Retrospective: Freedom Fighters

IO's actioner was ahead of its time

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War of words

Having mastered the art of urban conflict, Io wrap it in a narrative that, while fantastical, is smartly and efficiently told, rarely resorting to extensive cutscenes. Much of the detail comes in the form of wittily scripted Soviet newscasts, which paint your activities as nothing more than terrorism. It's a potentially serious idea handled with a deft touch, its slightly cartoonish approach proving more charming than the po-faced realism of its contemporary peers.


The inclusion of sibling plumbers as main characters (a very deliberate nod to Mario and Luigi, laughs Prahm) turns out to be a masterstroke. These are likeable, identifiable everyman heroes, even if they seem entirely incapable of starting a revolution. "It's the classic tale of the reluctant hero," says Prahm. "We wanted players to relate to this guy who's pulled into this situation against his will and has to become a freedom fighter to save his brother rather than some fanatic who's just doing it out of hatred."

With a duplicitous agent and a moustache-twirling baddie, it's the right kind of far-fetched, carrying the same appeal as a B-movie action-thriller, one that would perhaps star Chris Pine and Sean William Scott as the Stone brothers saving America from those evil Soviet scumbags, and would invariably have a scene where one of the brothers yells "let's kick some Commie ass!"


With that in mind, you'd probably expect a soundtrack of stirring, militaristic bombast to propel the action. Yet the music here tingles the spine in a very different way. The choral score from Jesper Kyd is outstanding, melding the voices of the Hungarian Radio Choir with contemporary beats and synths in a way that captures the human element of conflict and the adrenaline rush of the frenzied street battles. "Working with Jesper Kyd is always a great experience because he has worked with games for so long, and really understands the development process," enthuses Prahm. "He [was] a very integrated part of creating a game experience where music plays a major role. In my mind, the score for Freedom Fighters is some of Jesper's very best work."

Yet if getting the tone and the AI right were big enough challenges for a still fledgling developer, a real-world disaster would soon cast a long shadow over the project. "We started the project in 2000, and when 9/11 happened we were through pre-production at the time," explains Prahm. "So we had some levels in Manhattan that were designed but hadn't been built
yet, and in part of a later level we had a stage where you were fighting in the World Trade Center, with one tower in ruins and one tower still standing."

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