard to navigate due to the camera. It’s often difficult to tell if something is an obstacle until you run into it, and considering how fast-paced this is, that’s pretty much a death sentence. Enemies can often blend into the background too making it tricky to spot where they, and occasionally you, are. This is exacerbated further by objects in the foreground that can obscure your view. There are so many little errors that really reduce the enjoyment of Freakout.
Some of the problems aren’t so little. The framerate started to struggle enormously — near on single figures — once I reached one of the later areas in the game. It was only in some of the areas, those with lots of enemies and environmental features, but in a fast-paced game like this it’s utterly infuriating. Considering that this isn’t the most stunning looking game, it shouldn’t really struggle to this extent, even on a vanilla Xbox One.
The final nail in the coffin though, was when I reached an area of the game that just stopped working. Enemies wouldn’t spawn anymore and I couldn’t progress. I restarted a few times, trying different items, but I simply couldn’t progress any further as whatever should happen next wasn’t triggering. I gave up at this point.
There are some things to enjoy in Freakout: Calamity TV Show. The soundtrack is great, and some of the writing is irreverently amusing. The boss fights are fun and feature some creativity, and the combat is reasonable, albeit basic. But there are so many flaws here that it really reduces how much fun you can get out of it. It’s hard to recommend this over the numerous alternatives in the genre.