Freedom Fighters 16th Anniversary Retro Review


Freedom Fighters is a game that, I feel, was
underappreciated during the sixth generation of video game consoles. Although to be perfectly honest, it is probably
a game I would never have gotten around to playing if I had not had a Blockbuster Game
Pass in the summer of 2004. Living about 4 minutes away from the local
Blockbuster led to my friends and I renting tons of games that summer, sometimes 3 games
in a single day! On one of those fateful trips, we picked up
Freedom Fighters, which had been released the previous fall, and I am sure glad we did. Freedom Fighters is set in an alternate timeline
where Russia was first to build the atomic bomb and used it on Germany to end World War
II. In the following years, the spread of communism
was unchallenged and the Soviet Union soon had control of the entire Eastern Hemisphere. It is now summer 2003, and plumbers Chris
and his brother Troy are heading off to work like any other day when the unexpected happens. A full-blown Soviet Invasion of New York and
the United States as a whole has just begun! Assuming the role of Chris Stone, players
are tasked with helping take America back from the control of the Soviet Union. The first two missions send Chris out alone
to tackle this fight, but after rescuing resistance leader Isabella Angelina, Chris can recruit
squad members to help him in his struggle against the Reds. Leading your squad is the single greatest
aspect to Freedom Fighters! A single button press can let you assign squad
members to attack a position, defend an area, or fall back to your location. For more precise control, you can assign a
single squad member with a light press of the button. Holding the button assigns everyone under
your command. Squad members move and fight with purpose
as you assign them to do their different objectives. When you assign your squad to attack an enemy
position, they will use cover as they advance to keep themselves safe from incoming fire. Tell them to defend a position and they will
use available turrets to suppress enemy advances. All bets seem to be off if you tell them to
fall back though, as they will just come back to your position as fast as they can. As your squad grows, you quickly learn how
to use them to clear your way effectively. Squad members have health just like you, so
if a squad member goes down you have the option to heal them with a medkit from your inventory. This is an older game so yes, it does rely
on medkits! When you are first able to recruit squad members
you have only two slots available. As you progress through the game, you can
complete optional objectives such as rescuing prisoners or healing injured NPC’s to gain
charisma. After gaining enough charisma to fill a meter,
you will gain a new recruitment slot. By the end of the game, if you have completed
every optional objective, you can have a squad of 12 by your side. And it can get as hectic as it sounds! Sending all 12 members of your squad after
a single target is just really fun. Squad members are recruited during each level
by finding them and pressing the action button to recruit them, so make sure to explore the
map if you have some empty slots. You never know when that extra gun is going
to save your life! Levels themselves are the second greatest
thing about Freedom Fighters. Each chapter of the game includes multiple
levels that each have their own objectives to complete. Doing things in one level can also have a
certain effect on other levels in the chapter. In chapter one, for example, you need to liberate
a police station to rescue Isabella, however a set of Soviet snipers have the approach
to the police station locked down and any attempts to advance result in death. Collecting some C4 near the police station
allows you to switch over to the post office level, and destroy the gas station the snipers
are perched on, which in turn allows you to finally progress to the police station. Later chapters can have between 2-5 separate
levels, so make sure to listen and read about what Soviet installations are in each area
to better plan your attacks. Trust me, doing things strategically can make
some of the game’s later segments much easier! Another one of my favorite things about Freedom
Fighters is that the story actually feels like it happens over the course of time. Each new chapter introduces you to an altered
Chris whose appearance changes as the conflict rages on. Between each chapter, additional story elements
unfold from the perspective of a Russian propaganda news broadcaster to great effect. Overall the story is easily one of my favorites
and just a fun what-if type of game. There are also a couple of major plot twist
moments that I won’t spoil here for those of you who have not happened to play the game
yet. Depending on what platform you get the game
on, controls span from good to mind-boggling. PS2 and Xbox are the worst offenders in terms
of controls; nothing makes sense in terms of actual usability. Seriously, why is manual aiming assigned to
a thumbstick click that you have to hold down?! Surprisingly, it is the GameCube version that
has the best control scheme on consoles, with a proper left shoulder aiming mode. It is even crazier to think about when you
remember that the GameCube controller has three fewer inputs than PS2 or Xbox. Seriously what were they thinking?! PC is, of course, a winner in the controls
department, with mouse and keyboard input making manual aiming somewhat usable compared
to the console versions. Sadly, getting the game to run on modern systems
is pretty hit and miss, mostly landing on the miss side. One last thing I want to touch on is the difficulty
levels of the game. Freedom Fighters has a number of different
difficulties available to play. Make sure you play the game on normal difficulty
or higher; otherwise, the game loses all the team aspect which adds to the overall fun. Playing it on easy my last time through seriously
damaged my overall joy for the game, so just don’t do it! Playing on harder difficulties also lets you
appreciate Freedom Fighters weapon selection just a bit more as you won’t just be effortlessly
mowing down every Soviet with an AK. Let me tell you, landing that perfect Molotov
throw to clear out an enemy group is always a great tactic! Freedom Fighters runs on the same engine as
IO Interactives other hit gen 6 game, Hitman 2. This leads to models and terrain being very
smooth with relatively flat textures. It honestly looks pretty good in its simplicity,
especially today where games that attempted to be ultra-realistic at the time don’t
hold up as well today as back then. Your platform of choice can really change
the presentation. Playing on PS2 results in the lowest-res textures
and everything appearing slightly muddy. GameCube and Xbox, without component cables,
have nicer textures but still appear relatively muddy. Playing on a PC or Xbox, with component cables,
allows the game to be played in HD. Yes, this game supports up to 720P resolutions
on the Xbox! The clear presentation and smoother gameplay
looks nice on newer screens compared to the other options available even through an OSSC. Where sound is concerned, Freedom Fighters
is pretty par for the course. Voice work is done decently, but fake Russian
accents can be overdone at times. Weapons and other sound effects are unfortunately
underwhelming in their presentation compared to other games of the time. I would honestly write the audio work of Freedom
Fighters off as mediocre if it wasn’t for the music; the score by Jesper Kyd is simply
epic. Featuring many vocal arrangements, the whole
score has you feeling like you are placed in the middle of Soviet-era Russia. Unfortunately, not every aspect of Freedom
Fighters is the greatest. Enemy AI is underwhelming considering how
great the AI is for your squad. They will often run around out of cover being
easy targets or won’t even notice at first if you flanked and killed almost all their
reinforcements. Shooting mechanics are also extremely rough,
with manual aiming being almost completely useless on consoles for most weapons besides
throwables and snipers. A good portion of the time I will just let
auto-aim do its thing as I storm a position. Thanks to a lazy summer and a Blockbuster
Game Pass, I found a game that I truly love. While it isn’t a perfect game, Freedom Fighters
is a fun game and that is far more important. Some mechanics aren’t as good as they could
have been, but it really leveraged the ones that were. To this day I still don’t think I have played
a game with squad mechanics as good as Freedom Fighters. I always wished that we could have seen an
improved sequel to Freedom Fighters come out during the Xbox 360/PS3 days. Sadly, the planned sequel ended up becoming
the highly controversial Kane & Lynch, a game I found to be fun in co-op but hardly the
great game Freedom Fighters was. With IO Interactive being an independent studio
again, maybe the future of this franchise can once again find new life. I will keep that hope alive as the rest of
Chris’s tale deserves to be told!

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