Freelancer

By Scott Parrino 07 Aug 2003 0

Introduction

This review, like the game it's covering, took a long time to come to fruition. As the writer, I can't blame the tardiness of this review on development schedules, beta testing, publisher expectations, or anything of the sort. No, my friends, this review took a long time to come to light because, to be quite frank, I didn't want to write it.

Yes, you might have read my Freelancer preview some time back, which sounded fairly glowing in its praise for the game. The problem is, that in writing a preview, the reviewer cannot (or should not) embellish on the problems they see with the game, as the excuse of it being a beta or alpha always precludes the fact that these problems will hopefully be fixed with the final game. Such was my hope, and my expectation, for Freelancer.

Now as I've said before, expectations can be a funny thing. They can lead to great disappointment or great surprise depending on how you handle them. As a space sim fan who's played every single space sim for the PC since the original Elite, I had high expectations for Freelancer. Freelancer looked to be, at least in my mind, the spiritual successor to Wing Commander: Privateer, an excellent space combat and trading sim created back in the mid-nineties (an eternity in computer gaming years).

While this might have been an unfair expectation, given the fact the space sim market isn't what it once was, innovations and concessions would have to be made in order to create a viable product that will sell. This, my friends, is how I will approach this review of Freelancer. First off, we'll look at the basic premise and gameplay, followed by what worked, what didn't, and a wrap up which will hopefully inform you, dear reader, if you should spend your hard earned cash on Freelancer. With this in mind, let us begin?

Documentation and Installation

The manual for Freelancer is fairly thin, but it gets the job done. It's not one of those "this manual is basically a big nudge to get you to buy the strategy guide" types of manuals (e.g.. Master of Orion 3 or Rise of Nations), which is a good thing. It essentially gives you the basics of the game without revealing too much, which is fine.

Installation is trouble-free, as it should be these days. The game, once installed, takes up a little less than a gigabyte of space, which is quite small these days. It reminds me of the entire universe of Elite fitting on a single floppy disk. Once the game was installed, it ran without a hitch, even alt-tabbing out and back with aplomb. Overall, Freelancer is a technically solid game which requires no patches for it to run well. Patches for its gameplay, however?well?keep reading?

A long time ago...oh wait...never mind.

Freelancer takes place in the far future, over one thousand years from now. The story takes place after the events of Freelancer's predecessor, Starlancer. To refresh readers' memories, in the twenty-second and twenty-third centuries, two rival factions, the Alliance (made up of America, Britain, etc), and the Coalition (made up of Russia, China, etc.) were locked in a deadly struggle for domination of the Sol system. Once it was clear to the heads of the Alliance that they were on the verge of losing, they did what any one of us would try to do, survive. Constructing huge sleeper ships (five in all), they sent representatives from America, Britain, Spain, Japan, and Germany to the nearby Sirius system in order to start anew.

Freelancer takes place 800 years after these events. Each of the factions (save for one, which isn't really ever explained?expansion pack, anyone?) have created their own societies and cultures. It's in this environment that we meet our hero, Edison Trent. Trent begins the game on the tranquil hamlet known as Freeport Seven, a large starbase out near the edge of explored space. Somehow, however, this base is destroyed, and Trent is one of the few survivors. Without money or a ship, Trent must now eke his way toward a new life of economic prosperity. This is where the single player campaign begins.

Told over a series of thirteen missions, the single player campaign tells a story of deceit, treachery, bravery, heroism, and yes, the requisite mysterious aliens. When the single player campaign begins, the player is given a rather simple ship with limited weaponry, and is given a shot at the universe from there.

This is a typical bar, shown here in Bretonian space. This is where gamers will spend much of their time acquiring missions (as done here, note the objective).

On said mission, about to take out the main objective, Julian Helm.

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