Review: Freedom Fighters

After the success of Hitman series, IO Interactive created one of the best console third-person shooters Freedom Fighters. Probably one of the most pro-US, patriotic games out there, along with Metal Wolf Chaos, and it was made in Denmark.

Being developed by IO Interactive, the game is obviously influenced by Hitman series, and even borrows some assets from their previous games. The game was published by EA Games and released in 2003, and it was available for a number of consoles at the time: PS2, the original XBOX, Gamecube and of course PC (Microsoft Windows). Back in 2002, EA announced the game as Freedom Fighters: Battle for Liberty Island but later renamed it to simply Freedom Fighters. The game originally was supposed to feature turn-based strategic mode as one of the major parts of gameplay. IO Interactive developed the game using the Glacier engine, and the engine uses both OpenGL and Direct X APIs. The end result was great and was one of the better games that EA published.

The premise is simple. In an alternative timeline the Soviet Union won the second world war, by nuking Berlin, and soon after all of Europe was under communist rule. Over time the US got weakened and was soon surrounded by communist countries. The game is set in the present day (2003, when the game was released), and begins with a Soviet invasion. You play as Christopher Stone, a plumber along with your brother Troy, and it’s just another day on the job. Your client is an anti-communist activist Isabella Angelina, and as soon as you arrive at her apartment you find the place deserted and Soviets show up. The invasion is in full effect, they take away Troy, but you manage to escape. The Soviets don’t carpet bomb the city, but instead, the invasion is in full swing, and you must escape the invaders and reach the sewers. The sewer serves as a base of operations in the game, and your first couple of missions are rescuing Troy and Isabella.

When you start the rebellion your first missions are to liberate the police station and the post office. It’s here that you will be introduced to a concept that there are primary and secondary objectives. For instance, in the first two missions, you must liberate the police station, but a small vital part of the map is guarded by snipers. To get rid of the snipers, you must go to the Post Office map, plant C4 to get rid of the snipers and the return to Police Station, and continue your mission. Each time you complete a secondary objective (blowing bridges, helicopters, rescuing prisoners), you will gain charisma. For instance, if you don’t destroy the helicopter pad, you can expect that it will show up on other maps when you list expect it. To complete the main objective and liberate the place, you must take down the Soviet flag, and put the US flag in its place.

The more charisma you have the more fighters you can recruit. You can start recruiting them in the second mission, and you start with two fighters. You can order your fighters around and they can either attack, defend, or regroup (they will follow you around). You do this by aiming and then pressing the assigned button (1,2,3 is the default on the PC), and it is pretty accurate. Your fighters can’t die, instead, if they are down, they can be revived by using a medkit. As the game progresses, you can recruit more fighters, up to twelve max, which gives a nice sense of progress. The AI is, for the most part, competent, and there aren’t things like bad pathfinding, and disobeying orders.

Each map can be completed in more ways, and there are multiple ways to reach your objective. Of course, you can fight the enemy head-on, but there is a certain satisfaction in finding alternative paths in the level. In some parts, you can even sneak in, without the enemy noticing, and set up an ambush taking advantage of your position. There are two missions, where you are on your own. These missions are good, and you must resort to a lot of sneaking and resource management, but they serve as a nice break of pace and have a context in the story. The game starts in the autumn and finishes in the winter, and a change of scenery is gives you a nice sense of progression. You can see all of the weather effects like rain, snow, falling leaves, even Chris’s outfit changes depending on the season. The environment can also be destroyed. You can destroy things like explosive barrels, cars can be blown up and used to your advantage. Also, as you progress through the game you can see that Soviets are reacting to the rebellion as there is more propaganda and wanted posters, more soldiers, and more damage is being done to the city.

Speaking of propaganda, it is probably my favorite part of the game. After you complete each segment of the game you will be presented a newsreel from the SAFN (Soviet Armed Forces Network). In these news segments, you can see the way that the media portrays the rebellion and resistance, and you will soon be nicknamed “Freedom Phantom”. All of this a satire of the real news coverage of wars, and the way media reports about wars. As the game progresses you will see more and more threats from the Soviets, how the resistance must be stopped and that the end is near. Once you liberate the TV Station, the news coverage stops, but Christopher will give his powerful patriotic speech.

The graphics are good, for a 2003 game, and has that familiar PS2 style graphics. The cover for the game was drawn by Alex Maleev, a comic book professional artist of Daredevil fame. The models are good, nicely detailed, and animations are smooth and fluid. There is also no blood in the game, you will only see small red splashes around the enemies when they are hit. This was probably done because of censors, but it doesn’t create much of the problem in the game, and it doesn’t ruin the feeling of the game. One of the minor problems in the game is a number of weapons. At your disposal you have a wrench, a pistol, revolver, AK, Shotgun, SMG, Machine Gun, Sniper, Grenades, Molotov’s and an RPG. Most of the weapons are Soviet, expect the pistol which is a Beretta, and a Shotgun which is a SPAS 12. Lack of weapon variety will have you, for the most part, using the same weapons (usually an AK or an SMG), which can get pretty tiring. Each weapon has its own crosshair, and with some weapons, Chris is rather imprecise, which can be contributed to him being a plumber. At the end of each level, you will be presented with a statistic on how long you took to beat the game, how many enemies were killed, and how many shots were fired.

The music in the game is amazing. Being composed by Jesper Kyd and it was awarded the Best Soundtrack of Year, by several game sites. Jesper Kyd researched Russian music and is obviously influenced by Soviet and Eastern European orchestral music. Kyd’s blend of techno and orchestral scores with the help of the Hungarian Radio Choir works great. All of the other sounds are good as well. The weapons sound differently and enemies speak in Russian. They say several phrases like “Attack the enemy”, “Shoot them”, “Die Americans”, and other major characters say a couple of Russian words in the dialog. Also, you can hear your fighters cheering, complaining, and other things you may hear in combat. The cut scenes are nicely directed and dynamic, and really convey the feeling that the invasion and occupation are serious, and that you must fight to liberate the country.

The game was sadly overlooked, as it was released in September/October 2003, during an upcoming holiday season, and it was overshadowed by more popular games. One of the biggest problems with the game is that the multiplayer was only available for consoles. The reason why it wasn’t included in the PC version is a mystery, but a huge missed opportunity. The multiplayer revolved around securing bunkers and flags. A game could host up to four players via split-screen, and you may choose between Soviets or American fighters. Bunkers would spawn soldiers, and the flag would be usually positioned in the center of the map. You could control up to eight soldiers, however, if it’s a four-player battle, each player can control up to four soldiers. There was huge potential, and in my opinion, the multiplayer should have been included in the PC version.

The sequel was planned, but IO Interactive dropped it and created Kane and Lynch: Dead Man instead. After IO Interactive split from Square Enix in 2017, IO brought with them Hitman and Freedom Fighters license with them. If you are interested in the game, get it. The graphics, sound, music, and the overall feel of the game is great. There are some obvious nods to Red Dawn, particularly near the end of the game. As of this writing, the game is not available in online stores, but you can still find it on some abandonware sites. Give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

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