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Sep 25, 2011

The Battle for Liberty Island

Freedom Fighters
Game Category: Action - Shooter, Third Person, Tactical
Developer / Distributor: IO Interactive / Electronic Arts
Release Date: 1 Oct 2003
Rating: ESRB - Teen

Let's head back in time and look at this excellent third person shooter game from the Danish developers IO Interactive. If you have never played Freedom Fighters before, then you are strongly advised to get your hands on it to try it out. It's truly a great game!

Freedom Fighters, originally known as The Battle for Liberty Island, is an impressive action shooter game that casts you as Christopher Stone, an ordinary guy who must fight for his survival under the worst of circumstances - the USA invaded by Mother Russia. As fate would have it, a turn of events thrusts Chris into the heat of battle against Russian invaders. His success proves himself as a capable leader in the eyes of the common people. As you complete more levels of the game, Chris will be able to show his improved leadership capabilities by directing a squad ranging in size from two to twelve men. In fact, I don't remember any other game that lets you control so many men to attack targets of opportunity picked by you.

Well, with a bit of luck and lots of shooting skill, will you be the one to shoo the invading Ruskies off American soil once and for all?

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Game Play
Some of the best games have been single player experiences - Freedom Fighters also belongs in this category. I know that console versions does have multiplayer, but I don't think it matters that much considering how strong the game is already in the fun-story-and-cool-gameplay department.

After you create a profile, you'll get to choose from four difficulty levels. I'm so glad that there's four difficulty levels here. Things can get really tough especially after you reach an area where you have to blow out a bridge and win back a Fire Station from the bad guys. More of that later...

If you are not used to this sort of action game, I suggest you pick the easiest difficulty mode first. It's not really a walk in the park, but it's good enough for you to put yourself through the paces.

Absolutely stunning cinematics
Freedom Fighters is a realistic doomsday scenario where New York gets invaded by the Russians in an alternate history setting for New York. The entire game features lots of action and exciting battles in an urban setting, so this may just be the game to help you let off some steam at the end of a busy work week. It is hard to imagine that a plumber, who turns into the "Freedom Phantom" (the mysterious charismatic leader of the resistance movement), will be able to defeat the really bad guys.

After watching an interesting opening cinematic of another typical day in the life of the Stone brothers - plumbers extraordinaire, you will finally get to take control Chris. It appears you have made your way to the home of an Isabella Angelina to check out her plumbing (*ahem*), only to find trouble in the form of menacing Russian soldiers.

That's the way to do it...
You know that this will be an interesting tutorial mission the moment you see the Russians take Troy (your younger brother) away. After running out of the room, you get to rescue an old man who will teach you the basics of jumping, using a weapon, shooting at explosive barrels to take out enemies, healing the wounded, lobbing a molotov, and even opening a manhole.

Pay attention... opening a manhole in Freedom Fighters means everything in this game. It allows you to use a menu that permits a Quick Save or to reach other important areas of Manhattan.

Perhaps the most important area of New York is right under your feet. The hidden Rebel Base is hidden deep down in the sewers of the city and not even General Tatarin, leader of the Russian forces who have captured the city, has an inkling of where his enemies are hiding.

Like, Wow (with a capital W)!
After having a hand in rescuing a damsel in distress, you get your missions served to you by said damsel and her overly talkative second-in-command. After listening to their interesting chatter, you can walk up to a table and access a map to choose the next area you wish to play in.

There are eight chapters in the game, with each chapter featuring one to a few large areas to complete. There are locations like a police station, a post office, a hotel, the harbour, a fire station, the warehouse district, a movie theatre, a power plant, and more. This may sound like boring locations, but trust me, they are not. The designers have made these levels look so real it's like you are literally jogging through Manhattan wielding a sub machine gun (SMG) in hand.

New York's Finest needs a little help
Other than an SMG, you may also find these weapons to use: revolvers, shotguns, assault rifle, sniper rifle, frag grenades, C4 explosives, and mounted machine guns. Then, there's the other useful stuff like medic kits, binoculars, and tons of ammunition waiting to be collected. Chris comes equipped with his handy monkey wrench and a Soviet standard issue pistol which is adequate when you can't find any more ammunition.

