Originally created by Korean developer WiseOn, the parkour-based multiplayer racer FreeJack is getting a new lease on life. Those familiar with the game are probably already lost in nostalgia, and if you’re not? Well, let’s get you caught up.
Welcome to New Jack City
FreeJack was birthed in 2010, and is set in the vivid landscape of “New Jack City”. The city buzzes with diverse arenas, from a mining complex, to a china town, and an urban seaside and even outer space. The narrative kicks off with “FreeJack”, an elusive figure, who skyrockets the appeal of freerunning in the city. The game wasn’t just about the speed though, it was the thrill, the camaraderie, and the raw challenge that drew a host of unique characters to dash and jump across the city.
Players got a kick out of racing online, testing their mettle against fellow racers, and it was a game that stood out among the MMOs of the 2010s as unique in its own rite. You could rely on nifty items, reminiscent of the shenanigans from Mario Kart or ditch them for a more pure, skill-based foot racing experience. For those who hungered for a gripping story, there was a mission mode so challenging it would make even the most seasoned players grit their teeth.
A Disheartening Hiatus, A Hopeful Return
However, like many online games, especially of that time, FreeJack faced some bumps. By August 2013, the game’s client was no longer operational, and the publisher stopped providing the download altogether. Subsequent years saw international versions, presented by other publishers, meeting similar fates, but it picked up and retained a cult following it still has today.
While that seemed like the end for the game, a spark of hope emerged in January 2021. On Reddit’s r/MMORPG sub-reddit, user “VixenVice” (a.k.a. Nicholas Hadjiev) shared his passion for FreeJack and his pursuit of obtaining the game’s source code and development rights. This was no casual undertaking, especially with cultural barriers keeping him and his team from having many successful talks with WiseOn. However, due to a shared love for the game and the concept, they eventually re-engaged in talks via conference calls, and Nicholas soon had the original license in hand. With a plan to breathe life back into FreeJack, they decided on a total game engine revamp, powered by crowdfunding.
Feeling some strong Mirror’s Edge and Jet Set Radio energy in this early footage? Me too. And there’s more to get excited about since you can customize your runner by selecting from four initial options: Jin, Tina, Nadia, or Saul. As you delve deeper into NewJack City, the roster expands with renowned free runners and clubs to join. You’ll rack up points through racing, and soon enough, you’ll be unlocking new characters and upgrading your gear. Racing not only helps in gathering emblems but also enhances special ability cards.
Oh, and speaking of tunes, FreeJack promises to serve up some absolute bangers to race to. If you check out the revived website and the Twitter account, you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Join the Revival!
Because the team is building toward a Kickstarter campaign, the game is not available on Steam. In fact, normally, the only way to play an early demo is if you’re a patreon subscriber. Once subbed, they have a direct Mega link download to the client from their site. However, starting today, there’s a public test available that runs through September 20, 2023 – that’s three days of freerunning! From what I could find, you’ll need to join the Discord to get a link to play the game during this test, so be sure to support the developers by doing so!
With a history as rich as its gameplay and a community rallying for its return, FreeJack’s comeback feels nothing short of a gaming triumph. Whether you’re a nostalgic fan or a curious newbie, this is one race you won’t want to miss out on, and you won’t, thanks to one team of passionate fans that decided to track down the original game’s developers and fight to the finish for a chance to revive it! Currently, the game is set for release on PC, but consoles should come later in development or post release.