Described by its detractors as a Wing Commander rip-off with me-too gameplay and a cliched plot, Conflict FreeSpace: The Great War still managed to rack up all sorts of top scores and awards, and many websites voted the game Best Space Combat Sim of 1998.
Why all this fuss, then, if it's just another WC clone? Well, in the same way that Carmageddon wooed punters with gaggles of shrieking pedestrians, FreeSpace laid on a banquet of varied missions, a rich interface, intelligent enemies and dazzling special effects. In short, it gave space combat fans everything they wanted.
Both the old game and the new one centre around the conflict between three races: the Terrans, the Vasudans and the Shivans. Right back at the start of things, the Terrans were fighting the Vasudans; they soon kissed and made up when the fearsome Shivans arrived to kill everyone. Now, some 32 years later, the Galactic Terran Vasudan Alliance is still in place, but the Shivans are back. Gulp!
You join the game as part of the Alliance and are sent to monitor the civil wars still raging in far-reaching comers of Terran space. The missions are just as varied and engaging as before, and there are now some 70 ships of varying class and size on offer. Some ships specialise in close combat and dogfighting, others are hi-tech bombers designed to take on the giant capital ships.
Volition, the game's developers, seem to be well aware of what made the original title so successful. The man at the helm of the company. Mike Kulas, was one of the boffins behind the chart-topping Descent series and knows exactly what features are needed to sell games. Which is of course good news for the people who buy them.
FreeSpace 2 (a more imaginative title has yet to surface) now has heavier emphasis on the deathmatch/co-op multiplayer side, with all-new missions, network options, bundled TCP/IP server and team-based games. Popular aspects of the previous version, such as live audio communication and Duke Nukem-style taunts, are bolstered by smarter wingmen and FRED 2, the FreeSpace mission editor. The big capital ships are also able to defend themselves with new beam weaponry and flak cannons.
As you can see from the screenshots, ships now float gracefully in and out of huge, colourful gas clouds, and become susceptible to electromagnetic damage in the process. This adds to the strategy, as not only will you be hidden out of sight, but sensors will also be out of action, putting you in an ideal position from which to launch an ambush.
To help secure the success of FreeSpace 2 as an Internet game, Parallax Online will be supporting it as part of their online gaming library at pxo.net. Together with niftysounding network features such as Squad Wars, where squadrons challenge one another for control of galactic territories, Volition look like making the thousands of existing FreeSpace players extremely happy indeed.
Download Freespace 2
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
2018-12-18 Freespace 2 game added.
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