Home Reviews Third Person Games Freedom Fighters
Freedom Fighters PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doc_Brown   
Sunday, 26 February 2006 18:00
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Developer: Io Interactive
Publisher: EA Games
Demo
ESRB Teen (Violence)
PEGI 16+ (Game contains depictions of violence)

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A Drop of Time
“… Create chaos – leave a nation leaderless. Kill our enemies. And bring to Earth, through Communism, the greatest peace man has ever known.”
- Lavrentii Pavolich Beria
Head of Soviet Secret Police

“Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.”
- James Baldwin
American Author

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Save me, Patrick Swayze!
Freedom Fighters takes a slight twist on world history by suggesting what could have happened had the Soviets been the first to successfully develop a nuclear weapon. WWII ends with the bomb being dropped on Berlin, and the USSR subsequently becomes the world’s superpower. Over the years their Communist influence expands across the globe, and the Cuban missile crisis leads directly into a hostile takeover of the entire United States. The country’s leaders are then sent to re-education camps in Alaska, all under the guise of protecting the American people from a corrupt regime.

Players control Chris Stone—just an ordinary New Yorker who works alongside his brother Troy for a company called Plumbers On Patrol. Just your luck, you get a job at the apartment of one Isabella Angelina, an outspoken critic of Soviet aggression, the morning the Russians invade. While you hide in the bathroom, the soldiers take your brother away. Taking matters into your own hands, you find out where the Soviets are keeping prisoners and bust out both Isabella and your brother.

The Soviets think you must be the leader of an organized uprising, and ironically enough your heroism inspires other citizens to do just that. From there on out, the game follows the efforts of the resistance through the remaining summer months and deep into winter. The story relies on inter-mission cutscenes—mostly propaganda heavy news broadcasts—and real-time briefings to deliver the story, and they’re all exceedingly well done. The plot’s main faulting is little to no focus on the characters, but far and away the game does a better job than most when it comes to the storyline.

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Hit me one time... Hit me twice!
Using their Hitman 2 engine as a base, Io Interactive has crafted a similarly solid game from the technology. Graphics weren’t cutting edge even when the game was released, but they age well. The levels are large if not enormous, and they do a particularly good job of implying the city beyond the current battleground. The game is notably bug free, though in a couple of instances I did experience a frightening BSOD-like crash. No harm done, however, nor is the problem anything more than a rarity, so I urge you not to be scared away by any concerns about unstable tech.

In the audio realm the game is similarly robust. Sound effects won’t win any awards but they get the job done, while the voice acting is, for the most part, quite good (the Russian accents are admittedly inauthentic, but it’s what you’d expect). The music, however, deserves special mention. Not only does it adjust befitting your situation, but it also features a wonderful Russian orchestra that perfectly sets the mood. If you’ve played any of the Hitman games you should have some idea of what kind of quality level to expect. Really good stuff.

As far as content goes you’ve got a small arsenal of weapons at your disposal, though you can only carry one primary firearm and one secondary sidearm at a time. Fellow freedom fighters carry a variety of weapons and come in various genders and ethnicities. The Soviets are even more varied, with everything from regular grunts and snipers to heavily armored bruisers and athletic commando units—not to mention their personnel carriers and attack choppers. The good news is they only have a single tank. The bad news is it hurts like hell.

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An Eye for an Ivan
The game has a deceptively simple approach to its chapters. For each, you’re given a map indicating at least two areas of interest. In turn, each area has a few objectives in line with a resistance movement: freeing prisoners, disrupting supply lines, etc, and ultimately raising the American flag (note: doing the latter will complete the entire area, an oversight you’d be happier avoiding). What’s ingenious about this approach is how it encourages you to hop between the areas accomplishing objectives, instead of trying to take whole areas at once.

For instance, say you’re in a chapter with three areas. A refueling pad in one supplies an attack chopper in all three, while bridges in another allow for troop transports to respawn enemy soldiers (tastefully done, though). If you don’t mind the challenge, you can just endure the ensuing onslaught and tackle each area in turn. The ideal solution to this problem, though, is to quickly steal C4 from one of the areas, go blow up the helipad, and then go blow up the bridges. Without reinforcements or air support, the areas should fall with much less resistance.

Thankfully, both the soldiers and the freedom fighters employ quality AI. They’ll advance, fall back, use cover, scale diverse terrain, and use mounted guns. Directing your fellow fighters couldn’t be easier, with three simple instructions at your disposal: follow, attack, and defend. A button press will sequentially manage your squad, while holding it will control them all at once. Furthermore, entering aim mode will allow you to specify specific areas for these commands. Advanced tactics are easy to pull off, and your fighters always stay in line—I’m looking at you, Half-Life 2.

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The Sewers are Lovely this Time of Year
Freedom Fighter’s greatest strength, though, is nailing the feeling of being a resistance fighter. Your primary method of movement is through the sewers, so manholes serve as the game’s portals and quicksave locations. Your beautiful base evolves over time as the resistance grows, and your character’s clothes change with the seasons. Summer gives way to the drenching rains of fall, which then give way to the ice and snow of winter. In your base, resistance fighters huddle around fire barrels to keep warm, and the lights from their tents shine like stars.

Even more than hassling the Soviets, the rebellion is about keeping hope alive. In the center of your base someone maintains a little garden. Capture the flag would seem ridiculous in any other serious setting, but here it’s central to everything the game stands for. The charisma you build from doing so, as well as from taking objectives and healing allies, is what enables you to recruit more fighters in the field. Despite focusing on a single city in an entire country overthrown, the game manages to convince you that your actions could inspire a successful national uprising.

The only real complaint I can lodge against the game is that the missions themselves rarely seem to follow any grander scheme than hassling the Russians. There really doesn’t seem to be any progression that would lead to the successful ousting of what is, in the game’s setting, the most powerful army in the world. More ambitious plans such as an assassination attempt do arise, but they feel as though they’re generated by the plot and not by the actual characters. This unfortunately reduces the game to a series of relatively unrelated, mostly similar missions.

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Conclusion
Freedom Fighters is a very solid, though sadly overlooked, third-person shooter. The strong AI and simple squad controls work together to make an easy but deep tactical experience, while the game’s presentation goes a long way toward conveying a convincing rebellion. A lack of focus on the characters’ personalities and the uprising’s overarching strategy prevent the game from attaining true excellence, but these can only bring the experience down so far. Seeing as you can pick up a copy for all of ten bucks these days, you have little reason not to purchase this great game.

Note: Originally posted at Hangar16.com on 11/16/05
 

Game Rated 8/10
 

 

 

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