In this new series, we will look at games that have gone from existence. Why they were so good and why they need to be renewed. The first in the series was in the PS2/Xbox Era and developed by IO –Interactive. It had the story of Red Dawn and the early traits of a MOBA. It was called Freedom Fighters.
As the title suggests Freedom Fighters had you fighting against an invading force in the mainland USA. Much like Red Dawn and latterly Homefront Revolution, the story had you escaping from enemy forces before gathering your own to make a fightback. In this case, it is the Soviets, who in an alternate timeline ended WW2 with a nuke on Berlin. With the red army marching through US cities, the game had you in the role of a plumber who decided to fight back.
While the plot was standard the gameplay in Freedom Fighters was anything but. In a standard but very tight third-person perspective, you gunned your way along the streets of the USA, fighting your way through buildings and setting up ambushes of the enemy convoys and outposts. Despite being linear there was a massive element of personal choice in how you took them down. The magic about the game was the squad based control system. Here was a game where your small squad actually did what they were told. Too many times now we have to put up with substandard AI and pathfinding even in brand new games such as Mass Effect Andromeda. In Mass Effect you only have two other characters to give orders to and still, it isn’t seamless and can get messy. In Freedom Fighters, you can end up commanding double figures of troops with a simple button press.
In the game, the default is for your troops to follow and support you. With a simple aim of the crosshairs and a button press, you could send some of your troops to that exact position with the mentality as required. It allowed them to guard or attack and was perfect for setting up ambushes or keeping the enemy suppressed as you flanked the enemy and did the damage. In fact, you could probably do most of the game without fighting yourself, but the feeling you got as part of a squad and team meant you couldn’t help but join in the fight. The only other game that came close to this level of intelligence and most importantly obedience from your troops was Full Spectrum Warrior. Your squad mates in Freedom Fighters really were willing to do whatever you asked of them and didn’t charge off to do their own thing. The simple attention to detail in the programming made the game a joy to play.
There was something special about the level design as well. It just made sense. There were no massive constructions in the early game, the Soviets had simply taken over police stations and buildings. It gave the whole game a basis in reality despite the quite cartoonish graphics. The only level that deviated from this was the final level on Governor’s Island. This was your all out assault on the enemy. You had expanded your squad to the maximum and you were tooled up and ready to take on all comers. The later levels were notable for the enemy heavy troops that looked like catchers in baseball. They came out with full body armour and a shotgun and if you weren’t careful you could lose your squad before you took them down. In this game without squad mates, you were in trouble.
Despite receiving universally good reviews the game hasn’t spawned any sequels
Jeff Gerstmann reviewed it as a 9.3 at the time for Gamespot and said
‘While the game could have been lengthier, Freedom Fighters is still just an outstanding blend of pure action and tactical squad combat. The squad control works incredibly well, making it easy even if you haven’t had much experience with squad-based games in the past. Anyone looking for thrilling action with refined control and a great premise need look no further than Freedom Fighters.’
There have been a few mentions of a sequel from EA down the years. The last being in 2011 on Twitter when they said it was something a lot of people wanted to make. Unfortunately for whatever reason, the game with its excellent controls and level design has remained a standalone example of a genre. The single player squad-based shooter has now been supplanted by the online squad-based shooter and games like The Division and the recent Ghost Recon Wildlands are the norm rather than the single player variety. This would have to be addressed in any sequel with a multiplayer element. Whether it would be a case of every man for themselves in two or more teams or a simple extension of the campaign where you had two human commanders in charge of the AI squads it would need to be made more of a focus than the rudimentary modes included in the original.
The main problem with a sequel now is the storyline. Homefront has taken the premise of this game so it may need to be transplanted to a completely different setting. They may need to go back in time or even to another country as the current political climate and gaming landscape is full of these scenarios compared to the turn of the century when this was conceived and released.
Despite these hurdles, I feel the time is now right to at least put the great control system into some kind of game. The battles in the game felt very much like a modern day MOBA. You were the main attacker but were surrounded by your squad who you could buff and give simple commands to. If only developers had noticed the simple and elegant controls and AI of Freedom Fighters then future games that tried to come up with their own control system would have been better. Unfortunately, Freedom Fighters remains a gone game.