are certain words we hear in almost every game appearing on the market lately. Dynamic
universe. 3D Graphics. Immersive storyline. Almost every game Ive seen in the last
year has had at least one of these, if not more, somewhere on the back of the box. Yet few
deliver them as well as a game called Independence War 2, as I was quite forcefully
informed by one of our readers soon after I finished writing the original review. It was
his opinion that I had cast IW2 in a poor light, and not only had I generated bad karma
for myself by doing so, Id probably also condemned my friends, family, and pets to
years of bad luck. The only chance I had was to keep my eyes open for a game called
Freelancer, which in his opinion had the potential power to redeem me. Now, while Im
perfectly aware that I am never wrong (except in one case, and that was a very rare
exception), and hence stand by my review, I couldnt help but hesitate when I saw the
Freelancer display outside of Microsofts booth. Not fearing for my mortal soul or
anything, I still had a little chat with the PR guy there at hand, and was impressed.
Freelancer is set to provide an immense and immersive space environment for gamers like us
to play around in.
With such a hyper focus on massively multi-player in the industry
lately games that have, in the past, essentially relied on you and me to create the
story -- Freelancer is heavily focused on the single player experience. With over 3 1/2
hours worth of video (the press kit claims over two hours, but the PR guy assured me it
was more like 3 1/2), and a universe that unfolds differently depending on what paths you
take, Freelancer promises an experience that is both cinematic, and complex. And from what
Ive seen, it delivers in style. Independence War 2 was good; this could be better.
arrival in the spring of 2003, Freelancer aims to hit the sweet spot of space adventurers
everywhere. The developers have tried hard to offer a world that doesnt limit the
player, providing an accurate sense of the universes size, yet doesnt leave us
all floating aimlessly in space. What emerges is a storyline that evolves sort of like
that in Grand Theft Auto 3; you have goals and missions, but you can drop out and embark
on side trips whenever you feel the need for a pit stop. As you progress through the game
youll earn a reputation depending on how you behave. Take a mission from a space
pirate (lets all nod our heads in IW2s direction), and youll probably
become associated with that crowd in the eyes of others. Screw that mission up, and good
luck trying to get the pirate fellow to trust you again. Also, trading on a legitimate
market may become a bit more difficult if others dont trust you. Suddenly, your
entire gaming experience, as well as the games outcome, will be dominated by how you
play, and who you choose to play with.
hand, it looks like a flight simulator. On the other, you can land on planets and interact
with other characters as you would in a classic adventure, and in both cases youre
expected to use a mouse over a joystick. Want your ship to fly there? Then click there.
Want your character to walk there? Then click there. This is much different than the
standard flight simulator interface, which would have you out maneuvering another ship
from the cockpit, circling around each other in a mad race to bring your sights into line
with the buggers rear end. In a game designed to be played with a mouse, itll
be interesting to see how combat is handled.
though, your ship will be customizable, allowing you to add weapons, armor, and extra
doohickeys that youll pick up through trading and such along the way. With an AI
that lives in the same universe as you, youll never see a ship attacking you with a
weapon that you cant also purchase and equip yourself--with a little bit of luck and
The universe itself is vast and visually diverse. There are 500
planets in total, 160 of them capable of being landed on, 90 of which contain completely
different environments. Itll be in these environments, bars and whatnot, that
youll receive your latest tasks and assignments. I asked the guy showing Freelancer
off about his favorite location, and he directed the ship to the Badlands, a dark and
creepy sector of space filled with debris and plagued by electrical storms. It was very
cool. Great distances can be quickly traversed with the use of a warp engine and
intergalactic roadmap, yet the developers have managed to still offer an experience that
feels vast and limitless. Thats a hard balance to achieve, and they seem to be on
the right track. Freelancer is expected to offer between 30 and 40 hours of game play, and
from the looks of it, will keep many of us up way past our bedtime.