Freedom Fighters Preview
We check out the GameCube and Xbox versions of Io Interactive's upcoming third-person shooter from EA.
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Freedom Fighters is the upcoming third-person shooter by Io Interactive, the Denmark-based developer most recently known for the Hitman franchise on the PC and consoles. The game blends fantasy and reality in a fashion similar to Hitman's futuristic take on the assassin trade. The game is set in an alternate future wherein the Soviet Union won World War II and has since grown into a superpower bold enough to invade New York City and powerful enough to succeed.
You'll be cast in the role of Christopher Stone, a New York plumber who's sucked into the resistance movement after his brother is detained by the Soviet forces occupying the city. Moments after his brother is taken, Chris winds up in a hall, getting rid of his frustration at the situation by beating on a Soviet guard who's harassing tenants in an apartment building. As luck would have it, one of the freed tenants is a member of the local resistance and recruits Chris to help him liberate their similarly incarcerated leader. From then on you're pretty much strapped into a moving train as the action in the game doesn't really let up.
You'll find two main modes in Freedom Fighters: single-player and multiplayer. The single-player game is the showpiece of the package, offering roughly 19 objective-based missions. The various missions will offer a good mix of shooting mayhem and strategic gameplay, which involves managing a growing number of troops that will follow you into battle. A unique feature of the various missions is that many will be tied to each other, although not in a linear fashion, which means you can decrease the difficulty of one mission by successfully completing another. For example, when you first start the game, you can go to one of two locations: a post office and a police station. If you choose the police station first, you'll find it's nearly impossible to take on the mission due to a small group of snipers preventing your advance. However, as one of the beleaguered officers will tell you as he directs you to some C4 explosives, if you can take out the snipers by destroying their perch above a gas station near the post office, you'll be able to get through the mission . You'll also find that destroying certain key enemies can affect the way your next missions turn out. For instance, if in one mission 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, one in which that chopper is landed at a base, so you can 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 multiplayer mode will let you play a split-screen match against friends, with each side aligning itself with either the US or Soviets. While the mode isn't an online deathfest, it's still pretty fun.
As far as the basic game mechanics go, Freedom Fighters is a third-person action game. You'll actively control Christopher, via a control setup that's fairly easy to pick up, especially if you've played Hitman. Chris will be packing a nice assortment of weapons, such as assault rifles, pistols, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and any other weapons you pick up along the way. The catch is that you'll be limited in the amount of ammo and number of items you can hold onto, so you'll have to exercise some discretion when going on your shooting sprees. This caution extends through the entire game, since you will be facing off against an army, after all. The odds are evened up a bit by your ability to call on other members of the resistance for help. Of course, given your status as a newcomer to the resistance movement, you won't exactly be overwhelmed with support. The key to enlisting soldiers is to increase your personal charisma by performing a variety of actions. Though the bulk of your personal charm can be attained by successfully completing missions, performing other tasks, such as healing wounded soldiers, will also yield some points.
As your charisma level increases you'll be able to tap a greater number of fighters, for a total of 12 when you are at your most convincing. The extra troops are invaluable in later levels of the game, since they'll each carry different weapons and follow your orders implicitly. You'll control your troops by issuing three basic orders that are each assigned to a button: follow, scout, and defend. The follow command causes all teammates to follow your lead. Scouting causes your teammates to explore in a certain direction--they'll 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. The control setup is simple and easy to use. You can specify where you want your teammates to go either by looking in the appropriate direction or by using first-person mode, then you simply tap 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 babysit 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. You will also be able to 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.
The graphics in the game are coming together nicely. The game will take place in a variety of environments, ranging from expansive urban environments to indoor environments. 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 will also see quite a few spectacular explosions in the game, since many of Freedom Fighters' environments will have barrels of discarded flammable material and derelict vehicles that can be blown up to cause severe damage to any nearby enemies. As far as how the game is shaping up on both platforms, the Xbox version is looking gorgeous, with a high frame rate and a high level of detail. The GameCube version isn't quite there yet, but it's looking pretty sharp.
Based on what we've played so far, Freedom Fighters is shaping up to be a slick game that action fans will definitely want to check out. Xbox owners who were left wanting more in the wake of Brute Force's somewhat limited squad options should find a lot to like in Freedom Fighters. GameCube owners hankering for slightly more mature fare with a distinct lack of pink or pastel in its color scheme should find that Freedom Fighters is just what the doctor ordered. Freedom Fighters is currently slated to ship next week for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, PC, and Xbox.