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Freeware Friday: OpenLieroX


Welcome to Freeware Friday, a weekly column showcasing excellent games that you can play free of charge!

There are a plethora of excellent 2D shooters, from Soldat to Counter-Strike 2D. They all owe a debt, however, to the phenomenal and under-appreciated Liero, one of only a few classic freeware indie games. Liero is long dead, but it lives on through the open-source OpenLieroX, and through the magic of netplay and mods continues to grow in new and exciting ways. There are few freeware games that deserve a permanent spot on one's computer. Cave Story, Warning Forever, Spelunky, and Iji are some of these freeware constants, and so is OpenLieroX.

In case you have never played Liero, here's a breakdown of history. Liero was created as a real-time alternative to the excellent Worms franchise of artillery games. Feature one-on-one play, destructible environments, and a plethora of weapons and pickups, it was one of the best freeware games to ever be released. However, the author soon lost interest and the source-code, and released the license into the public. Several remakes were made, including NiL and Molez, but the most popular was easily Liero Xtreme, or LieroX. History repeats itself, and LieroX is transformed into OpenLieroX, the defining version of Liero for those looking for fast-paced action.

OpenLieroX is, as the name suggest, open-source. The biggest difference between this version and the original Liero is perhaps the graphics. OpenLieroX has a vastly improved interface, both in terms of visuals and usability. It is still fairly low resolution, which is a hindrance on faster, larger monitors, and this is a minor problem with the game. Pixelated graphics are definitely not bad (this is Freeware Friday, after all) but pixelated graphics mixed with smooth gradients and interfaces does not sit well at lower resolutions. Some ability to up the resolution would be nice in a future version. The sounds, however, are spot on and still completely appropriate after all this time. There is nothing quite like a satisfying explosion sound to get hte blood pumping!

OpenLieroX is, at heart, a multiplayer game. Therefore, there is no true single-player of any sort. All you have is single-player against groups of bots. There's no campaign, no goal, nothing. Just simple practice for the real deal. However, playing single-player will definitely help you get used to Liero before stepping into the online realm. We highly suggest this, as playing online is extremely punishing if you have never played before, even if you have played similar games. The reason why is simple: the controls are absolutely terrible for the modern gamer. You control everything with the keyboard. Ideally, you should control movement with the keyboard and shooting with the mouse, but this is an innovation unheard of in Liero. The steepest learning curve in the game is simply being able to do something. Hopefully this will be fixed in future versions, but there are no promises.

OpenLieroX is based around several different game modes, such as CTF, Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch. Perhaps the most intriguing game mode is demolition, which takes advantage of the destructible terrain by tasking you with digging out the most dirt amongst everybody in the game. We also greatly enjoy VIP, as it involves hunting down a civilian (although you can't really tell in single-player) and that brings so many memories of TFC back. The different gametypes really just boil down to "attack players and kill them", but it's incredibly fun, so there is no complaints here. Most of them also include the concept of "lives", which makes skillful playing incredibly important as almost all gametypes are distillations of the Last Man Standing concept that is seen every once in a while in other shooters.

The weapons in OpenLieroX are incredibly varied. To start with, you have the standard Liero set of guns such as the rocket launcher, super shotgun, minigun, and other such normal weapons. OpenLieroX comes with more than just these, though. Weapons from all sorts of sources, such as Warhammer 40k or RPG battles, are present in this, and you can download even more if you wish. Note that there is no actual weapon displayed on your character, so remember which weapon you have selected, or you might end up killing yourself. After all, OpenLieroX has friendly fire turned on by default.

The best addition to the Liero gameplay that OpenLieroX has made is netplay. In other words, online multiplayer. Those looking for an experience akin to Soldat will be greatly pleased by this feature, as it lets people play through the internet as opposed to a LAN or even on the same computer.. Unfortunately, as of this writing, there are not a lot of servers and pings are all over the board, although more servers do tend to open up on the weekends. OpenLieroX comes with listen server software, so if this strikes you as being wrong, you can always open up your own server to add to the ranks and offer people more options. As far as we can tell, there is no way to host a dedicated server, so you are out of luck if you want to just host without running the game. Sorry.

There's not much more to OpenLieroX than this. It's a simple game with a simple goal: to offer classic 2D action gameplay in a free, open-source way. Those that love games like Soldat, Quake, or Counter-Strike will definitely enjoy OpenLieroX, and eneryone should give it a try regardless of genre allegiances. You can download OpenLieroX for Mac, Linux, or PC from the official site. As the community is tight-knit, you might also take a look at and participate in the official forums as well. Happy fragging!

For another look at freeware games, take a peek at Joystiq's Free Game Club weekly feature!

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