Privateer 2: The Darkening
It's over two years old. The graphics are looking a little dated and there appears to be no hint of 3D support on the horizon. It's got dodgy FMV sequences with dodgy British actors. So why on earth is Privateer 2: The Darkening the best space sim of them all? (Because Chris says so? - Ed.)
The reason is that despite its advancing years, the antics of Clive Owen, Christopher Walken et al still provide the most 'complete' space combating experience of all. Conflict: Freespace might have the graphics and youthful vigour, X-Wing Vs TIE Fighter might have the most well-known spaceships, Starfleet Academy might have the most licensing power (arguably), but Privateer 2 has the gameplay.
When Elite first introduced the open-ended, go-anywhere game structure to the space-based genre, nobody thought it would be matched. Indeed, Origin's first steps into the field with Wing Commander suggested that they were heading in completely the opposite direction - fixed missions, rigid storyline, no flexibility. Privateer decided to marry the two schools in a grandiose affair, complete with mariachi bands and conjurers. Privateer 2 took the same concept and ran it through an expensive makeover in the process. Consequently, we've got a game that has graphics that were superb for the time (and are still perfectly adequate today), FMV sequences with 'name' actors and all the gloss of the Wing Commander series. Plus we've got a game that enables you to delve into the main storyline at will or just do your own thing by trading, pirating or bounty hunting until you feel you've had enough.
But why should you consider it in this day and age, especially if you've gone to the trouble of buying a top-end PC with all the bells and whistles? Why step backwards in time? Well, for a start, it's cheap. And true playability, like a good wine, doesn't diminish with age. There's still a load to get your teeth into, and the space battles, helped by the fact that they were written by X-Wing enthusiasts, rather than Wing Commander fans, are still exciting and enjoyable. It also helps that the only real modern competition is Conflict: Freespace, and that decides to skimp on the storyline aspects, which makes Privateer seem like a more rounded package overall.
There is supposed to be a Privateer 3 happening some day, but who knows when it'll turn up. Our advice is to fork out for both this and Conflict: Freespace and enjoy the best of both worlds.
Download Privateer 2: The Darkening
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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2019-01-10 Privateer 2: The Darkening game added.