Written by  :  Matt Neuteboom (989)
Written on  :  Jun 30, 2006
Platform  :  GameCube
Rating  :  4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars
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Should have been a modern classic

The Good

Freedom Fighters drops you off in a very similar alternate universe that has all the makings of a good movie. What is weird that it has never been fully exploited by the gaming industry. Soviet Russia quickly invades the US as people are caught completely unaware by this. In the middle of this is Chris and his brother Troy, two plumbers in the middle of their work day. After Troy gets kidnapped by the Soviets, you take the role of Chris, and it quickly becomes a fight for your freedom and the country of America.

Freedom Fighters uses a great combination of team-based action with good AI that makes it an A+ squad based game. It may seem that the consoles are a poor choice for squad based games, because they lack enough buttons for both you own actions and squad commands. Freedom Fighters single-handedly eliminates this premeditated notion. While it lacks in depth commands like commands for opening doors or taking cover, it gives you the basic one. You can order your team to follow and retreat, go to a location (or attack a specific enemy, if you aim at a guy), or to stand their ground. You can also hold the buttons down to just tell all of your people to defend an entire area. The number of people you can hold in your squad is based off of your charisma level. You can raise your charisma by completing objectives but also by doing good deeds like healing he injured. All in all it keeps the difficulty steady by allowing by giving you only a few people in the beginning and a massive raiding party at the very end. This pretty much outlines the way things go and while it seems very basic it works very well in the game.

The rest of the things you can't do (like telling someone to go to cover) is easily covered by the outstanding squad AI. If you tell someone to go to a location, they will go to that location, but if they detect enemies they will automatically seek out cover. If you tell a person to defend an area, he will do the same and seek cover. They will also automatically mount a machine gun if they find one in the area and start plugging away at enemies. Not only this, but the same applies to enemies. Enemies naturally morph around the situation, and seek out cover when you are in the area. Enemies will eventually start to advance on your position in order to overwhelm you. This makes for a great squad-based shooter. Imagine you are standing on top of a rampart, looking down on 8 of your US soldiers battling it out a dozen soviet soldiers. All the while you are issuing commands to tell your soldiers to go here, and defend there. The enemies in the meantime grab hold of machine gun emplacements and find cover themselves. The difficulty also makes it very necessary to use squad tactics. On easy its a walk in the park, but on the hardest you will have to plan your moves carefully to avoid getting shot up. Seriously, this game will give you ulcers in a week, even if you are slowly managing to get your troops in there and complete your objectives. The objectives, are, thankfully very open about which way you can go. The levels are almost always open city levels with open streets that offer tons of ways to get to an objective. Your objectives will also help you in others levels, so if you destroy a helicopter pad in one level, the gunship will no longer be able to gun down you and your men in another level.

The music created for this game is spectacularly mind-blowing. IO Interactive brought in Jesper Kyd, the composer who did music for the Hitman series. The music created for this game is superbly high-quality, but also manages to accent the atmosphere nicely. The main title echoes in with war drums beating loudly to the Gothic chorus of the Hungarian Radio Choir. It adds to the militaristic and dark sci-fi feel of this game. All throughout the game melodies will chime in and it is perfect for the situation. Whether it is the hopeful and rising while you are at the rebel base, or quick and heavy while raiding the enemy base, it is one of the key contributing factors of the game. After this, I even went out and bought the soundtrack to the game. I simply loved it.

Freedom Fighters still manages to create a fun and entertaining plot. It has some good twists and turns, and has good supporting characters. The plot stays fresh with good dialog and characters. Even the troops have nice tidbits of sayings (my favorite one is when the American troop is one the machine gun and shouts "say hello to my little friend!") that make them seem more alive than typical enemies and a typical squad based shooter (unlike Conflict: Desert Storm, which lacks a good unified story and colorful characters). This also allows you to really get into the whole team-based actions.

Lastly, Freedom Fighters pulls through with some surprisingly good multiplayer action. Granted, it is definitely not the buying point for this game. It has a lot of bad flaws that really make it a major one player game. But what it does have it does good. At its best, Freedom Fighters creates humongous battle scenes between players and their squads. It does this by retaining all of the squad-based actions and squad AI that it has in single-player. Your objective in this is to secure outlying bases for extra troops, while also capturing a central flag for a set amount of time. Playing and commanding a squad against other human players is not only challenging but fun. Battle can get very heated, with 16 soldiers standing and shooting on the battlefield trying to find cover and take the battlefield. In the meantime more soldiers spawn at the home bases and shoot from mounted mini-guns, and 4 players can help or command their troops during the battle. You can go 2 v 2, which is great fun, or just 1 v 1, or 1 v 3! Multiplayer is a mode that me and my friends have revisited time and time again.

The Bad

What is really missing that would make this game a masterpiece is an outstanding and emotional plot. What the plot in this game is meant to do is entertain you. It is very interesting and will draw you into it so much that at then end you will wish they had a good sequel (the end leaves you hanging somewhat), but is not meant to blow you away and leave you feeling like you had just witnessed a masterpiece. Occasionally, especially at the end, the game dips into some emotional stuff. But during the game the characters can lack some emotions like sadness or tension. And even though their entire world has been turned upside down and they are forced to live in the sewers, they still manage to make logical decisions with a clear head and act as though the transition has been quite easy to make. Also, while the supporting characters are very colorful (especially your brother Troy), the main character Chris himself shows little or no personality or attitude. He occasionally has a few lines of dialog, but thats it. So while in a few cutscenes he appears as a good strong leader, during game play he is pretty much mute except for the commands you shout.

The weapons also need to be worked on. There's a very limited selection of weapons in the game. You can basically choose between two main weapons, and two side arms during the game, with a few different ones sprinkled in the levels for short time use. They serve their purpose well, and it rarely becomes an issue during the single player game, what with all the fighting and tension. It is more of a way that they can fill in the potential of the game.

Where it truly becomes bad is multiplayer. Multiplayer has plenty of potentially great functions that this game just doesn't fill. Weapons diversity has a glaring absence here. The Soviets get the AK rifle, and the Americans get the shotguns (yes only two teams, another flaw). That is pretty much it. There are a few weapons scattered around the maps, but they are so far away from the playing area, that it is not worth it to leave your men and bases unattended to go grab a gun that the map has little or no extra ammo for (besides, you will most likely die 5 seconds into battle with it anyway). There is also a glaring lack of good maps. The game supplies three maps, just three, but only one of them is spectacular, while the others are pretty much mediocre.

Others seemed to have said that it was very short, but I cannot see how that it. On the easiest setting this is definitely possible, as the difficulty is really what determines if its a strategic squad-based shooter, and a run n' gun shoot-em-up (keep that in mind when deciding the difficulty level). But on the hardest you will be trying over and over, and will definitely be playing this game for hours trying to get pasts the levels. So I suppose its really subjective, but this game may or may not be a very short one.

The Bottom Line

Freedom fighters is a game that while it isn't a masterpiece, hides its imperfections nicely with what it does real, really well. The action in this game is fast-paced and exhilarating, while still keeping it squad-based and strategic by adding in some amazing squad and enemy AI and a good difficulty. The plot is entertaining and captures the imagination, and the characters are very colorful. Accompanied by a master score by Jesper Kyd and the Hungarian Radio Choir, it is a game that I love to go back to.

Freedom Fighters really hasn't gotten much press or hype, even after its launch, height, and its decline into the bargain bin. But Freedom Fighters is a diamond in the rough of gaming, and if you see it sitting on a store shelf, I dare you to give it a try. It hasn't happened yet, but Freedom Fighters is one of those games you go back years later and try to look for on eBay. Who knows, it may even become a modern classic. We may even see a sequel for it, because I can assuredly say it deserves one. At the price of a $5 bargain bin game, the game is well worth that price.