Admit it; killing Nazis is getting a bit repetitive. Even the series that’s most notoriously known for Nazi cleansing, Medal of Honor, is taking a different approach with its next installment. It’s time for a new enemy and no, the Chinese just won’t cut it anymore. Leave it to IO Interactive and Electronic Arts to deliver the oppressive Communist Soviet Union for our killing pleasure. To give more credit where it’s due there’s an excellent reason for you to kick some Communist ass as well. In this alternate universe the Russians beat the Americans to the Atom Bomb and thus held all of the world’s power. In the years following the Second World War the Communist regime spread, eventually ending up in Mexico. Castro was polite enough to provide the Russians with ample space to build Nuclear Silos within striking distance of the US from Cuba. As you may have learned in your 8th grade history class this is a bad thing. When the game begins the Russians have invaded the United States and it’s up to you, a plumber in New York City, to lead the resistance and send the commie bastards packing.
Since you’re leading a resistance you won’t have to go at it alone. This is what sets Freedom Fighters apart from all of the other 3rd person shooters on the market. Often times you feel like you’re fighting a one man war, even when you’re part of something much larger and global. IO Interactive reduces that loneliness and provides you with some compatriots to help you take down the invaders. As you accomplish more goals, take back more structures and perform more deeds you’ll gain charisma points. Every time you gain 100 charisma points you’ll gain a level which will allow you to recruit an additional freedom fighter. As you progress you’ll accumulate more followers and by the game’s end you’ll be able to have full control over 12 combatants. This is when the game starts to get good.
As you may have learned in recent years fighting alongside others makes for a pretty damn intense experience. The fact that these allies are able to think and react on their own makes the game just that more appealing. When heading into combat your allies will utilize whatever cover is available whether it be a wall, car or even a crate. They’ll peer around corners, pop up from behind obstacles to return fire and then hide to reload. It leads to one hell of an intense battle and by far is the best facet of this shooter. If they die, and they will, you can opt to revive them with the aid of one of your health packets or choose to recruit a new member to replace their slot. Controlling them utilizes a simple cursor and number based system. You can delegate commands by pointing to an area on the landscape and pressing one of the number keys on your keyboard. Commands are very simple and consist only of your basic follow, hold and attack commands. For a game of this nature this system works quite well as you can use your cursor to individually place your allies around the landscape so that they can spread out into attack formation.
You’ll have a pretty small arsenal of weapons at your disposal but they’re all worth using. The game places a sub machine gun a high powered sniper rifle, Molotov cocktails, grenades and the most bad-assed shotgun this side of Soldier of Fortune II into your hands. My biggest gripe with the arsenal is that it feels entirely too underwhelming. At times it takes 10, 15 or even 20 shots to take down some of your enemies. Sometimes a nice clean headshot with the sniper rifle won’t bring your enemies down and as is the case with the heavy machine-gun goons, can take upwards of five or six good headshots to bring down. Speaking of those goons, they can successfully withstand a direct hit from a rocket launcher, grenade or Molotov cocktail. This is especially strange since the game seems to be grounded in reality, having enemies that can withstand 30 or 40 bullets is just a little absurd to me, especially considering how fragile my own character’s life is.The storyline unfolds via a set of well done engine rendered cinematics that mimic a newscast. All of them look highly realistic and contain all of the small nuances that we would expect from a real life newscast. Things such as shaky cameras, anchors who swivel to look into different cameras and press conferences where advisors are whispering into the ears of the speakers. Without a doubt, this is the most realistic recreation of a newscast that we’ve ever seen in a video game and it really helps to lend the game a highly realistic feel. As you get further the game you’ll eventually destroy the source of the newscasts and the storyline is told via the interaction between you and your compatriots. As far as storylines go it’s pretty straightforward and even comes with the predictable plot twist. Besides, storylines aren’t really important in these types of games and really only serve as a vehicle for you to kick more foreign ass.
