Ok, who remembers Red Dawn then? The mid-’80s Cold War paranoia flick starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen? You know, the one where a bunch of plucky teenagers have to save the USA from an invading Soviet army hell-bent on enslaving the decadent capitalist pig-dog and replacing every MacDonald’s sign in sight with a hammer and sickle? It’s had videogame potential written all over it for years, and it’s bordenng on criminal that it’s taken until now for someone to recognise this. Freedom: The Battle For Liberty Island (working title) may not be formally related to the big-screen classic, but it does take Soviet invasion as its basic premise, and does put you in the shoes of a Swayze-esque everyman leading a team of motley freedom fighters against an occupying force on Uncle Sam’s soil. A nuclear missile has taken out the US capital, offing the President in the process, and giving the commies free reign to send in the troops. Thousands of citizens have been rounded up and imprisoned, including your own brother. Needless to say. and despite lessons learned in Chechnya, the Russkies have underestimated the power of the little man. Don’t get the wrong idea though, this is no ordinary action shooter. In fact, the gameplay promises to be far more interesting and diverse than that, with a mixture of first-person guerrilla warfare and turn-based strategy. The strategic phases take place in New York’s sewer systems, now the centre of resistance operations, where your job is to direct movements around the city, deciding where to strike and liberating the city sector by sector.
Action missions are mostly teambased. with teams growing in size as you recruit more and more irate Americans to your cause, although direct control over teammates will be kept to a minimum. The missions themselves promise to be pleasantly varied, often boasting multiple objectives and multiple levels of success. For example, you might be tasked with destroying a Soviet HQ in one mission, but unless you also blow up the nearby airfield you’ll find yourself facing devastating helicopter attacks on your next incursion. The development team wants the missions to be interlocking in this way, with rewards for exploration and taking the initiative. If you poke around enough you’ll find all manner of strategically important bits and pieces - bndges. supply dumps, airfields - and as head firebrand it’s up to you to decide whether to destroy them, commandeer or simply avoid them.
The usual assortment of real-world and semi-fictional weapons will also be on offer, including machine guns, rocket propelled grenades. Molotov cocktails and your sinewy working man’s fists. Also included is a selection of drivable vehicles, both military and civilian. With the help of 10’s Glacier Engine, Freedom has a simple but appealing graphical tone that favours broad urban spaces over level of detail, and already appear quite stunning. Chaos reigns amid a cacophony of voice cues, combat talk, and stuff blowing up, the Al ensuring that the action never becomes dull. Plus there are plans for eight-way multiplayer support. The flag waving begins next spring.
Download Freedom Fighters
Communists eh? Just when you thought all that stuff over in Russia had been drowned in a torrent of vodka, organised crime and Tom Clancy bollocks, it turns out that in an alternate time-line they've only gone and taken over the United States. Typical! Thankfully a New York plumber is on hand to lead the fight against the pinko-Ruskie terror, make lots of things explode and wave the star-spangled banner right in Ivan's dirty face.
Freedom Fighters is a third-person squad-based shooter that revels in its own simplicity. You recruit people by sidling up to them and pressing the 'E' button and consequently give them orders that never stray beyond follow me", stay here" and go over there and shoot stuff". At first, when you're a rookie warrior and don't have the notoriety to recruit more than one or two brothers-in-arms, it's easy to sneer at the basic way in which the game works. But when you're leading eight men into battle, with the basic command system allowing you to put some rudimentary battle tactics into the mix, the sheer joy of simple arcade action takes over. Barrels explode, bodies fly 20 feet into the air, machine-gun turrets are taken over and countless Russians are set alight by your array of incendiary devices - and all to stirring Russian music with choirs chanting in ominous bass tones.
The maps you fight through are reminiscent of the early missions of Deus Ex: urban pockets of New York with various targets on each marked for liberation. You generally have three levels open to you at any time, and knocking out, say, a power station or a helicopter pad on one will make your assault on the next slightly easier due to the distinct lack of helicopters and/or electricity. It tries to hoodwink you into thinking it's slightly non-linear, but episodes will always end with the US flag being raised over some civic building while you roll your eyes, mutter darkly about American foreign policy and hypocritically wait until the game lets you kill some more Russians.
