Well, Halloween has come to a close, but I thought this might be a great way to end the season. After all, what’s more terrifying than someone invading your home?
Freedom Fighters was released in 2003 for Gamecube, XBox, Playstation 2, and Windows. It was developed by IO software, y’know, the folks behind the Hitman series! It’s got a very interesting take on the squad based shooter mechanic. How does it stack up ten years later? Let’s see!
If you’ve seen Red Dawn, I mean the original, not the Call of Duty styled remake, you’ll have a perfect handle on what’s going on here.
The game opens on a typical work day for brothers Christopher and Troy Stone. They’re plumbers, sort of like Mario and Luigi, actually. One’s tall and lanky, the other is not as tall, but round. Anyway, they’re on their way to a job and arrive just in time to be inside the building when Russians invade Manhattan.
Troy is captured and taken away as a P.O.W., leaving Chris on his own to fight his way out of the building with nothing more than his trusty monkey wrench.
Obviously, the game revolves around a rag-tag band of American rebels who have to fight off the overwhelming Russian forces.
Being that I’m doing this review on the PC version, I want to touch on a few things before we really get into the rest of the review.
I was a little disappointed to find out that the PC version was lacking multiplayer, which is a blast on the console versions. On consoles, it functioned somewhat like RTS games, taking over strategic points to gain the upper hand and control an area. It’s not exactly game breaking or anything, and let’s face it, after 10 years I doubt there’d be anyone but the cult followers playing anyway.
Another thing that made me scratch my head was the obvious lack of graphical settings for the game under the options menu.
Yep, changing the resolution isn’t possible in the game. I actually had to edit the game’s configuration file to set it to 1920×1080. After everything is said and done, it’s a very easy fix and not that big of a deal, but it would’ve been nice to have some sort of option to change it in-game.
Aside from that, the only thing that confused me a bit was the quick save feature and the nonexistence of check points, but we’ll get into that later.
All The Good Ones End In “O”
Between missions you’ll find yourself in the Rebel Base, no it isn’t on Endor, and here you can supply yourself with Medkits, guns and ammo, and even watch your colony of rebels grow into a large community.
Pretty exciting, huh?
It’s also worth noting, that the game actually takes place over the span of months, and it shows.
From your base you also plot out missions. Most of the time you’ll be given the option of a few different places to target your attacks.
One really awesome thing about this is the fact that if you take out something in one part of an area, it can effect something else in another area. A perfect example is early on in the game where you need to get into a police station, but it’s nearly impossible as snipers won’t let you anywhere near it.
You can easily solve this problem by moving to another part of the map and taking out a gas station where the snipers perch. After that, you can mosey on into the police station and fight your way to your goal!
News From The Front
As I mentioned earlier, Freedom Fighters uses a squad based mechanic, and it does it really well. Before you get to roll with a posse, though, you’ll need to get the rebel’s attention and prove that you’re not just some wrench-swinging schmuck. I won’t spoil what it is you have to do, but it’s nothing too taxing.
After proving yourself, you can take two rebels with you on your missions. It’s not always the same two, but it’s relatively easy to build up your group.
That’s the depth of picking up followers. It’s great that it’s that easy.
Along the way you can gain Charisma points by completing extra objectives, helping civilians, and finishing missions.
Each time you fill your Charisma bar, you’re rewarded another spot for an additional follower.
Since we’re touching on the squad mechanic, I think the AI needs to be brought up.
I’m not sure if my squad mates are running on genius fuel or moron fuel sometimes.
A majority of the time, and I mean like 95% of it, they’re stellar. They go where you want them to, defend points you tell them to, and regroup without an issue.
On the flip side, during that other 5% of the time, they also come across as pants-wettingly stupid. On occasion, after you call them back, they’ll stop to fight enemies instead of getting out of the line of fire. They’re also prone to standing in the way of helicopters’ .50 cal machine gun. While I appreciate the gusto, I don’t appreciate dead troops.
Them getting downed isn’t too bad most of the time. If you have spare medkits, and you probably will, you can use them to revive your fallen friends.
So, for the most part, the friendly AI is almost perfect. They’ll take cover, mount machine guns, and call out targets. The enemy AI functions almost exactly the same. They’re smart little buggers.
Hmm, No Where Was I? Oh! Yes.
I’m sure in this day and age, most of us expect our games to have checkpoints to get back to if we screw up and fail.
Surprise! Freedom Fighters doesn’t use a checkpoint system.
The way it works here is that you have multiple manhole covers you can visit that are spread throughout your current map. When you visit them, you can do a quick save, which you can then load up if you screw up. It’s basically the same thing as modern checkpoints, but without the automation.
Do You See What I See?
For a game that’s a decade old, Freedom Fighters looks awesome. It perfectly captures the graphics of a bygone era in gaming.
It’s also fun to run around the levels and see little things here and there that help bring the world to life.
I love that the game makes it very, very easy to distinguish who’s on your side and who isn’t. I had a problem with Call of Duty where half the time I couldn’t tell if someone was on my side or not because they just all looked like dirty, people shaped blobs. Not the case here.
As you can see, there’s a very distinct difference between how the rebels and Russians look. Pretty hard to get them mixed up.
If you run the game in its native 800×600, you’ll definitely be seeing some jaggies. Those are the blocky, rough edges for those of you too young to have played any games without anti-aliasing. That said, a simple edit of the configuration file solves that probably really quickly depending on the resolution you use.
Don’t Wanna Be Your Monkey Wrench
Freedom Fighters has almost zero issues in the control department. The only thing that comes to mind is crouching near cover and Chris having a fit over trying to aim his gun. Other than that, directing squad mates is easy.
When you aim down your sites, you can use the Defend and Scout commands to pinpoint where you want your troops to go. You can also just use them without aiming, and your squad mates will just go to the general area.
Each of the guns has its own kick which helps make them feel diverse. I do find it a bit odd that the SMG kicks harder than the AK-47, though, but that’s almost a moot point considering how awesome the rest of this game is.
Listen Up, Maggots!
The sound design in this game is fantastic.
The composer stated that to help himself get a feel for what the game needed, he spent hours and hours playing the game while listening to old Russian tunes. It seems to have worked, because the music is incredible. It’s massive, overwhelming, and haunting. It certainly makes you feel like you’re nearly alone in the insanity that has become your world.
The voice acting is actually pretty good considering how bad most of it was in that era. The Russian forces speak Russian, at least it sounds Russian. I really wouldn’t know. The main characters on the rebel side have distinct New Yorker accents, while the Russian side’s main characters mix in a bit of Russian here and there, with not-too-thick Russian accents. It actually sounds very convincing.
It’s a good thing they sound so good because between levels you’re usually met with a cutscene of a news broadcast.
Hoist That Flag
So, after a decade how does Freedom Fighters hold up?
It’s just as good now as it was then. It plays great, sounds great, it looks great, and is definitely on my top 5 list of that generation.
I wouldn’t even say the flaws I pointed out where minor, they’re closer to being nonexistent than anything, and do absolutely nothing to bring the game down. This game definitely gets my full support, but trying to find it today is not only hard, but when you do, it’s expensive.
It currently weighs in around $55USD for the PC version on Amazon. The console versions are hovering around the $30-35USD mark themselves. The XBox version takes the cake at around $90USD.
In the end, I’d say it’s definitely worth the $35USD. I definitely suggest getting your hands on this game one way or another.
Until next time, keep hoisting those flags!
That’s all for now.
You folks have fun, take care, and I’ll see you next time.