Crispy Gamer

Games That Time Forgot: Freedom Fighters (2003)

Perhaps time has forgotten Freedom Fighters because of its banal, totally forgettable, terrible name. It sounds so much like about a thousand other games that even if you haven't played it, you're still pretty sure you probably have.

But Freedom Fighters was actually a great goddamn game.

Like another great game that I surely do not have to name, this last-generation game also starred a plumber. Only this plumber's name was Chris. Or, as I came to call him, Chrisio.

When his brother Troy -- also a plumber (Troyuigi?) -- is kidnapped by Russians, Chrisio must take up arms and lead a ragtag bunch of "freedom fighters" on a mission to save Troyuigi and stop the Russian invasion of New York City.

Yes, the Russians are invading New York City in the game. Freedom Fighters features a revisionist history of what might have happened if the Russians had won World War II and become a superpower.

There are three things I love shooting at in videogames.

1. Nazis.
2. Zombies.
3. Russians.

This game gives me one of my top three favorites, which automatically made me feel kindly toward it.

Games that time Forgot: Freedom Fighters
Here's one of the game's many turret sequences.

The game was made by IO Interactive, maker of the Hitman series, and also maker of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, which I personally had been hoping would be a kind of spiritual sequel to Freedom Fighters. But Kane & Lynch turned out to be a pile of wet goat shit. Goddamn it.

Here are some of the great things about the game. Each time you do something good, like save a dying person, the game makes this very gratifying "YEAH!" sound and deposits 25 or so points into your Charisma meter. Fill up your Charisma meter, and suddenly a freedom fighter will start following you around and obeying your orders. Keep filling it up, and more freedom fighters will fight by your side.

Near the end of the game you have a maxed-out squad of 12 freedom fighters at your beck and call. This is more exciting than it sounds, trust me.

You can opt to do all of the dirty work in the game yourself, but it's much more gratifying to order your freedom fighters to wage war against the Russian enemies. For non-player characters, these guys are extremely loyal and very self-sufficient. Over the course of the 12 to 15 hours of gameplay, seeing my guys hustle into battle nearly brought a tear to my eye. "THAT'S MY GUYS!" I wanted to shout. This was the first time I'd ever really experienced this kind of real-time-strategy-type control before. It was very intoxicating to me.

Forget the BFG in DOOM; the best weapon, in any videogame, to my mind, was a squad of dudes willing to do shit for you.

And when one of my guys went down, I always hustled to his side, and fed him Health Packs, and got him on his feet again. "No man left behind, soldier," I'd say, even though no one was around to hear me say that. (I didn't even have cats back then.)

Games that time Forgot: Freedom Fighters
Look closely, and you'll see some NPCs doing your dirty work.

One of my favorite parts of Freedom Fighters is the way that the game never announces a new type of enemy, the way that Borderlands does. Instead, new, more terrifying Russian soldiers just kind of appear, which is unnerving. I'd be fighting away -- pow, pow, pow, pow -- when suddenly, I'd see a new kind of soldier, usually a foot or two taller than my soldiers, start cutting a path through my guys, leaving a trail of dead in his wake.

"NOOOOOO!" I would shout, and charge into battle, only to be killed as well.

I never minded dying in Freedom Fighters. If I died, I'd try a new strategy, which was usually better than my old strategy. I'd put my guys over here, on the far side of the battlefield, but I'd flank left, and sneak up behind the distracted soldier, and thin the herd, so to speak.

And each level ended with Chris literally raising a flag, just like that one other game I alluded to earlier.

It was all very gratifying to me. So much so that I bought a copy of the game and gave it to my friend John in Boston. He got killed a few times, and never really went back to the game, which always broke my heart. Whenever I'd visit him, I'd see Freedom Fighters collecting dust on his game shelf, and I'd always have a brief fantasy about grabbing it, throwing it into my bag, and taking it back to New York with me.

But I always held out hope that John would, one rainy Boston day, discover its beauty.

He never did.

Then again, neither did you.

Check out more Games That Time Forgot.