Back In The USSR
Al-wise, your enemies are nothing more than cannon fodder. They'll occasionally duck behind buildings or leg it to the nearest vacant machinegun placement, but they'll spend most of their time standing around or being blown about the screen by some pretty impressive rag-doll physics. The game also suffers in the weaponry department, which is pretty humdrum, while the Russians themselves take a lot of killing. I undertook a 'scientific survey' which revealed that the average Soviet Trooper can take three sniper shots to the groin before collapsing. Balls of steel? Maybe, but those used to the one-shot-one-kill mentality may have a hard time adjusting.
In the annals of gaming history, Freedom Fighters won't even make it to a foot-note, but as a 'disengage-brain' late-night distraction it more than fulfils its duties as a supplier of popcornentertainment. Fidel Castro won't like it, but you probably will.
Better Ready Than Red
Ready to rumble with the Russkies in the most outdated future since The Jetsons? Then try out these single-and multiplayer tactics. Those Soviets will be cogs in the capitalist machine in no time, watching American sitcoms and purchasing quality electronics equipment at rock-bottom prices.
Avoid Frontal Assaults
A strategically placed truck may otter a way around a Soviet kill zone. Almost all primary objectives are well defended--the Soviets expect you to make a direct trontal assault on their positions., and be killed betore you can even reach the concrete barricades. But in most cases, you can find an alternate way to reach an objective that either bypasses the Soviet defensive positions or allows you to attack the flanks, avoiding their mounted machine guns. When you see a Soviet defensive position, look around for an open window or door, a hole in a wall, or even crates or a vehicle that will boost you over a wall or into an upper level. There's almost always an easier way.
Attack at a Distance
Sniper rifles are great for thinning the enemy ranks before a big assault. If there's no way around a defensive position, engage at long range if you can. Molotov cocktails and frag grenades work well for hitting enemies behind cover. If the enemy has snipers, try to sneak up behind them, kill 'em, and use their sniper rifles against their comrades. Also use aimed fire with assault rifles, pistols, or other weapons and target foes as they peek out from cover. By picking off one enemy at a time, you can clear out a position before you even get near it.
Use of Cover
Cover is vital. Running down the middle of the street is the quickest way to get yourself killed. Instead, crouch down and hide behind crates, dumpsters, and low walls. Avoid using cars and trucks as cover--if they take enough damage they'll explode, killing or wounding anyone nearby. If you must move across an open area, run; you're harder to hit when in motion. Don't stop to return fire until you're in a (relatively) safe spot.
Leadership plays an important role in tactics. You'll command up to 12 lighters, and with a little practice, you can almost complete missions without firing a shot.
Though you can give only three commands, they accomplish a number of tasks. The Follow order instructs your teammates to stay with you, like bodyguards, but they'll still engage the enemy. If you want them to stay put, especially behind cover, issue the Defend order. You can also use the Defend order to have one of your soldiers man a machine gun--aim at the gun and give the Defend order. The Attack/Scout order is extremely useful; while aiming, order your team to move to a point under your reticule to scout that area. Scouting is vital to prevent ambushes--send a single fighter ahead, around a corner, or into a building to scope out the scene. You can then recall the fighter (with the Follow command) or order the rest of your team in to fight. Keep at least one fighter with you for protection, especially if you are concentrating on ordering your team around (after giving your team an order, just tap the Follow button and one fighter will return to stay with you). For all commands, tapping the button issues the order to a single fighter, while holding it down orders your entire team.
If you want to win, practice. Start off by learning the maps. Plug in a second controller, start up a multiplayer game by yourself, and then explore. Note where weapons are hidden, the quickest routes to bunkers, and passages or cover that will allow you to approach bunkers from the rear. Once you know the lay of the land, become proficient at commanding your team. Try ordering them to take control of a bunker while you are at another location. With this tactic, you can send half your team to capture one bunker while you go for another or the flagpole. Finally, practice using the weapons. Knowing how to accurately throw Molotov cocktails and grenades is vital and allows you to attack without exposing yourself to enemy fire.