Freedom Fighters (Xbox) review
"Russians weren't always the jolly, vodka swilling people that we know them to be today. Not so long ago they were the Red Menace, as feared as they were ruthless. For decades, the fear of communism and the Soviets drove America and its western allies into a near constant state of paranoia, as a deadly game of brinkmanship drove the world to the very edge of nuclear Armageddon. Then one day, quite out the blue, something unexpected happened... they became our friends. With the collapse of the Sov..."
Russians weren't always the jolly, vodka swilling people that we know them to be today. Not so long ago they were the Red Menace, as feared as they were ruthless. For decades, the fear of communism and the Soviets drove America and its western allies into a near constant state of paranoia, as a deadly game of brinkmanship drove the world to the very edge of nuclear Armageddon. Then one day, quite out the blue, something unexpected happened... they became our friends. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the virtual death of communism in Russia, our long time adversaries were suddenly more interested in buying denim jeans than bringing about the fall of capitalism. As always though, you can trust science to ruin a good thing and the heavily debated Multi-verse theory is today's party pooper. According to this theory at least, any single action can have a limitless number of reactions, and that each of these reactions is played out on a parallel universe. It's with that statement in mind that IO Interactive and EA Games have taken an interest in the Multi-verse and have used it to present gamers with an interesting question to consider... What if the Soviet Union didn't collapse?
Our history diverges with that seen in IO Interactive's Freedom Fighters' at the end of World War 2. Here, the Soviets developed the A-Bomb before the Americans did and thus used it on Berlin to end the European conflict. With the Soviet Union in possession of the bomb and victorious against the fascist aggressors, communism began to rapidly spread throughout all of Europe. One after the other, each of the major European countries adopted the ideology, eventually spreading as far west as England and the United Kingdom. It wasn't until a few years later in 1962 that tensions between the newly formed Soviet Empire and the United States of America began to reach critical mass. Cuba had accepted the Soviet's request to install a nuclear missile silo 20 minutes from the American mainland. With the United States now on a tight leash, Soviet allied countries began a liberation campaign of South America that lead to the successful annexation of Mexico in 19xx. The Americans had their backs to the wall and the Red Menace was on their door step, a full scale invasion of their homeland was only going to be a matter of time...
Gripping stuff isn't it? It's into this scenario that the player is dropped, as the Soviets have begun their occupation of New York and its surrounding areas. With the rounding up of potential dissidents well underway, the player's first priority is escaping into the underground sewer system. It's during this initial flight to freedom that the smooth as silk controls are introduced. With the help of another revolutionary, the basic principles of combat are explained in a clear and precise manner that leaves very few questions unanswered by the end of the stage. A little later in the game, the player will be introduced to the intricacies of commanding his troops as more and more people begin to join the cause. In order to command them, a water-tight control method was needed and thankfully one was implemented. Orders may be given with minimal delay and are easily accessible even during the most heated of firefights. Surprisingly these tutorials work well within the context of the game and are done in such a way that it never feels too obtrusive to the atmosphere being generated.
It's this atmosphere that is Freedom Fighter's main draw card as it effectively pulls the the player into a highly unlikely, yet strangely believable game world. Presented with a 3rd person camera, the game gives the player what can only be described as a panoramic view of Soviet occupied New York. The utmost thought has been put into generating each of FF's many environments with well placed detail and stunning special effects in use throughout. Cars sit abandoned in the streets, roads are cratered and buildings lay partially collapsed. The feeling of a city in ruin is first class and I can honestly say that in my long gaming experience, I have not once encountered environments as well constructed as these. FF's appeal isn't just limited to a graphics derived atmosphere either as the game's sound effects go a long way in bringing home the realism of the situation. Soviet soldiers bark orders in thick Russian accents before opening fire with an assortment of heavy weapons, all of which is sure to leave the player unnerved. If they were any more realistic, walking away shell shocked after long gaming sessions would have become a serious concern...
And long gaming sessions is what you can expect from FF as once it has the player in its grasp there is no letting go. Each level consists of a series of maps and objectives that can be completed in any order. As in real life however, it's sometimes good to stop and plan your attacks accordingly as each map is completely dynamic. Sure destroying a bridge before attacking a Russian stronghold will prevent them from calling in reinforcements, but before doing so you may want to consider taking out the weapons stash as it will leave the remaining troops without adequate firepower to repel your advances with. It's a deep and satisfying play mechanic that gives the player the chance to create their own strategies and winning solutions. Aiding in this is how each map has been thoughtfully designed to give each objective any number of possible approaches. Often a full-frontal attack will end with severe casualties and will be a massive drain on resources, so playing it smart is always the desired option. There's a total of 8-10 hours of gameplay here and while it's not overly long, there is a lot of satisfaction to be found in going back to previous maps and playing with different strategies.
The background music is a beautifully composed mix of quiet mood setting pieces and loud Russian style chanting. Its style and execution is similar to that of other Russian military inspired soundtracks, so players should know what I am referring to. The soundtrack rises and falls in accordance with the on screen action and compliments events perfectly. Much of the voice acting is equally well done though at times it does come across as a little wooden. Still as good as things are, who are we to complain? Each and every character encountered throughout the course of the game has something to say, and that is a commendable feat for an action game such as this! IO Interactive earned themselves a reputation for excellent sound work with their release of Hitman2 and their efforts here have only re-enforced opinions. Personally I can't wait to see what they will deliver next!
Freedom Fighters is unique in that it delivers both an enjoyable and entertaining gameplay experience while managing to pull a highly intelligent story that into the mix. Everything about this game has such a polished feel to it that one is left wondering what possible improvement could be made in the hopefully forthcoming sequel? A longer quest thats for sure, and the inclusion of an online co-operative mode wouldn't hurt matters either. Some consolation can be taken in the fact that perhaps these issues were addressed in another version of this game released somewhere out in the Multi-verse. For our reality however, Freedom Fighters is the game to beat. If squad based combat is your thing then this is the game for you! Viva le Resistance!
* Squad based combat that's intuitive to control
* Dynamic environments that react to the player`s actions
* Maps are thoughtfully designed with many hidden backdoors and passages
* Players are free to create their own strategies
* An awesome story no matter how fantastic it may seem at times
* Stunningly realistic environments portray a real sense of oppression
* Both sound effects and background music has been perfectly implemented
* Intelligent gaming at its best
* 8-10 hours? We want MORE!
* No Live support?!
Community review by midwinter (August 27, 2004)
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