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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Simulation

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

Digital Anvil

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q2 2003

 

- Pretty, polished graphics and simple, intuitive interface

- Engaging, sci-fi plot

- Easy to learn and tremendously action-packed combat

 

 

- Isnít the leap beyond the Wing Commander model we were expecting

- Boring, old fashioned point-and-click interface while ďon baseĒ

 

 

Classic: Wing Commander (PC)

Review: Battlecruiser Millennium (PC)

Review: MechWarrior 4 (PC)

 

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Freelancer

Score:  8.8 / 10

 

The development of Digital Anvilís Freelancer produced its fair share of hype.  Originating from the mind behind the uber-successful Wing Commander series, Chris Roberts, Freelancer was supposed to be a revolutionary step forward for the space exploration/combat genre.  Rumors abounded about the amount of freedom the player would have and the size and interactivity of the virtual universe.  Eventually Roberts left the project and Freelancer arrives as a considerably whittled down version of the developerís dream, but it is still a profoundly entertaining game that fully immerses the player in great, epic space battles in service of an intriguing sci-fi plot that seems familiar, but not overly so.  Even if it isnít the dream project a lot of people were expecting, unlike something like Daikatana, Freelancer is a marvelous game that no one need to be ashamed of.  

 

freelancer pc review         freelancer pc review

 

Freelancerís game play is divided into two segments.  The Cityscape portion of the game allows the player to find jobs, make contacts, buy and sell commodities and ship upgrades, and buy and sell entire ships.  This portion of the game is handled with a familiar point-and-click interface, so players expecting fully-interactive cities and space stations to wonder around in full 3-D are going to be a bit disappointed.  No innovation is to be seen in this portion of the game, but at least the interface is user-friendly and attractive.  Here, as with everywhere else in the game, the graphics are thoughtfully designed and attractive, but not cutting-edge by any means.  

 

After getting a job or purchasing some product to sell in another location, players take to space.  Again, the space-flight and combat isnít innovative, but it is extremely good looking and well done.  The key, and something the companyís press releases clearly see as a selling point, is that flying the ships is simple and intuitive.  There is little in the way of complex micro-management of the ship, which allows players to focus on the fast-paced, fireworks-laden combat.

 

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Flying the ships is done with a simple mouse and cursor method.  When in Free Flight mode, players simply move the cursor around the screen and the ship follows.  Other ships and objects are highlighted in a pop-up box in the HUD, complete with a simple color-based scheme to show what the playerís relationship is with the object (i.e., friends are yellow, enemies are read, etc).  An icon bar for the most common and important maneuvers runs along 

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the top of the screen.  Players simply hit the space bar to turn off free flight and then move the cursor to the correct icon and click it to perform many of the games most complex functions (like docking with rings or space stations).

 

Combat is just as simple and intuitive.  Enemy position in relation to the playerís ship is represented by direction arrows that appear in the HUD.  To find an enemy ship in combat, the player need only to move the cursor in the direction of the enemy icon.  When ready to engage, the game provides a handy (Wing Commander-like) target to help players successfully lead the enemy ship.  This very arcade-like approach to combat was designed to keep the game from being intimidating to the kind of player that normally shuns space combat games.  Iím not sure if Freelancer will draw a whole lot of new playerís in to the genre, but, for me, the combat was fast and visceral, and there was certainly no time that I felt overwhelmed or out of control.  In fact, I canít think of a space shooter since Elite that Iíve enjoy more and Iím sure the old-fashioned simplicity of the combat is a big reason.

 

freelancer pc review         freelancer pc review

 

The mission structure reminds me of Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries.  There is an over-arching plot, but players are given freedom to take on unrelated jobs in order to build up their level and buy newer, more powerful ships.  Most of the available jobs are combat related and even those that arenít often result in some combat along the way.  Dead enemies leave behind salvageable and saleable wreckage, so money and experience points come quickly, as do the ship upgrades.  As the playerís character rises in level, scripted in-engine cut-scenes are used to pull him into the missions related to the plot of the game.  Iím staying spoiler free with this review, so Iíll only say that the plot involves alien artifacts, aliens, and impending doom.  It isnít particularly original, but I found the plot involving, and I was always excited when a new main mission became available.

 

Freelancer doesnít push the envelope or necessarily even raise the bar for this type of space exploration/combat game, but, in the end, I donít think it really matters much.  Players who invest in the game will certainly get their moneyís worth.  The game is fun, action-packed and polished to a fine sheen.  Additionally, the cool multi-player element and the sheer number of missions give the game plenty of replay value. 

 

- Tolen Dante

(June 15, 2003)

 

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