The impossible sport, now made possible.
"The people who are good at this unconventional sport are on a par with most superheroes."
I don't claim to be an authority on Parkour - I've seen a few documentaries on the sport, but like many I've never invested time into it, got to know the history or the big names. Rebellion, it would seem, wants to educate us, and have provided the masses with Free Running - the game.
What we're presented with can be surmised fairly easily (and lazily) - Tony Hawk's without the board. No, it isn't exactly the same, but it does draw a number of parallels with Neversoft's classic series. No bad thing, to be fair. Players assume control of one of a number of characters - shockingly enough each with their own strengths and weaknesses - and are thrown head/leg/body first into the world of Parkour, aided by the (so I've been informed) big name star Sebastien Foucan, founder and general ambassador of Free Running - also very French. And he was in Casino Royale, it would seem.
Anyway, after a brief training session where Foucan and the game drill into your head how to play and the philosophies behind Parkour, the game begins proper. Taking place in a number of decidedly British locations - construction site, abandoned council flats etc. - players make their way through levels by completing a number of mini challenges, from points scoring to races and everything inbetween.
It isn't the most revolutionary concept for a game, but the simplicity helps keep things grounded.
"Controls are the real deep point of the game and will keep the committed playing for a long time."
The main problem with the game comes with the fact that it runs at a fairly slow and unresponsive pace - not what you need for a game that requires quick reactions and good timing. Instigating a move never seems totally under the player's control, and more often than not will see a flailing carcass plummeting off the block of flats rather than the intended, better outcome.
It's possible to learn to take into account this slowness, but it never really feels natural or instant - maybe Rebellion was going for a more realistic edge to the game, but it just ends up making things feel like more of a chore than they should be. It isn't a game breaker, but it really doesn't help.
Presentation-wise things are pretty basic - graphically it's decent, nothing special but it does a job. Sound is, again, decent - voice over work from Foucan is well-implemented and the music is suited to the game, even if it isn't that great. To be honest, it's the kind of presentation you may expect from a game based around a sport that isn't massmarket. Maybe Free Running will have the Tony Hawk's effect and make it ultra popular - spawning 3,000 sequels and a billion kids on every street corner trying to emulate their heroes and jump off buildings. Maybe.