Brad's right—Freedom Fighters' juvenile take on world politics is indeed a missed opportunity, particularly during these volatile times. It could have been the videogame equivalent of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket or Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Instead, the game is content being as politically shallow as Stripes. I don't believe I've ever seen a videogame as painfully sincere as Freedom Fighters is. Even the Desert Storm series doesn't take itself this seriously. Freedom Fighters' quest to take back New York City from the Russians, to literally wave "Old Glory" (each level ends with a raising of the flag), is so earnest that if the game were released during the Cold War, it would have probably been considered propaganda.
That said, I enjoyed Freedom Fighters, not as an American anxious to kick the Russians in the pants, but as a gamer who's fond of third-person action games. And Freedom Fighters is a third-person action game of the highest order.
This is the first squad-based game to really get the whole giving-orders thing right. The first time I sent my "recruits" into battle, I was literally dumbfounded by their skills. To my amazement, they fought bravely and wisely. They instinctively sought cover. And when they died, it was usually my fault (tactical error) rather than theirs. As I watched these soldiers fight on my behalf, I felt the kind of paternal pride parents no doubt feel when their children surprise them by performing some elaborate task.
Wits, not brute force, are necessary for survival in Freedom Fighters. I appreciate that. I always prefer using my brain to my reflexes. The real pleasure in the game comes from devising and executing plans. I'd send my soldiers one way and then I'd go an alternate route. If it failed, I went back to the drawing board. But when plans worked, it was sheer videogaming bliss.
Around the midpoint in the game, a new kind of super soldier appears. He's a full head taller than the regular Russian soldiers, and he's clad in black armor and armed with a powerful machine gun. He isn't announced or heralded in any way; suddenly, he's just there, in the midst of the fighting. I watched as he cut a path through my recruits like an outboard motor. When I did finally bring him down—and it wasn't easy—I found myself cautiously approaching his corpse, afraid he might leap back to his feet. These soldiers, though rarely seen, absolutely haunt the second half of the game.
If only Freedom Fighters had more elements like this super soldier. I agree with Brad's statement that the game "run(s) out of tricks far too soon." The game does indeed peak early, with the later levels holding little in the way of surprises. Yet Freedom Fighters is still compelling enough to make me long for a sequel, albeit one with more mature political content. Trust us, EA—we can handle it.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PS2 version of the game.