Review by MetroidSuperfan
"One of the greatest space sims ever produced and it is ignored??"
Freespace 2.... What can be said about it? Every aspect of the game is superb. The sounds, graphics, story, gameplay, just spectacular! I'll go into each of those a bit later.
The reason I said it is ignored is that when it came out (1999), it sold a mere thirty-thousand copies. Since this game is to space sims as Halo is to FPS's, it should have sold so much better. 30 million copies should have been a more accurate sum. Many people have ideas on why this occurred, but I am of the opinion that Interplay (the producer) did a terrible job of marketing it. Almost no one even knew it came out. The only people who bought it were therefore Freespace 1 owners who were following the news at Interplay.
Because it did so poorly, Volition (developer) did not create a Freespace 3, even though the story was obviously ready for it. Freespace 2 fans have vehemently opposed this decision, but Volition has since severed ties with Interplay, and Interplay still retains the rights to the Freespace franchise. So a Freespace 3 does not seem likely.
Enough about all that! As for Freespace 2, here are the ratings:
Its a space sim, pure and simple. One reason it does so well is that the game does not deviate from the standard space sim gameplay, they just took what was there and perfected it.
There is, admittedly, lots of "Destroy this" and "Defend that" orders. But Volition found new ways to make it interesting. Maybe you're raiding a supply depot. Maybe you want to rescue personnel from a disabled but not yet destroyed capital ship. Maybe your in an enemy fighter, heading deep behind their front lines to gather reconnaissance. Your in a fighter or bomber for the whole game, but it lets you choose which ships you fly, and what weapons you use. And the HUD is very good. You have throttle info, Hull integrity (health), shield status, weapon energy, missiles remaining on all the time. You get loads of data on whatever ship you have targeted, whether it be a fighter, capital ship, or unknown object. You can even target individual turrets on warships to execute precision strikes to aid your warships.
And the capital ships aren't just hulks with about a dozen turrets on them. They often have 50+ turrets, some of which are anti-fighter flak guns which will shred you in an instant, and some are beam cannons that fire huge light beams that can carve an enemy ship in half! In short, they are powerful, but they still need your defense against bombers and the like.
The story of Freespace 2 is what keeps the gameplay from becoming repetitive. Here's the backstory: its been 32 years since the Great War (that's in the first Freespace) and the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance (GTVA) is battling a rebel fleet called the Neo-Terran Front (NTF). In the midst of this turmoil the enigmatic Shivans that nearly annihilated you last time come back, through a mysterious subspace portal of unknown origin. The game is scripted in-mission and fully voice-acted. There's nothing quite like flying through a dense nebula, hearing your fellow wings report in, and then realizing one of those wings has disappeared without a trace, barely 5 km from your flagship! In between missions you get briefings on what is going on in the universe, and you get to witness some decisive events first-hand! You'll play through the 40+ missions just to see what's going to happen next!
Most people I show this game to react with astonishment upon hearing that these are '99 graphics. They rival those of much newer games, and often surpass them. The backgrounds aren't just a bunch of white dots representing stars. There are multi-colored nebulae, thousands of stars, a bright sun (sometimes multiple suns), and planets. The ships look spectacular as well. You fly in close and don't see a heavily-pixelated jumble of color. You see the antenna, or laser turret, or docking bay in incredibly crisp detail, just as crisp as though you were very, very far away. The cutscenes are beautiful as well, especially one at the end, which I won't reveal to spoil the surprise. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy beautiful explosions, you'll be a huge fan of that scene.
The sounds are great. Though you science people out there will know that sound doesn't travel through space, it does in Freespace 2! Lasers sound like lasers, fighters exploding sound like fighters exploding, and capital ship beams sound like you'd expect them. The music is fast-paced and up-beat, and meshes well with whatever is happening in the mission, and you can hardly tell when it changes tracks.
Yep, multiplayer gets a low score, but there's a simple reason for it: it doesn't exist anymore. PXO, the site that hosted the multiplayer, has long since disappeared. Some fans are in the process of establishing a new site to host online matches, but it doesn't look like they'll be done anytime soon. Sorry about that.
Buy or rent: BUY
The problem, of course, is where to buy it. It went out of production quickly, so is rare. eBay prices often reach $100 or more for this game. The game does, however, feature a peculiar EULA that allows the game to be copied for friends (NOT for selling). So if you know someone with the game, just ask them to copy it for you. If not, check hard-light.net for downloadable versions of the full game.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/18/06
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