Those crafty Commies are at it again. First they dropped the bomb on Germany, and then they had the nerve to conquer most of the world. One of the last countries that remain free from the cold hands of Russia is the good ol’ USA. How is it that the Reds even dare to invade a country as powerful as America? As the second-in-command of the Soviet forces says, Americans have “one hand on the remote, and the other up their nose.” Welcome to the world of Freedom Fighters, soldier.
Christopher Stone is an ordinary Brooklyn plumber just working another ordinary day, but out of nowhere Soviet Russia unleashes their attack upon NYC. Since plumbers rank somewhere in-between God and cyborg ninjas in the land of videogames, it is obvious that Chris will become a powerful person. Good thing this mighty plumber is around, because the underground resistance desperately needs a hero if the amusing cutscenes are any indication. Those Russkies even banned the time-honored tradition of ice skating. Does their evil know no bounds?
While the plot is mostly silly, it manages to be engaging because of the heaps of satire and cynicism in the cutscenes. You won’t find any Cossacks drinking vodka to the Tetris songs, but there’s plenty of humorous action movie clichés. You’ll see the random hottie, the young geek who knows everything, the guy who wants to see more action (not in the way you’re thinking, perv), and the protagonist that has barely any lines. Even so, a couple scenes were surprisingly poignant and actually made me think about what just happened. It was the perfect blend of comedy and drama.
Freedom Fighters initially feels like a generic third-person shooter. Controlling Chris Stone was unexpectedly intuitive, especially considering this is a port, but nothing really seems to stand out. The action is fun and all, but I wondered how long this would be able to keep my attention. Just a little ways into Freedom Fighters, one of the most enjoyable features in any action game became prevalent: full-scale battles with troops at your command.
Using just three simple commands (attack, defend and regroup), you and your squad storm New York faster than Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-smoking laws. You begin with only two fighters at your command, but as you beat more missions and earn more “charisma points”, Chris will eventually enable you to recruit up to a dozen soldiers. One of the most enjoyable aspects of controlling so many people is being able to choose your plan of attack. You can charge full-speed with your comrades at your side, send out two separate groups to flank the enemy, or simply go into the first-person view and coordinate their exact locations while you sit back out of harm’s way. None of this ever becomes complex because the controls are streamlined to suit the action gameplay.
Speaking of action, the fierce firefights never become boring. With hundreds of bad guys, helicopters, turrets and explosive canisters, or a combination of all this in each level, the chaos always keeps the adrenaline pumping. Things certainly won’t be quiet on the Western Front.
The unique layout of the stages makes things all the more enjoyable. Each level is broken down into a few areas that can be accessed in any order. What you do in one area can affect another area. For example, if you take out the generator in the power plant, then the lights by the dock will turn off, making your infiltration safer. Or if you manage to destroy the helipad in one location, then you’ll be free from the deadly choppers in any of the other areas. It’s an ingenius way of adding some nonlinearity to a relatively linear game.
The excellent gameplay from the console versions was retained in the PC version, but unfortunately the somewhat simplistic graphics made the transition as well. While you can increase the resolution so things look a little better, the character models still appear somewhat basic when compared to other PC games. I suppose that’s the tradeoff you have to make to have the game run as smoothly as it does. Even with dozens of soldiers firing and explosions going off, there was barely a hint of slowdown on my moderately powerful computer. Where the graphics may disappoint, the sound quality will not. The voice acting is absolutely top notch, and the techno music that is akin to the Soviet anthem feels surprisingly appropriate to such an action-packed game.
The only serious flaw in the otherwise excellent Freedom Fighters is the appalling length. The whole thing can be beaten in a few hours and there are no multiplayer modes. This is inexcusable considering that the console versions had multiplayer. Some online support and the possibility of user-created mods would have been more incredible than Russia’s execution rate under Joseph Stalin’s rule. Whoops, was that offensive?
The serious lack of replay value in Freedom Fighters is detrimental, but this is still one of the most exciting action games of recent memory. The level design is impeccable, the storyline is enjoyable, and the strategy elements make this game stand out from the rest of the pack. Pick this one up if the price is modest, but stay away if the it seems too high. If only the KGB had games like this to play instead of partaking in those so-called “interrogations.”
Eight out of ten