Shooters are a dime a dozen in the modern video game landscape, so when one truly stands out from the pack it's a shame when it isn't celebrated.
Count Freedom Fighters among a long list of under-appreciated shooters that deserve a second chance at life. Developed by IO Interactive (of Hitman fame), Freedom Fighters is a perfect storm of top-notch production value and tight gunplay, all sewn together to create one of the best alternate history video games to ever see the light of day.
What Is It?
Freedom Fighters first and foremost is a third-person shooter, with some added squad elements to spice up the gameplay. The game released in 2003 for PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. In short, it is the video game equivalent of Red Dawn. It takes place in an alternate history where the Soviet Union developed the Atomic bomb first and used it to end World War II by dropping it on Berlin. Soviet influence continued to spread until the U.S. remained as one of the last democratic nations, eventually leading to a massive invasion of the East Coast by the Soviet Army. Players take on the role of Christopher Stone, an everyday plumber working in New York City who is thrust into leading the outmanned and outgunned resistance movement against the Soviet oppressors.
What Makes It Great?
While the game's premise isn't wholly original, it is the combination of atmosphere and gameplay that elevates Freedom Fighters far above the typical shooter. You truly feel like an underdog, ragtag group of resistance fighters. Helping citizens on the street and liberating portions of the city increases your charisma meter, allowing for more freedom fighters to join you in combat. Issuing commands to those fighters couldn't be easier either. Players can direct their troops to follow, attack or defend, and while it isn't a complex system by any means, the simplicity of it all keeps the game's pace fast and furious.
Another unique mechanic in Freedom Fighters involves mission choice. Whereas most shooters move players from one explosive set piece to another, Freedom Fighters gave players meaningful choices in how to move the game forward. Each set of missions in the game can be tackled in any order, but securing one objective before another could have huge effects for the region. Choosing to launch an attack on a helipad in one part of the city, for example, would cripple the Soviet's ability to attack you with helicopters in another mission, but neglecting to blow up the area's ammo dump first means your enemies will be better supplied. Every group of missions required players to weigh the pros and cons of any given objective, adding an additional layer of gameplay.
On top of it all is Jesper Kyd's haunting orchestral score. Part electronica and part Soviet war march, Kyd's use of choir lends itself perfectly to the somber tone of the game, as the resistance begins to win the war against the Soviets, only to be kicked back to square one. His contribution to the game's sense of desperation and Soviet oppression cannot be overstated.
Why Does It Need A Reboot?
Despite achieving critical success when it released in 2003, Freedom Fighters just didn't perform financially well enough for a sequel to ever emerge. Developer IO Interactive moved on by creating the poorly received Kane & Lynch series, as well as continuing their work on the Hitman franchise, leaving little hope for a Freedom Fighters 2.
But hope isn't gone entirely. Games like Homefront have shown that players still respond to the Cold War invasion narrative. Despite Homefront receiving mediocre reviews, it will even be getting a sequel. It seems wrong for Freedom Fighters, a game that captured the "Red Dawn" feel much better, to fade from memory while Homefront gets to live on. The power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 would allow IO to expand on the core ideas of the original game by allowing for more freedom fighters in battle and opening up the "mission choice" structure further for an even larger amount of strategic possibilities, not to mention the great mission replayability that would come as a result. And IO, if there ever is a sequel or reboot, please do the world a favor and bring back Jesper Kyd. It wouldn't be Freedom Fighters without him.
For More Games That Could Use A Comeback: