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Freedom Fighters Preview
developer: IO Interactive
PIII-733, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 650MB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Oct 01, 03 (released)
|» All About Freedom Fighters on ActionTrip|
Last time we got to check this game out, it was called Freedom: Soldiers of Liberty. That was back in May, at the E3 show. Nowadays, the game is called Freedom Fighters, but the name isn't important. What is important is what this game has to offer gamers. Freedom Fighters introduces a very unique and refreshing approach to team-based combat, as it provides players with an unprecedented level of control over their AI teammates, all with the use of some very simplistic and intuitive interface commands. We recently got a chance to chat with Lead Designer at IO Interactive, Mads Prahm and got the chance to grill him on the subject of the team-oriented gameplay, the AI routine, the multiplayer aspect, a brief history of the development team, and more.
Freedom Fighters is a tactical action game with heavy emphasis on team combat. It is developed for all the major platforms and it essentially doesn't have a multiplayer facet to it. The two main selling points for this game are its completely simplistic interface and control system, and the robust AI. The AI is basically used to support the entire gameplay concept of just telling your guys to "go there" and letting them do all the work - like take cover, flank their opponents, retreat, etc.
In a world where the Soviet Union won the Cold War, a fierce conflict is unfolding in the streets of America. Taking on the role of Christopher Stone, players evolve from an average New Yorker into a fearless patriot who recruits and leads an army of freedom fighters in the streets of New York City (Ed. - sounds vaguely familiar). Freedom: Soldiers of Liberty combines the depth of a squad based game with the intensity of an action-packed war game that unfolds in the streets, subways, and buildings of the Big Apple.
With leadership comes great responsibility. The lives of your soldiers and the quest for American Freedom are held together by your courage, charisma, and leadership skills. Because wars are not won alone, a key component of the game depends on the player's ability to recruit and lead fellow New Yorkers in the battle against the Red Menace. An intuitive recruiting command system allows him to give orders to his fellow soldiers and execute critical missions at the touch of a single button.
Players will fight through the recognizable streets of NY with seamless urban fighting that takes place outside as well as indoors. There are rewards and penalties for winning or losing in Freedom: Soldiers of Liberty. A charisma-based Recruiting System awards points for rescuing freedom fighters or capturing vital installations, allowing the player to recruit more men as well as providing an emotional tie to the fighters dependent on his decisions. Your character and recruits engage the Red army with various types of single and two-handed weapons, as well as various unarmed combat martial arts moves in their quest for freedom.
Action Trip: As a brief introduction, tell our readers about your team, how long they've been involved with Freedom Fighters, and the current status of the project.
Mads Prahm: The Freedom Fighters team was originally spawned from the "Hitman: Codename 47" team in late 2000, after release of IO Interactive's first title. The team has been scaled up during the production of Freedom Fighters. At the moment we are about 25 designers, artists and programmers. We have working like crazy the last two years, with spec changes and new platforms. Officially work on the project started when the contract was signed in mid 2001, but the (then small) team had been working on developing the concept for a few months by that time.
Currently, we are crunching hard to bring the game through BETA stage, which means endless days of bug fixing; making sure that the game is solid when we release it.
AT: Give us a brief peek into the unusual period of alternate history players will find themselves in throughout the game.
MP: In short, we have rewritten world history from WW2 and onwards, changing small things that could easily have happened that way in reality. In our alternate history, the Soviet Union comes out as the worlds dominating super power after the cold war.
- SHOT3: Area secure!
- SHOT4: "...they'll never take our frrreeedom!"
- SHOT5: That church scares the crap out of me.
AT: Judging from what we've seen at the E3, Freedom Fighters appears to offer a refreshing concept. What are the challenges that come with the team-oriented gameplay?
MP: Fighting an invading army is no one-man task. To be successful in driving out the Red Army, you will need to recruit and lead your team well. But you also need to keep yourself alive - if you get killed, it's game over.
As the team leader, you are responsible for commanding your teammates. Your recruits are intelligent and will act on their own, taking cover, returning fire and warning you about enemies. But they will not succeed without your leadership. Which strategy to apply is up to you: you can either lead the way and have your recruits cover your back, or send them in ahead while you provide covering fire. One thing is sure: you have to think and act fast once you are under fire.
AT: Your official site says that players get to lead up to 12 characters into battle. Handling all of them seems like a lot of work. How does the squad AI fit into the picture? Can players rely at any time for support from their CPU-controlled allies?
MP: Actually the group of resistance fighters grow during the progress of the game, how big you squad gets, depends on your skills as a leader. If you do well, the squad can get to 12 recruits near the end of the game, but most of the time you will probably be handling a little less than that.
The single feature of the game that we have spent the most time on, is the squad controls and AI. The controls are optimized for speed - you do not have to stop and bring up a menu, to shout commands to your allies. Controlling single squad members or sending off the entire team at once is just a press of a button.
The AI of your friends is pretty advanced. They will do a lot of thinking of their own, trying to stay out of fire by taking cover behind buildings, vehicles, etc. They will also warn you and each other of enemy presence.
AT: As for the enemy AI, can you give us a hint of what it will be like?
MP: The enemy AI is uses the same basic routines as the allies, which means that they too work together in groups, warn each other, run for help, or try to sneak up on you. In addition, all the different enemy classes behave uniquely - snipers, for instance, will act very differently from grunts.
AT: To what degree will the main characters be able to interact with the surroundings and objects that lie in it?
MP: The emphasis of the game is on action, massive battles, and fast paced gameplay - not stacking crates. But the player is still rewarded for exploring the environment. Old buildings might reveal shortcuts, or provide good sniping opportunities. Or even a perfect place for an ambush (Cool - Ed.).
AT: We recently found out that Freedom Fighters borrows some of the technology used in one of you recent projects, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. What aspects of the technology will you be using again?
MP: Basically, Freedom Fighters is built using our in-house game engine called "Glacier", that we also used in Hitman 2. Many parts of the engine have been optimized or completely rewritten since Hitman 2. This includes the render, that is now much faster and supports split-screen, player collision and AI. But still, most of the underlying technology is the same as that used in Hitman2.
AT: It's interesting to imagine Freedom Fighters in multiplayer. Describe a few of the multiplayer modes you plan to incorporate in the game.
MP: The Freedom Fighters multiplayer is available as split-screen on PS2, XBOX and GameCube. Players can play 2-4 players on specially designed multiplayer maps. There are always two teams in multiplayer mode - the Americans and the Soviets. Each team has 1-3 human players and 8 recruits. Each player commands their own recruits, leading them into battle versus the other team.
All the multiplayer maps are based around the "king of the hill" gameplay, although they present very different locations. All the weapons from the single-player campaign are available, so you can either choose to sit in a window and snipe at you opponents, or blast your way through with your team.
AT: You're making the game for PC, PS2, Xbox, and GameCube platforms. Will any of the versions differ in terms of content?
MP: PS2, Xbox, and GameCube have multiplayer gameplay. Besides that, we have tried to bring the same gameplay to all the platforms, and also have tried to make the game look almost identical on the different hardware. We have optimized the controls platform by platform, to make the most of the different game controllers, plus the mouse & keyboard on PC.
The Xbox offers the best video output, highest texture resolution and best sound (environmental audio and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround), but you really have to look closely to see the difference between the console versions.
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