NewsBen Butzow (pestulio07)
In a market oversaturated with fourth, fifth, sixth entries in a franchise, and many series even becoming annual releases, it got me thinking: what about the best games from the previous generations that never got sequels, but absolutely deserved them? Many of them even set themselves up for a sequel. There’s been one on my mind since I first played it back on 2003: Freedom Fighters.
If you’re unfamiliar, Freedom Fighters is a third person squad based shooter for GameCube, Xbox, PS2, and PC. The story centered around Chris Stone, a New York plumber who takes up arms in the wake of a Soviet invasion of America. Think Mario meets Red Dawn meets Homefront, except fun.
The core gameplay wasn’t earth shattering; aim gun at bad guy, shoot, repeat. But where the game truly shined was the ability to command squads of up to twelve of your fellow New Yorkers across the battlefield. The player could individually tell them to attack, defend a point, or follow. Alternately, you could just send all twelve wildly into combat in a blaze of gunfire. Freedom Fighters also featured competitive multiplayer, allowing up to four players each to command up to six soldiers, in a capture-the-flag free for all.
So why a make a sequel?
SPOILER ALERT: At the end of the game…the good guys win. Shocker, I know. However, even in the wake of their victory, Chris sits, disheartened by the knowledge that the Soviets will be back someday “…with bigger guns, and more soldiers.”
More or less, the story wraps up nicely enough, but is easily open for a bigger war, or even a counter attack by America, with Chris leading the charge. But why haven’t we seen a sequel yet? Well, it’s certainly not for lack of interest. In 2010, when being interviewed about the upcoming release of Kane & Lynch 2, game director Karsten Lund was asked about a sequel, and simply stated, “No comment.” Later, Io-Interactive stated in a tweet in July 2011 that “It’s definitely something a lot of us are interested in doing. But right now, the focus is on Hitman: Absolution.”
Maybe it’s for the best that we haven’t seen a sequel yet. If the past has shown us anything, it’s that the PS2/Xbox/GC generation didn’t allow for a massive amount of growth in terms of unique sequels. I’m no game developer, but given that I’ve beaten Freedom Fighters more times than I can count, here’s what I believe we would need from the sequel.
- Keep it third person, but don’t make it a cover-based Gears of War clone.
Army of Two is very fun. In fact it’s one of my favorite “couch co-op” game(s) in recent memory. But when I’m describing it, all I can say is “it plays exactly like Gears of War.” Every shooter on the market now gets compared to one of the giants: Gears, CoD, or Halo. Freedom Fighters was made before the dawn of cover based shooting as we know it today, and the sequel should stay that way.
- Focus on one feature instead of trying to change the genre.
This is somewhat similar to point one. Don’t clone. But if you’re going to innovate, do so with one key feature that really blows people away. Freedom Fighters kept bringing me back through the entire campaign, time and time again, because of the immense battles towards the end. Watching your soldiers slowly progress through the battlefield, entirely under your control, was extremely rewarding. But if you weren’t into standing somewhere high and barking out orders, you still had the option to charge in yourself.
Here’s an idea that isn’t outright cloning: The player could have up to 12 soldiers follow them at a time (a la the original), but could also guide smaller squads of 1 to 6 soldiers, via a radio/map system, in real time. Inspiration could be drawn from the original Ghost Recon, in which the player could drop out to a map, and order Squad B to various points. Freedom Fighters 2 could use a similar mechanic, but utilizing a physical map, and not moving to a new screen, keeping the player engaged and in the moment.
There were several games in the PS2/Xbox era that attempted to fuse FPS and RTS mechanics together, ultimately failing because they spread themselves much too thin. For Freedom Fighters 2 to avoid this, the features would need to be seamless, and logical. Having Chris kneel down, pull out a radio and a map gives the player more urgency to make good decisions quickly, and get right back into the action.
- Don’t focus on online multiplayer. Keep it single-player focused.
There’s no shortage of online shooters for those who are looking, so why crowd the market with a half-assed single player campaign, and a semi-decent online multiplayer? In the great words of Ron Swanson, “Don’t half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.” Games like Halo and Gears of War have proven that in a multiplayer focused market, there’s still room for story.
The PS3 exclusive M.A.G. had a great concept: Set the stage for a massive fight, where some players give the orders, and some do the fighting. But the concept can easily fall flat for a number of reasons. A game can promise 200+ player battles, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get that experience every time. With Chris being the protagonist, and everyone wanting to be the protagonist, who would be the one following orders as opposed to giving them? The concept of unique multiplayer beyond just shooting each other would be too hard to pull off without interfering with the single player story.
- Keep it modern day, not near future.
Near future tech games are a growing trend. Everywhere you look there are mechs, drones, cloaking suits, and overcomplicated HUDs that serve to show how kick ass the future can be so long as we keep drinking our Mountain Dew and stuffing our faces with Dorito’s. Freedom Fighters is all about a ragtag group of rebels, fighting with whatever they could get their hands on. To make this sequel a near future tech-heavy Michael Bay movie would destroy the feeling of “Holy cow, this could actually happen!”
With the newest generation of game consoles in full swing, we’re starting to see how powerful they can really be. It’s time for that to be put to the test. Games have been able to pull off large scale battles before, but that has never been the key focus of a shooter. Freedom Fighters 2 could change the way single player shooters are seen, and blow us all away. It just needs to get made.