Step into an alternate reality, where the Soviet Union, after the Second World War, has become the most dominant superpower on the planet. Having conquered almost the entire world except for the United States, the Russians have now set their sights on the Stars and Stripes. After invading New York City, it is up to you, and a band of your brothers, to fight off the red plague in Freedom: Soldiers of Liberty, IO Interactive's latest title for the Playstation 2. Freedom takes place in a modern day setting of New York City, and while U.S. military forces are busy fending off the Soviets on all fronts, it is up to the 'Joe Public' to defend his homeland, and this is where you, the player, come in. You'll play as Christopher Stone, a plumber in the Big Apple who gets involved in a resistance movement when his brother is taken hostage by Soviet forces.
Freedom is a third person action title from the makers of the popular Hitman series, and you'll actively control Christopher Stone throughout the game. However, going up against an army of such awesome power alone is not easy, so you'll rely on members of your resistance to aid you throughout the game. You can recruit new members by increasing your Charisma Meter, which essentially is a visual representation of your skill as a leader. The higher it goes the easier it will be to recruit members to your cause. Your charisma is increased by completing mission objectives, some of which are fairly easy, like blowing up a gas station used by enemy troops. Others, however, are a bit tougher, such as tasking you to overtake a Soviet military installation and fly the American flag from its roof.
Throughout your journey, you will acquire several weapons that can be used to create some serious chaos, such as pistols and grenades, rifles, Molotov cocktails, and more. You'll also be able to command up to 12 teammates at the touch of a button, allowing you to engage larger enemy forces than otherwise possible. You can order your troops easily by simply pointing in a direction with the first person view and giving out one of three orders: Scout, Follow, and Defend. Scout will let your teammates trek ahead and scout out an area. If it is clear to proceed, they will notify you, but if there are enemy troops up ahead, they will actively engage them. Follow simply tells your team to follow your lead and do as you do, while Defend orders them to hold their current location and defend against enemy attack. When sending your orders, you have a simple yet complete way of focusing your strategy. You can assign one or more team members to a command, or all of them, all while using the same button. This can be done two ways- by locking onto a target or by using first person view. All in all, the squad-based commands are simple and easy to use. Once you have deployed your team, a complex set of AI instruction sets takes precedence, allowing your troops to think and act on their own, allowing you to do your own thing if need be. For instance, if you command them to scout an area with gun turrets, they will take active control of the turrets and lay down suppressing fire for you and whatever teammates you bring with you.
You can also use your teammates in other intelligent ways, such as having them clear a path by securing stairways or rooms before you proceed. They can also take the high ground on the roof of a tall building or wall and use rocket launchers and sniper rifles to keep enemy troops at bay. All in all, the AI in Freedom looks to be shaping up nicely.
Freedom will take place mostly in New York City, incorporating approximately 19 mission throughout all five boroughs. Throughout the game, you will encounter amazingly destructible terrain, as almost anything you come across can be blown up to your advantage. On top of that, the missions you go through are interconnected, allowing you to come up with several different strategies for completing missions. For example, if you are being plagued by an attack chopper in a certain mission, you can do another mission, scout ahead and find out where the chopper is stationed, allowing you to take it out in advance so it can't cause anymore problems on other missions. This should add a nice dynamic to the game, giving players a lot of freedom in deciding how and when to do a mission.
In addition to the main gameplay is an option to play the game through a multiplayer perspective. The PC version won't be supporting this feature, but in the Playstation 2 version, players can team up with their friends for some multiplayer action. Even better is that the game will feature musical overtures by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, which did the soundtrack of Hitman 2. Simply put, there will be a lot of nice touches in Freedom that fans of the Playstation 2 will enjoy.
Overall, Freedom: Soldiers of Liberty is shaping up to be quite the resistance. Resistance to boring gameplay, resistance to cumbersome AI, resistance to linear gameplay that bothers so many games such as this. Oh yeah, and the resistance against the Soviet plague. Freedom: Soldiers of Liberty is scheduled for release later this year, which means we should have more info on this game come E3. Stay tuned for more updates in the future.
5/5/2003 Ryan Hartmann