Blast From The Past
From plumber to gun-toting revolutionary in Freedom Fighters
Alternate history is a great way to explore the great big ‘what ifs’ of the past and IO Interactive’s 2003 third-person shooter Freedom Fighters does just that. What if the Soviet Union had invaded New York City?
World War II had ended in this timeline by the Soviet Union dropping the first atomic bomb on Berlin, thus ending the German bid for dominance. In the wake of all that, much of Europe ended up turning into satellite communist states of Russia, and the United Kingdom was the last to succumb to the immense pressure from Moscow. This left the United States isolated and alone.
Suddenly an invasion of New York City is underway with Soviet troops, tanks and attack helicopters flooding into Manhattan as they secure the most powerful symbol of Western power left in the world. It’s a good job there’s a plumber ready to pick up his wrench and start filling the shoes of a resistance leader. You literally beat your first Soviet invader with said wrench.
All hope lies with a charismatic plumber, without a moustache – odd
The whole premise is pretty ridiculous but you can’t help but feel pretty great taking the fight to the Red Menace across various areas of NYC. This wasn’t just some run-and-gun third-person shooter either as IO had introduced a surprisingly robust, albeit still quirky, follower system where you can recruit fighters to take with you and give them commands. You aren’t fighting the Soviets alone but with a whole resistance movement after all, and the squad AI was actually pretty good.
Over time you can take more recruits with you who each favour a different sort of weapon. Making use of these recruits in the field is paramount to overwhelm the superior position and defences of the enemy. Each leap in the story would also open up a number of levels you could revisit in order to secure objectives and remove obstacles in others, like crippling their ability to use Hind attack helicopters or receive reinforcements of troops.
Our protagonist Christopher Stone even gets to build his own legend as the ‘Freedom Phantom’ by Soviet propaganda that’s broadcasting in New York. It all adds to the silliness of a B-movie plot but it’s hard not to love Freedom Fighters for it. From the overly stereotypical Russian accents, to the chunkier character models with exaggerated limbs, to the feeling of taking on the mighty war machine of the Soviet Union and slowly pushing back the invasion.
Video game music is often underappreciated or overlooked, but not here
Freedom Fighters also features some of the amazing work by composer Jesper Kyd, who has wowed plenty with his musical scores throughout numerous video game franchises. Here is no different and it’s got some pretty great pieces to accompany you on the path to regaining liberty. It’s the perfect match to leading a squad of 12 into battle hurling Molotovs and firing AK47s in the snowy streets of New York City.
Of course with something like this you need to feel as if you’re winning the day before a dramatic twist happens and steals away victory. It happens, even to revolutionary plumbers. It’s something you could kind of see coming but still gets to you and helps push you through to that final confrontation as all hell breaks loose. There’s even a bonus level on Liberty Island for the true patriot!
Where to get Freedom Fighters today?
There is no digital copy available for Freedom Fighters available to buy sadly. The 2003 third-person shooter never made the revolutionary step into the online world. You’ll need to buy a copy from a retailer, which will mostly likely be second-hand. There are GameCube, PlayStation 2 and original Xbox versions that you could look at, but we’d recommend that you probably stick with PC.
If you feel so inclined you could turn to My Abandonware and download the game, which only weighs in at 619MB.