Written by  :  Lucas Schippers (59)
Written on  :  May 01, 2004
Platform  :  GameCube

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Entertaining, but very short, squad-based shooter.

The Good

"Freedom Fighters" posits a familiar alternate world scenario that remains strangely underutilized by video game designers. The Soviet Union invades the United States, and a scrappy band of Freedom Fighters (naturally) must attempt to eject the evil empire from the land of the free and the apple pie.

Your main character is quickly enlisted in this guerrilla campaign at the start of the game, and you soon learn that on the highest difficulty level (only pussies play on medium!) this is one punishing game. This seems to be a hallmark of IO Interactive design (see "Hitman 2," another game that will make you scream at your television). Unless you can cap their heads, soviet troops require dozens of hits to down. Since most encounters feature you facing off against multiple enemies, this becomes problematic.

Luckily, you gradually gain the ability to command more and more allied fighters who will assist you in your anti-soviet skullduggery. These guys are quite useful, particularly when you can amass more than two or three of them. They're pretty resilient, and they have infinite ammo. You can order them to guard an area, scout an area or eliminate specific enemies with just a few button presses. Plus, if they do down, you just run up to them and bring them back to full life with a medikit. (but save plenty for yourself!)

The interface is well designed for the most part. Ordering your helpers, as mentioned, is very easy. Swapping weapons is also works pretty well, until you need to switch from a gun to your medikits. I accidentally switched to the molotov cocktail (right next to the medikits in the inventory screen) and cooked myself to death several times during the course of the game. Ouch.

The best aspect of the game is that it seemlessly combines first and third person shooting into one package. You play primarily from a third person perspective, but when you need to aim, you snap into first person. From this perspective, you can still creep around, and this sets up the best setpieces of the game. You'll need to use plenty of cover to stay alive, and quickly ducking, popping up, strafing and firing (all the while gauging when to fire blindly and when to pop into first person for precision aiming) is so cinematic that you can't help but be invested into the action.

Your firearm selection is somewhat scanty but sufficient. You get several choices for sidearms, rifles and big guns, but I found that using the standard AK-47 is the only way to go for most of the game because you're guaranteed plentiful ammo from all the soldiers you'll be offing.

There is a token multiplayer mode, but since you only get a few maps, it comes off as being somewhat of an afterthought. Furthermore, the American team is overbalanced because the American player automatically receive the shotgun with full ammo every time he respawns. The poor soviet players can't hope to compete when the AK (for some reason, its power is downgraded considerably in the multiplayer mode) barely scratches other players.

Overall, I found "Freedom Fighters" to be a fun experience with some nagging problems...

The Bad

As mentioned, it's a really difficult game. However, it's also very short, so while you'll struggle to overcome insanely tough levels, there aren't that many of them to begin with. Even on the hardest difficulty level, I finished the game in a week playing only when my schedule allowed.

What's truly unfortunate is that the plot, which has such great promise for high camp, fails to fully deliver. The characters are thin, thin sketches at best, and the main character has almost no personality whatsoever. The bad guys have more personality (thanks in no small part to their accents), but that doesn't excuse sloppy characterization for titular characters.

The Bottom Line

You can probably find this game cheap now, so go pick it up from the bargain bins. It's a quick experience, but you'll definitely enjoy it.