Since the game is developed by IO Interactive Freedom Fighters looks a bit like an enhanced version of Hitman 2, meaning that the environments look pretty good while most of the characters have a disproportionate look to them. Not to say that the characters don’t look great, it’s just that they don’t look as realistic here as say the characters in Medal of Honor Allied Assault. They sure do animate and maneuver nicely though. Your AI squad mates will lean up against walls, crouch behind cover and move around in a realistic fashion. On the whole the game just looks great and features some pretty nice high-res textures that outdo anything that the console versions can put out. The game also makes good use of lighting and particle effects as the dust really starts to fly when you’re engaged in a huge gunfight. There are a few weak-looking objects such as the blocky construct of the vehicles and the buildings, but the overall look of the game is highly appealing.
Another aspect of the game that screams “console port” is the audio. While DirectSound support is indeed included EA and IO Interactive missed out on the EAX support entirely. This doesn’t result in a huge drop in audio quality but there certainly are problems when the audio moves from channel-to-channel. The center channel seems to be much louder than the rest and when the sound meanders from the center to the front left the effects get significantly quieter. All of the audio from the rears seems to be much quieter than the audio from the front and the effects have very little oomph to them. My Logitech Z-680s generally rock the house when I’m playing shooters but in Freedom Force I was barely able to rattle my windows.
A huge problem with Freedom Fighters is that it was developed with consoles in mind. For starters you can’t save the game whenever you want; instead you’ll have to go to manholes which serve as substitute for save points. These are only temporary as well, exiting the game causes these to be deleted and you’ll have to start the level from the beginning. This in itself isn’t too bad considering that each of the levels are only about 10 minutes in length, it’s just the trial and error nature of the missions that really multiply this negative. Although you can generally take a good number of shots without dying there are a certain number of enemies that will be able to kill you before you can even react. This is multiplied by the fact that the level designers decided to throw in a bevy of kill zones for you to wander in to. You can be going along fine for the majority of the level, taking out guys left and right when suddenly a chopper shows up out of nowhere and fires a rocket at you, killing you instantly. The further and further you get into the game the more and more tedious that it starts to get. Perhaps the largest problem is the game’s length. It can be easily be beaten within two days, a dedicated night if you’re really good. Overall it’ll provide you with about five hours of solid gameplay which is rather paltry by today’s standards. There’s also very little incentive to go back and play the game once you’ve completed it the first time through. The only reward you’ll get is a level that takes place on Liberty Island which essentially boils down to one huge shootout. Regarded that you can play the game on different difficulty levels for a larger challenge but nothing is offered to add more replay value to the game. Finishing the game the first time through only allows you to unlock all of the levels and play them on your own accord. Giving special bonuses such as unlimited ammo, more soldiers to control or even various mission goals would have gone a long way in adding some incentive to pick up the game after the initial run through.
Another glaring error is the lack of multiplayer. Freedom Fighters is a prime candidate for co-operative multiplayer action whether it be online or off. Had gamers been able to team up and take on the Russians a la Conflict Desert Storm this game would have been a whole hell of a lot better. In this regard IO and EA really screwed the pooch by missing out on this opportunity. There’s multiplayer support in the console versions but it’s a pretty lame King of the Hill wannabe that doesn’t really extend the life of the game. Since it’s a PC game there’s a possibility that a patch may add multiplayer action sometime down the road but for now it’s non-existent.
In terms of performance the game runs quite well on my P4 2.4 GHz, 512MB RAM and Ati All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro. With all of the details cranked up and the resolution turned up to the max there’s little slowdown to speak of. When playing at 1024x480 there’s no noticeable slowdown, even when the action gets hot and heavy. I did notice quite a few graphical errors that plagued an otherwise beautiful game. Many of the levels feature tears in the environment or shimmering textures that signify compatibility issues with my graphics card. We couldn’t replicate the same graphical problems with a GeForceFX 5900 so we have to assume that it’s a compatibility issue with the Catalyst drivers.
When it comes down to it Freedom Fighters is one of the year’s best games. Even though it’s a bit short on length and replay value there’s enough action and combat to make this one of the year’s most thrilling shooters. If you’re a fan of shooters then you’ll definitely want to check out IO Interactive’s latest title, it just might be that surprise hit that will hold you over until the Holiday season.
An excellent 3rd-person squad-based shooter that places heavy emphasis on the action without sacrificing gameplay. If you're a fan of shooters you'll be a fan of Freedom Fighters.
Rating: 8.8 Class Leading
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile