Review by RogerHuxley

"Perfection doesn't exist? Yeah whatever!"

Freespace 2 is the sequel to a game called Descent : Freespace. The original was also critically acclaimed and got massive positive reviews. I haven't played it, but after what I've read, Volition had to do something major to improve the game. And they actually managed to create something even better.
This game was a commercial failure though, due to the fact that the space fighter genre is losing popularity for a reason that I cannot comprehend, especially after playing a game such as this one. Seriously, just read the reviews here on Gamefaqs, or look at the average on gamerankings. Never have I seen a game that received such unanimous positive reviews, and here's mine.

GRAPHICS

Let's start with this. The game was out in 1999, so obviously, by today's standards, the game isn't too good looking. But for back then, the textures were pretty amazing, the weapon effects, those huge laser beams going through space were pretty amazing. Every weapon has a distinct look too. And being in a unstable red nebula with lightning bolts all aroud you was pretty nice.

All the ship designs are great too, from the small but fast Erinyes fighter to the huge Sathanas class juggernaut, there is a lot of variety. Also note that after seeing Volition releasing the source code, a small group decided to launch a huge project to improve the graphics. And they succeeded. A little google search should lead you on their website. It's worth it. But even if you have an old computer, the original graphics should do the trick, I played the game for the first time in 2003, and found them pretty good.

A 9/10 should do the trick.

STORY

The first game of the series was about The Great War, that forced an alliance between the Terrans and the Vasudans to counter the invasion of the mysterious and powerful Shivans. At that time, both the Terrans and the Vasudans did not expect the coming of those beings. The war ended after the destruction of the link between the Earth and the rest of the known galaxy, along with the Lucifer shivan juggernaut that was heading towart Earth.

Freespace 2 takes place a bit more than 30 years after these events. Early in the game, you'll learn that the NTF (Neo-Terran front) a group opposed to any alliance with the Vasudans is trying to gain power in multiple sectors. As a pilot of the GTVA (Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance) you are thrown in the frey to hunt them down.

The plot will evolve and you'll learn of a mysterious project led by the leader of the NTF. I won't spoil anything, you better see by yourself. The game will serve you multiple awesome video cutscenes. Every missions contains a fully voiced briefing that explains the situation and your objectives for the coming missions. But quite often, things will take surprising twists in the middle of battles...

I obviously won't spoil anything, but a few things were left open in the end, maybe Volition were planning a third game for the series, but could not do it since this one was sadly a commercial failures. So to conclude the story, it's up to the modding community.

I'm giving it a 9/10

SOUND/MUSIC

The voices are awesome, 'nuff said. Has I said already, the briefing are fully voiced, and they are well done. Your wingmates in the middle of battle will often make interesting comments, and everything is just perfectly done. Even if there is technically no sound in space, the sound effects also are awesome!

Every thing pretty much has a distinctive sound effect. All your weapons will sound differently, same for the enemy's weapon. There's not much to add concerning sound effects. Now on the music, again, even if there is a little lack of variety, what we have is great and suited for every situation.

A 10/10 for the sound, since everything is perfectly done!

GAMEPLAY

Now, the core of the space sim genre. Freespace 2 is a linear game, with a few optional missions thrown in there. So you'll follow the story through mission each with distinctive objectives. Obviously, you'll often see similar objectives, like protecting ship, but the way things are done, it's never repetitive. The situation always are different, even if the objective is the same. Sometime you'll be alone with your wing, sometime you'll be like 12 fighters protecting 4 transports in a massive battle. If a mission is too hard for you, the game will offer you to skip after... after five failures in a row. The game is definitely not easy, so sometimes it's a good thing.

Before most of the mission, you'll be able to chose your fighter, and you've got quite a lot of choice later in the game. You can also chose what you want your wingmates to fly in. You also have the choice of a lot of weapons, more and more as the game progresses. You have the primary weapons, your typical energy consuming weapon with infinite ammo, and the secondary weapons, missile weapons with limited ammunition. There is a lot of variety here again.

Each primary weapon has a rating on both shield and hull damage, and most ships are able to carry two, so you've got quite some customization here. Some weapons will have special effects, like a subsystems-disrupting weapon, or a energy weapon that damage only the shield, but is powerful. Certain weapons will also make your ship shake, so even if they are powerful, they'll be difficult to use properly. Each weapon also has a different energy comsuption level, more powerful weapon will use more energy. But there are ways to make sure that you'll never use up all your firepower, more on that later.

A lot of diversity for the secondary weapons as well. Like I said, they mostly are missiles, or torpedoes made for taking down bigger shipds for certain missions. You'll have typical heat-seeking missiles to missiles with a huge area of effect that you detonate yourself. One of my favorite was the Tag missile. That's pretty special, it does no damage to the enemy, but it tags him and allows cruiser to actually beam the crap out of them from farther away. So yeah, that's pretty cool.

The first missions in the game are tutorials. They're quite long, because there is a LOT of things to learn. The game was made to be played with a keyboard, and once you get the hang of it, it's surprisingly easy. Still, you have to pay attention when doing the tutorials. And if you think you can learn everything by yourself, well good luck, you'll die quickly. And often.

Seriously, you can do pretty much everything you've ever dreamed of doing. You can target anything on anything! If you're fighting a huge warship, you can destroy every single of it's turret and make it powerless, you can destroy its engine, its sensors, communications, weapons, fighter bay if they have one. You can also target fighter's subsystems, but that's not too useful.

You can quickly switch between your weapons to adapt yourself to the situation. If needed, you can add more power to the engine to increase your maximum speed, to your shield, to make it regenerate faster, or to your firepower, to make it regenerate faster too. Obviously, if you put all the power to the engine, your shield won't regenerate at all, so you've got to be ready to quickly change your settings.

You can also communicate with your wingmates and give them orders. From simply getting in formation around you to destroying a specific target, they'll do their job quite well. In certain missions you'll also be able to give order to other wings, or even call reinforcements to lend you a hand. You'll also be able to call a support ship that will actually come to you and refill all your secondary weapons and repair some damaged subsystems.

10/10 without an hesitation for the gameplay. The only little problem would be the harsh learning curve. But considering all you can do in the heat of the battle, that's to be expected. But the game is well designed, so early missions are not to hard, but the game does get progressively harder.

In conclusion, get this game! In fact, you won't even have to buy it. With the source code released, the game is considered abandonware and is (more or less) legally free. I won't post any links here, but finding it shouldn't be too hard. Heck, one of the best game ever made is free, how awesome can this be anyway?


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/08

Game Release: FreeSpace 2 (US, 09/30/99)


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