Freedom Fighters is a squad-based action game developed by IO Interactive, which is mostly known for their Hitman games, and was released on September 26, 2003, for PAL, and October 1, 2003, for North America. It was originally released for GameCube, Windows, PlayStation 2, and Xbox.
It had a re-release digitally last year on September 21, 2020, on PC, and that is why I grabbed it and was finally able to play it again for nostalgic sake. Was it as fun as I remembered? Well, definitely!
This is my complete review for Freedom Fighters.
Freedom Fighters is based on an alternate history where the Soviet Union became the world’s first superpower by dropping atomic bombs left and right to end World War II, while eventually creating communist states around the globe, and they are starting to dominate the world.
You play as Christopher Stone, who is a plumber in New York City. At the start of the game, you and your brother, Troy, are tasked to go to your next client, Isabella Angelina, who is an activist. Surprisingly, she is not there when you reach her apartment, and for another big surprise, the Soviet Union launches their invasion of the United States of America. You are forced to become a rebel since your brother is abducted during the chaos, and you need to rescue him, and ultimately become the head of the resistance after capturing several key locations throughout the game.
Story-wise, Freedom Fighters is a very straightforward game, with a little twist near the end. It plays like a typical Hollywood action movie. Although, I really like the premise that New York City is captured, and you have to liberate it from the Soviet Union little by little by capturing key locations while you are hiding under the sewers. The game has around 5 to 6 major chapters, which consist of two to four missions that each take place a few months from each other, so you can definitely see the changes in the surroundings, which is mind-blowing to see back in the day.
The missions are also basic, you complete them by putting the American Flag at the top of the key location, and that’s it. There are a couple of Optional Side Quest, but it varies from destroying a helipad or rescuing prisoners. Completing the mission would also complete the optional side quests within it, but completing them during your mission run would give you plenty of experience which you can use to recruit other rebels.
As for the characters, there are only a handful of major characters in the game. Most of them are forgettable. We have the main character, Christopher, and he is mostly a silent protagonist who talks very little until later in the game. Then there is Troy, his brother, who makes an appearance only a few times in the game after rescuing him. I even forgot he was the main character’s brother when I was playing back in 2004. We have Mr. Jones, Isabella, and Phil, who do all the exposition during the mission briefing. Mr. Jones makes few appearances here and there at the start of the game, but you will see him on the latter part as well since he has a major role in the last act of the game. On the other hand, Isabella and Phil probably have the most dialogue in the game with their conversation and sometimes bickering on how to pursue the missions. Lastly, the antagonist, General Tatarin. He is basically the interim president when the USA fell to the Soviets. He is a very cliche and clear-cut tyrant, and you mostly see him during interviews persuading people to stop rebelling while showing the clear intent to kill everyone who opposes him.
Those are the characters in the game, and as I mentioned, they are very few, and sadly, they do not leave a good memory that you will never forget for a long time.
Unfortunately, the story is the game’s weakest link because it is just too short. It only took me one sitting to complete the game and I actually died several times and still completed it in under 6 hours. I certainly want more of the game since it also kind of ended in a cliffhanger, and as I said, it is very short. That is the thing as well, when the story reached its peak, it just ended abruptly.
Visual and Audio Presentation
Now moving on to the visual and audio presentation, Freedom Fighters has a banger soundtrack composed by Jesper Kyd. He is one of the most famous composers in the gaming industry as he also worked on the Assassin’s Creed series as well as the early Hitman games.
As for the voice acting, it is pretty decent for its time, and it does not even sound stiff or awkward so props to the voice actors, especially Vanessa Marshall, who voiced Isabella in the game. She is the best one out there among the characters.
For the visuals, I guess this game aged pretty nicely for a 2003 game, just like how the original Hitman games are still playable today. I played Freedom Fighters on a 1440p screen, and it actually looked kind of great. Although, I wish they could have fixed the scaling for the user interface because the health bars and inventory look so small in 1440p.
The quality for world design and the character design is not lost despite playing it on a high resolution, and they are still memorable to this day. It also helped that the locations of the missions are not as generic since the game takes place in different seasons, like the rainy or winter season.
I also like that there are a variety of rebels that you can recruit. Yes, you may see clones here and there, especially in the later parts of the game, but there are still plenty to choose from. On the other hand, the enemies look the same unless they are of higher rank.
The animation can be quite stiff sometimes, but absolutely not a bad one for a 2003 game, except for the lip-syncing. It is also good that the cutscenes run on the same engine as the game, and thus, it aged well too.
The physics is quite wonky especially when they ragdoll once a grenade, red barrel, or a car explodes. It is funny to see them fly sometimes, and it even adds more to the charm of the game, to be honest.
As for the gameplay, this is where Freedom Fighters shines. It is a third-person squad-based action game where you can command your rebel squad. You can command them to attack an outpost, defend a certain place, or just follow you around.
You need to have the charisma to recruit rebels. You gain charisma points by completing missions, side quests, or healing civilians you come across. At the early missions, you can usually recruit two rebels, but as you progress and increase your charisma points, you can recruit more of them and even have a squadron of 12 rebels, which is amazingly large.
As a kid, and even now as an adult, I genuinely had fun playing the game, just commanding and watching my recruits go toe-in-toe with the enemies. You can even finish a mission without even shooting a gun, just tactically command your units to complete the mission. Again, this is in 2003, so it was kind of mind-blowing to see these many recruits and enemies gunning each other down.
The AI is pretty smart too as they usually hide or cover themselves if possible. However, they are all deaf, enemies and recruits alike, since unless you fire near them, they will never hear you. Although, this is more like a technical limitation, or rather, out of scope, and I believe this is coded on purpose so gunfights are controlled in a smaller section of the map. I just find it weird to see enemies keep patrolling the area even though there are literally shots fired near in their vicinity, but I am not going to dock my rating because of that because it makes sense why IO Interactive did it.
The camera can be a little stiff and weird. This is before the time of Resident Evil 4, where over-the-shoulder camera became a norm in a third-person shooter game. Of course, if you do an aim-down sight in this game, it will transition to an over-the-shoulder camera. I am saying this because sometimes when the camera goes into an over-the-shoulder camera, you cannot see what’s in front of you. This is very noticeable if you are near a wall, which can be quite annoying since your character is the only one who does not have a cover animation.
The gunplay is fun if you are the type of player who is run n’ gunning everyone you see in close range. However, if your enemies are far, the recoil and RNG on your shots can be a little bit frustrating, especially since the enemies are mostly bullet sponges.
It also has a sort-of branching feature wherein you are given multiple missions to select every chapter, and each one can affect the others. For example, if you capture a certain location first, all the other places would have fewer enemies without any reinforcements.
Freedom Fighters truly emphasizes the squad-based gameplay since doing solo every mission in this game is going to be hard, even on normal difficulty. (It can be a good challenge, though) You do not have infinite or regenerating health like modern games, and thus, you have to rely on your limited medkits. The damage on any weapon is even significant enough to kill you in 5-6 shots. There are so many times I died because I stood way too close in an exploding car, a red barrel, or got targeted by a machine gun. Additionally, one of my gripes in the game is the lack of a checkpoint system. You can only do manual saves by going back to the sewer, otherwise, you must do everything all over again if you die. Although, this can be just me being a nitpicky and a bad player because a mission’s length ranges from 5 to 10 minutes tops usually.
Overall, the gameplay is this game’s greatest aspect, and I can see myself playing it again a couple of times just for the sake of it.
Now for the content value though, it does not have a lot going for it. The PC version and even the re-release PC version do not have the multiplayer mode that consoles used to have. I have watched the multiplayer of this game, and it looks so much fun, and I wished I snugged it on my PS2 back then. It revolves around capturing bunkers and flags while maintaining the squad-based gameplay among the players which looks extremely fun.
Anyway, the 6-hour single-player campaign is everything it has, and sadly, that hurts the rating of the game overall.
Currently, it is around $9 on Steam, and I do not recommend buying this game at that price since this is more than a decade-old game. On the other hand, it is surely worth trying if it’s on sale for $5.
In conclusion, Freedom Fighters was and still is a pretty good game to experience even for one-time only. The graphics and AI unquestionably show its age as a game, but it is still a fun squad-based third-person shooter overall.
It sucks we did not manage to be able to play the multiplayer mode, but the single-player campaign with the USA getting invaded and surprisingly losing can hold this game up alongside its gameplay, and props to the amazing score by Jesper Kyd as well.