Free Running, the game, created by Rebellion studios was made to be an introduction for the gaming community to the real parkour that has been hinted at in other games like Prince of Persia and other acrobatic platform games. Rebellion teamed up with Adidas, the world-wide parkour group Urban Freeflow and parkour's co-creater Sébastien Foucan to provide the most authentic experience. The game was announced just after the PSP was released and then faded into obscurity until March 2007 when it was released on store shelves in Europe without as much as a word from the developer. It's subsequently poor sales led to the game not making it overseas to the US.
The gameplay was reminiscent of other extreme sports games wherein you had a series of moves that could be performed based on key-combination and location with more moves opened up as you completed various challenges. Along with the standard parkour moves such as the wall run and various vaults over obstacles, the players could also perform superficial moves such as flips or spins which provided points and "flow", but weren't necessarily useful for traversing the landscapes. You would work on completing various challenges in a mix of levels that ranged from rooftops to building sites. The game can be difficult for beginners to pick up, but veterans who have learned the nuances can easily create a fluidity of movement that rivals even that of professional parkour performers.
FlowThe game introduced the concept of flow, which is an important philosophy in parkour. The original idea behind the sport was to focus on the flow of movement across the urban landscape, not letting yourself be hindered by man-made obstacles such as walls or rails. This concept was presented in the game as a flow meter, which you filled as you performed tricks in a row and could be used to give yourself a speed boost which was very useful in the instances where you were racing against the clock or another traceur (a "traceur" is a practicioner of parkour). Not keeping your movements fluid and continuous or failing to land a trick could mean that you lost some of your flow.
Landing TricksEvery time you performed a move, you had to land it properly. On the ground, it could be done by pressing square, which performed a "break fall" where your character rolls on the ground, ensuring that you don't lose any momentum (it is also considered a trick and would give you some points). On rails, walls or in any situation where you want to have a controlled landing you would need to press X to ensure that you landed the trick. Not doing so would mean that your character stumbled, you lost a little flow and you would have to regain your speed and momentum. The requirement to land tricks mean that whomever just started playing the game would be left frustrated as everything they tried would end in a stumble (failure) and this led to a lack of the pick-up-and-play arcady feel that is present in other extreme sports games (such as the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series).
CustomizationUpon completing different challenges, you could unlock clothing for your character to wear, music to listen to or movies of professional traceurs. The clothing your character wore, which was a combination of a top (sweaters, shirts, etc) a bottom (pants or shorts) and shoes. Changing your clothing around could improve your performance as each piece of clothing had an affect on your speed, stamina and the amount of health you had. Beyond the clothing, you had the option to customize which music was present in the game by a menu in the "Hangout" screen.
The gameplay of Free Running revolves around completing a series of challenges, usually against the clock, in the varying settings. Each challenge would reward you with a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal which would unlock clothing, music, videos and other challenges in other levels. Increasingly difficult challenges required you to have a gold medal in all the other challenges on that level (and sometimes have completed challenges on other levels) before they are opened up.
FreestyleFreestyle had no time limit or challenge to complete so you were free to explore the level as you see fit, getting to know it before you take on any of the real challenges available to you. A series of small mini-challenges, which were small variants of the normal challenges, were available throughout the level and completing them all would reward you with a gold medal for the Freestyle challenge.
Free RaceFree Race would set your character against another traceur (or another player) in a race to the finish line, where the path to the finish wasn't pre-determined but could be made up on the spot. Getting to the finish line first would reward you with a brozne medal with the silver and gold reserved for players who got to the finishing line first but also with a set amount of points, gathered by flowing through the landscape.
Time AttackTime Attack is where you race against the clock through a series of checkpoints, attempting to beat a set time.
Target HitIn Target Hit you are trying to reach all the red targets that have been scattered about the level within a certain time limit.
Crash TestCrash Test has you controlling a crash test dummy nicknamed Max Damage. You still have all your moves as a traceur, but the point of this challenge is to gather as many points as possible by damaging yourself as much as possible. Targets can be found around the level which blows you up into the sky, ragdolls your character or gives you double the points.
Flow ChallengeJust like Time Attack, except that you have to build up your flow meter and cross the finish line with maximum amount of flow.
Chase'n'RaceYou run through a series of checkpoints against another traceur (or player). As with Free Race you are required to perform tricks and gather points if you want a gold or silver medal.
Ground ZeroIn Ground Zero the object is to not touch the ground at any cost, trying to beat a time limit by following checkpoints that have you running over cars and jumping on rails.
Landmark HitLandmarks are places in the level that are difficult to reach, either because they are high up or in a convoluted area. Landmark Hit challenges you to reach these areas within a certain time limit.
Time BombThis is a 2-player only challenge. Both players have a timer which counts up and gathering targets that are found around the level decrease the timer. At the end of the match, the player with the least amount of time is the winner.
Mentor ChallengeMentor Challenge is when one of the real-world traceurs challenge your character to a race. These are usually not opened up until a lot of other challenges are completed and reap the greatest rewards.
The various environments in Free Running are meant to represent various urban areas in England.
GymSet within the old school complex, the gym is the place to go if you need any Parkour training.
HomeYour "home turf". The old school is your favorite practice area with its large, flat rooftopes and trick rails.
FlatsTypical North Longdon project long since abandoned, run-down and decaying. It's Parkour paradise and has excellent rooftop circuit.
MillThe two large mill buildings provide the climbing thrills, whilst the terraced houses and gardens are perfect ground zero areas.
DocksThe once magnificent docklands are now used to stage some of the toughest OK races in the UK.
FreighterRace across the abandoned container ship. You'll need a strong nerve and a good head for heights to survive.
WarehouseVenture inside the old train repair sheds, using the roof supports to swing your way across.
PlazaA vast entertainment complex nearing completion, at night it becomes a meeting place for Traceurs from across the UK.
Building SiteDare to race and trick your way across the unfinished tower blocks, use the scaffold and machinery to get the best time.
HighriseThe mother of all PK locations, this is the big one. One false move and you're worm food.
Beyond your personal, customizable, character the game features a few real-world traceurs rendered as opponents or playable characters.
Sébastien FoucanAs one of the co-creators of parkour, Sébastien is featured as your trainer in the Gym level and later also as a challenger. He explains the concepts of parkour and the various moves you can do.
Urban FreeflowSome memebers of the parkour team Urban Freeflow have lent their appearances to the game, where you can challenge them for unlockables and the rights to use them as a playable character:
- Ez (Paul Corkery)
- Bam (Ben Milner)
- Blue Devil (Paul Joseph)
- Asid (Yusuf Yirtici)
- Hasan (Hasan Yirtici)
- Kiell (Andy Day)