Before I picked up Freedom Fighters, I considered what other online mags were posting about it. Even
though the editors of GameSpot
gave the Freedom Fighters a 9.3 (WHORES.), the average review from the readers was
pegged at 7.7. Basically, a publication is calling a game a legend, and
you're Average Joe sums it up as "meh." I love it when that happens. Expecting the worst
(I usually come in below the average guy), I picked up Freedom Fighters for the
XBox and gave it a few hours play.
When I popped the disc into my XBox, I was treated to a few nice surprises.
Freedom Fighters presents you with a semi-plausible alternate history,
the backdrop for a Soviet invasion. Growing up with this "fear of the
Soviets", I thought that this re-write of history seemed decent enough
for the purposes of blowing stuff up. In Freedom Fighters, I am a plumber (yes. yes I am.), and
when Manhattan is invaded, it's all up to me to stop the RED MENACE from taking
over our fair country (*waves flag*)!
So, Freedom Fighters has some good cut scenes. That's usually a bad sign.
Starting the game, I realized that Freedom Fighters has one of the worst
camera systems ever made. It's absolutely atrocious. I was
constantly swinging the camera around manually, because the damn thing never
followed me. GRRRR. When I had control of the camera, I was swinging
it wildly into spaces that no camera should go - into walls, on the ground -
wherever the WORST angle was, I found it. The worst camera system EVER
becomes a major factor about 5 seconds into play. You're following some
commander-type of guy through a crowd. Good luck with figuring out which
blur you're supposed to follow.
The control system is pretty awful, too. To select your weapon,
you CAN use the regular directional pad, which is pretty darned normal, and my
preferred mode of operation. But this is NOT what the computer instructs
you to do. Here's the other (WRONG) way that you can get at your weapons
screen. Press down on the right thumbstick (the one controlling the
camera), and then move to the weapon that you want with the OTHER thumbstick
(the one controlling your character). I absolutely HATE that recent games
have started to assign critical functions to pressing on the thumbstick.
The first few weapon selections were absolutely maddening to me (until I found
out the sane way to switch weapons). The camera would fly around (changing
my aim), and my character would move slightly in whichever direction I had to
push. There are several other little quirks to control, from how your
character aims, to odd buttons for just about everything.
The graphics are like Grand Theft Auto 3. Really and truly, that's
their style. In fact, I'd dare say that your character looks exactly like
the guy from GTA. So, the graphics aren't good. But in
return, you get most of what you get in Grand Theft Auto 3 - expansive
Combine all of the above, and you have a game that begs to be turned off
within the first 10 minutes of play.
But... Don't turn it off!
The first few levels are "solo" - they give you some time get used to the
control scheme, or lack thereof, as the case may be. As you pick up some
experience, you're able to recruit others to your cause, and then order them
around. They are your bitches. And they aren't stupid, either.
The XBox has some nice features - all your call out commands are on the
controller, so it's actually pretty easy to get them to do your bidding.
They will become a squadron of elite troops pretty instantly with your guidance.
I found that the squadron features save this game. You'll giggle
with glee the first time you send your squad to certain death attacking a
garrison of Soviet troops. You're probably better off with the "stick and
move" approach - I was. Tell your squad of rebels to defend a spot, scout
forward, give them covering fire, and bring up your squad. Aim closely at
your enemies, and have your buddies mow them down. Capture some good
positions, and wander around - this is at the core of the game, and it's
When you start to understand that Freedom Fighters is about strategy, you
start to understand how good of a game it really is. It's ALMOST a
fantastic game. It tries to combine "easy" with "depth". Freedom
Fighters could ALMOST pull in the casual gamer, drawing them into a
mission-based strategy game (like Vice City or Hitman 2). If you give
Freedom Fighters a chance, you will be surprised, and you will want to continue
playing. This is a game that really rewards the "hard core" gamer - and
isn't meant for a quick moment of game time.
But Freedom Fighters doesn't draw in the casual gamer - the flaws of the game
are too great for the casual gamer to look past. And as for the hard core
gamer, well - it takes some getting used to. Freedom Fighters is
ultimately a rewarding experience, and it's worth having a long look at.
But don't expect perfection. I give Freedom Fighters a 7/10.
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