Game Over Online ~ Freedom Fighters (c) Electronic Arts

Freedom Fighters (c) Electronic Arts

Published: Tuesday, September 16th, 2003 at 05:38 PM
Written By: Lawrence Wong

Freedom Fighters is an interesting take on the guerilla resistance fighter genre. Instead of fighting against oppressive governments or behemoth multinational corporations, you're bringing vigilante justice within the streets of America. Against who? No, not al-Qaeda, but it's only a matter of time before that is made. No, the developers have crafted an alternate fantasy universe where the Soviet Union has occupied the continental United States. Never mind that the Soviet Union never had more than a quarter of the American national GDP - even at its height. But Io Interactive makes it possible by creating a gritty backdrop based on New York, New York.

If you think this is another clone of Hitman, you're going to be very sorry. The protagonist, Christopher Stone, is one of those reluctant leaders who emerge from their day jobs to become resistance leaders. I'm reminded of the Roman hero, Cincinnatus, a farmer who led the Romans to victory and left the army after to get back to tilling the field. Stone is no action hero, although he takes an inordinate amount of damage, taking into consideration this is an action game, but a silent killer like 47 he isn't. He's vulnerable.

That's why part of the game involves doing side quests to raise the charisma rating for Stone. The more charisma one gets, the easier it is to recruit members to help you fight. Friendly freedom fighters can give that extra edge during combat and in Freedom Fighters, up to a dozen cohorts can join you in the fight against the Red Army.

Unlike Hitman, though, the friendly characters here are fairly smart. They follow right behind you. But wait, before you pull your hair in grief, these aren't the guys who get stuck or need babysitting. I set a C4 explosive at the bottom of some fuel tanks and my squad immediately moved to a safe distance to take cover without my even issuing a single order. You can use one of several commands to order them to follow you, advance and defend. Double tap the advance button and two will move ahead to attack. Triple tap and three will go. The controls are kept rudimentary and simple so you can focus on the action.

The Soviet army you face is equally as organized. When you hit a soldier grunt, if there is a commander nearby, he will pull soldiers from patrol duties to seek you out. Both sides are excellent in their use of cover. When I was in firefights, I found the most exposed person during the whole time was myself. Your teammates are able to lay down fire, hide behind obstacles when reloading and move ahead from one area of cover to another until they've eliminated all the enemies. This makes them seem more like effective team members rather than deadweight. I was impressed, except that one time when one of my teammates decided a gas tank was a good place for cover when the Soviets were tossing grenades.

There is still ample room for running and gunning in Freedom Fighters. The default perspective, like Hitman, is third-person. The game engine is capable of a good amount of detail. New York is a disjointed mess, with no straight path from one area to another. I was crawling in side streets and in and out buildings similar to the recent first-person shooter Devastation. If you press the right mouse button, it'll bring you closer so you can use your weapon to aim. The guns themselves generally behave fairly arcade-like, with little kick or recoil. Even the reload is automatic - with your character obsessed with keeping a full clip by taking the chance to reload whenever you're idle.

The action I got to look at involved some missions in Brooklyn, centering on storming a post office the Soviets were using as a base of operations. I ran into nearly a hundred Soviet soldiers, a helicopter and a light tank, and I think that's just the beginning. One thing that I found sorely missing was an in-game save feature. I know this game comes from a console, where finishing level by level is the norm, but this is the PC - even Hitman 2 had to cave in and offer saves within a mission. Let's see the same thing here.

If Io Interactive is able to keep the intensity turned up in the entire game, Freedom Fighters should easily find an audience on the PC.

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