Hello all! Last week brought us to Rome, where we slashed and stealthed our way through a fun if historically inaccurate adventure.

Today’s title takes place in modern times with an EA-published riff on the whole Red Dawn scenario.

Freedom Fighters was developed by IO Interactive, who created Hitman and, um, Kane & Lynch. Released on PC, PS2, Xbox, and GameCube, Freedom Fighters is considerably more action-oriented than those two franchises. Set in an alternate history/present where the Soviet Union is the dominant superpower in the world, you play as Christopher Stone, an ordinary plumber out on a job with his brother Troy (Chris is the thinner of the two plumber brothers, so you play as Luigi, haha). While at the apartment of Isabella Angelina, an activist, the Soviets launch a sudden invasion of New York City. Chris gets caught up in the resistance, rising through the ranks as you attempt to take back the city.

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Freedom FIghters plays like most other third-person-shooters of the day, but with the added wrinkle of a squad you can control. Chris earns Charisma through completing objectives and missions; the more Charisma you have, the more troops you can recruit to follow you into battle. Towards the end of the game, you can have up to twelve, which is awesome.

The game looks a bit like Hitman 2 in the graphics department.

Squad control is basic; you can order them to attack or defend a position, hold, etc. It may be simple, but it’s important to master, as sometimes, the amount of enemies can be ludicrous. It all leads to sometimes epic firefights, but a problem with the game is, I never felt attached to any of my squadmates. They’re nameless, faceless drones, and they can be replaced pretty quickly if they fall. I’d prefer it if your squadmates at least had a slight hint of personality—or even better, something like the excellent Valkyria Chronicles, which featured permadeath and made you care about everyone.

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Otherwise, my favorite thing about Freedom Fighters is the same thing I like about every IO game: the level design. Like Hitman and Kane & Lynch, Freedom Fighters has a real sense of place. The levels feel like...well, like video game levels, sure, but there’s also a plausibility about them. I grew up and still live in New York City, and well, it’s not 100% accurate, obviously. But the color scheme is there, and it feels...real. Like Hitman, the levels feel like real places the game happens to take place in, rather than levels constructed specifically for the game...if that makes sense. As a bonus, the levels are somewhat open ended, allowing you to tackle some objectives however you like. Sort of.

Not to mention cinematic bits like this.

And I feel like this type of level design is important; I’d love to see more games look at level design this way. More of a sandbox than a straight run-through to the next objective, or an improbable obstacle course the bad guys built solely to be used by the protagonist to kill said bad guys (like Assassin’s Creed, sometimes. Only sometimes). You know how, in games, you’re running through a war-torn ruin, but there’s a clear path cut for you? That bugs me sometimes.

Anyway. The game tells an entertaining if basic story; there’s little in the way of surprises here. Characters are solid but typical, and the somewhat short game ends with a wide opening for a sequel—which we never got. I’d be surprised if we got a new entry, but who knows.

Freedom Fighters is still a pretty solid title; it’s aged a bit, and it’s pretty basic compared to more modern titles, but it’s still a good weekend playthrough. It controls well, looks good, and sounds fantastic; there’s a great soundtrack at work here. It’s worth a play, and where’s our sequel? Or at least make this one downloadable. I mean, come on.

Thanks always for reading my stuff! As always, leave comments, suggest future games to be featured as Game of the Week, and find me on Twitter!

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Next week’s game is a departure from the usual, as I’m gonna tackle a game based on a movie. We all know how those usually go, but this is a good one. Still the best swinging mechanics around.