Developer IO Interactive has made a name for itself with its stylish and gritty Hitman action series, which lets you play as a highly skilled and fearsome assassin. IO's next game, Freedom: Soldiers of Liberty, will instead let you play as a freedom fighter in an alternate version of New York (one that's being invaded by an overwhelming force of Soviet troops). In Freedom, you'll be able to do battle with the invading armies by recruiting an army of up to 12 teammates who will follow your orders quickly and easily with the press of a single button.
Freedom takes place in a modern-day, alternate-history version of New York. After World War II ended, Soviet Russia instead became an aggressive nuclear superpower that ended up conquering most of the world, except for America--though the Soviets have begun their assault on the US too. As a result, the US military is tied up in various conflicts with Soviet armies, though it hasn't been able to prevent a stateside invasion, which is where you come in. In the game, you play as Christopher Stone, a plumber from New York who goes on a routine job, only to find that his client, along with his own brother, have been kidnapped by Soviet forces. In the course of planning a rescue, you'll fall in with a resistance movement whose goal is to take back the streets of New York.
Freedom will be a third-person action game in which you'll actively control Christopher, who will be armed with various weapons, such as assault rifles, pistols, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and any other weapons he might pick up along the way. However, as Christopher, you'll be up against an army, and you can't succeed alone, so you'll need to draft teammates by attaining charisma (indicated by a meter at the top corner of the screen). At the beginning of each of his missions, you'll be presented with a series of objectives--some major (like retaking a Soviet base and flying the American flag over it), some minor (like blowing up a gas station being used by enemy troops), and all with the potential to increase your charisma if you can succeed at them. With increased charisma, you can recruit more teammates (up to a total of 12), who will each carry different weapons and will therefore be of different use to you at different points but will all follow your orders quickly and fend for themselves in the meantime.
You'll literally be able to control your teammates with a press of a button. Freedom will let you issue orders quickly to your teammates either by facing in the appropriate direction you'd like to send them or by switching to the first-person zoom mode (which also lets you fire more-accurate shots at your enemies), putting your crosshairs on a specific destination, and then telling your teammates to move out. You'll have three basic orders to give your comrades: follow, scout, and defend. The follow command causes all teammates to follow your lead. Scouting causes your teammates to explore in a certain direction and report back if the area is safe or engage any enemy soldiers they encounter. Defend causes your teammates to sit tight at a specific location and hold it against any enemy attacks.
Escape From New York
All that squad-based stuff may sound complicated, but IO Interactive has taken many, many steps to make sure that it's as simple as can be. You can specify where you want your teammates to go either by looking in the appropriate direction or by using first-person mode, then simply tapping a button to deploy a teammate there. You can also use multiple button taps to send more than one teammate, and you can press and hold the deploy button to send them all. And once your teammates have moved out, they'll act on their own, so you won't have to baby-sit them. If they make contact with an enemy, they'll automatically take cover. If you send them near mounted gun turrets, they'll automatically start using them and provide cover fire for you as you rush in. Freedom will also let you climb up on rooftops by using nearby vehicles and objects to get a better view of the battlefield, and your teammates will follow you up if you order them to.
Freedom will feature more than 19 different missions to play, and each of these will take place in expansive urban environments, though several of the levels will also have close-knit indoor areas too. In some of these areas, you'll be forced to rely on your teammates to clear stairways and provide cover as you come around turns or through doorways. Fortunately, you'll at least be able to shoot out the lights in several areas, which darkens the room and makes it harder for enemy soldiers to draw a bead on you. Once you've taken the high ground either by capturing a multistory building or by scaling the nearest wall up to the roof, you'll be able to use weapons like the rocket launcher and the sniper rifle to your greatest advantage, and by using the zoom lens on the sniper rifle, you'll have exceptionally good control over where you send your teammates.
Much of the game will take place in and around New York City, including areas like Manhattan and the Bronx, and though you can expect to see a lot of run-down urban areas, you can also expect to see a few famous New York landmarks. You can also expect to see quite a few spectacular explosions in the game, since many of Freedom's environments will have barrels of discarded flammable material and derelict vehicles that can be blown up to cause severe damage to any nearby enemies. What's more, you'll also find that destroying certain key enemies can affect the way your next missions turn out, since the game won't be completely linear. Once you finish one mission, you'll often get a choice of which mission to do next, but the missions are interconnected, so if you're having an especially tough time taking down an attack chopper that keeps swooping in and pinning down your squad, you might try playing a different mission in which that chopper is landed at a base; just sneak your way in and blow it up, and it won't be back to bother you when you return to the original mission. The developers at IO Interactive hope that players will want to play through the game's missions more than once to try out different strategies and tactics, and also to see how their actions in one mission can affect the outcome of other missions.
Freedom is shaping up to be a promising action game. Though the PC version of the game will unfortunately not have multiplayer support, the PS2 and Xbox versions will support four-player split-screen play. All of the versions will feature background music and vocals from the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, which also provided music for the Hitman series. Freedom: Soldiers of Liberty is scheduled for release later this year. We'll have more on the game soon.