Weapon and item selection is via the mouse wheel or alternatively through a click of the wheel button and selecting your choice from a pie shaped menu.

Just a slice of C4 for me please
Your enemies are not going to like being shot at, so they will come at you in large coordinated groups - like a posse of cowboys at High Noon. There are all sorts of enemies - from the standard goons, to Rambo-esque red berets, to highly armoured goons that takes quite a bit to take down. The AI for these guys are often top-notch, they aren't your normal stupid bunch of soldiers whose sole purpose in life is to be cannon fodder.

If a swarm of enemies is too overwhelming for you, then don't fear. Depending on the charisma you have attained, you will see circles at the top left of the screen below the green health bar and the yellow charisma points (something like experience points). You'll get another circle when the yellow bar is full.

Plenty of action
So what does an extra yellow circles do? Why, another yellow circle means you have earned Chris the right to lead another brave New Yorker into battle. The more circles you have, the more men will follow you. You see, no one will take the fight to the Russians unless you, the charismatic "Freedom Phantom", approach these people and recruit them to your cause - as insurgents willing to fight for the freedom of your country.

Controlling these recruits are dead easy. You just point your mouse at your enemy or a location and press the Attack button (defaults to "2"). To recall your eager recruits back to you, activate the Follow button (defaults to "1"). Finally, if you need to defend your current position, simply activate the Defend button (defaults to "3"). What could be more simpler than that?

Alright, listen up...
The graphics in Freedom Fighters is excellent for its time. I am not surprised since a modified engine from Hitman 2 (another IO Interactive game) is driving this game. The levels render very well with lots of elaborate set-pieces and tons of window dressing and props to go around. The design of the levels are also very well done with many possible paths to complete a level. Nothing is linear here; if something doesn't work the first time, try a different approach.

The cinematics are outrageously funny and yet have a serious message to bring across. I like the way the Russian newscaster, Tatiana Kempinski, as she tries (in vain) to win over the millions of people watching the TV. Her smile is so refreshingly fake. And, I marvel at how Tatiana manages to maintain her stern-face while trying to look smug and pleasant all at the same time. IO Interactive have really brought to life many of the key characters in the game that you start to feel for them. An excellent well-executed job here.

Time to tune into the Soviet Armed Forces Network once again
Great voice acting can be heard throughout the game with the distinction of honour (in my honest opinion) going to the actress voicing Kempinski. I think she got most of the choice speaking parts and practically stole the show. The sound effects are not too bad either with weapons sounding pretty authentic close up.

I leave the best for last. Jesper Kyd composed the score for Freedom Fighters and it is impressive. You will never forget the booming Hungarian Radio Choir as they start singing the main theme in Russian amid a movie scene that shows a fleet of mean looking submarines heading towards New York. It's like watching The Hunt for Red October and listening to Basil Poledouris all over again.

Let's go to the movies... let's go see the stars...
  • Strong visuals, powerful story, excellent music and sound - I just can't say enough about this. This is an excellent game!
  • This is great video gaming displaying it's Hollywood best.
  • The level designs are well thought out. You will not be shoehorned and are free to try multiple solutions to a tacky problem.
  • The object of the game is to recruit men to your cause and to take out the Russians. Fortunately, there will not be a shortage of people to recruit in the game.
  • "Patriotism swells in the heart of the American bear", so says Fozzie the bear - Well, you can't help but feel patriotic when hoisting the flag to complete an area.
  • Takes a while to complete all 8 chapters - probably 8 hours if you are good or playing on the easiest level of difficulty.
Don't forget to hoist the red, white, and blue
  • All I can say is stay off the road! Or, you'll become roadkill.
  • Not much weapon choice.
  • When you have recruited five or men and are fighting in confined spaces, you will see everyone tend to bunch up together (with actors clipping) which is not a good thing to see.
  • You can't drive or board any of the cool looking vehicles.
  • Quick saves only at manholes - a minor irritation.
Get behind me now! - Pun intended
I trust you'll agree with me that Freedom Fighters is a game that belongs in your PC gaming collection. It has everything an excellent game must have. It shall always be one of my perennial favourites that I'll install in my Hard Disk from time to time.

Daily PC Game Review Score: 9 / 10
Review Date: 25 Sep 2011


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