Aron Schatz
March 11, 2003
I have been waiting for Freelancer since I heard about it. It has the possibility of being the best game ever, but it falls short. Read the review to find out why.
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What do you think of when a game has been in development for for several years? You say to yourself, this is going to be one great game. Freelancer has been in development for about sevens year, and in fact, just came out on March 4th for the USA. I have been waiting for this game since I heard about it. Freelancer is made by Digital Anvil, but produced by Microsoft

You may have heard of an old Mac game called Escape Velocity, made by <a href="">Ambrosia Software</a>. That was the best freelancing open ended universe game I have ever played. Can Freelancer beat this old 2D game? You're going to want to read the entire article (Yes, I know it is long).


<center>FL Trent</center>

This section may contain some mild spoilers, but, it is background. You are Edison Trent (voiced by Ian Ziering of 90210). You just went to make a name for yourself when you made the deal of your lifetime. You are about to sell some commodity for a million credits, that could set you for life. While you stay to finalize your deal on Freeport 7, it gets attacked and destroyed. You narrowly make it out alive, but you have lost everything. Now you must regain your money and repay the people that destroyed that station.

<B>Open Ended</B>:

This keyword, "Open Ended", is just a term to mean that the game never ends, there is no end all be all goal... Or so I thought. Your ongoing goal is to amass more and more wealth and get the biggest and baddest ship with the best weapons so you become the ultimate killing machine. The Single Player story lasts for 15-20 hours, but I beat it in 12 hours.


The single playing campaign is a real treat, it feels like a movie and your part of it. The story will lead you along, and it acts as a tutorial of sorts to make sure you find your way around the universe. I highly suggest playing it before multiplayer as you will learn some nice skills. The only problem is that it is too short. It takes you to around level 18 and there are a total of 38 levels (more on that later). Again, the story should take you about 15-20 hours, but I beat it in 12. I could have gone faster, but I was playing around.


There are three locations that you will be able to land/dock at. You have normal planets that you land on, and stations and battleships that you can dock at. If you like to land yourself, you'll be disappointed. It lands itself just by pushing the dock button. The majority (or all) of the events happen out in space, you'll just get your jobs from terra firma.

<B>Flight Control</B>:

<center>FL Flight</center>

This is one of the mouse controversial aspects of Freelancer. In the development phase, they scrapped the idea of a joystick, essentially going away from the space combat type simulator, and instead going with a keyboard and mouse scheme. I guess they thought that the FPS crowd would jump right into this game with no problem. Let me just say, it works EXTREMELY well, though, I would have like some more fine tuning to the control scheme, or allow joysticks. You get to flight modes, normal flight and turret mode. Turret mode is essentially useless in my opinion, you can't turn, just look around your ship and shoot (provided there is a turret that can see the direction). You'll spend most of the time pointing and shooting, which is essentially the entire game.


<center>FL Far Planet FL Close Planet</center>

Your ship is controlled by something called a NeuroNet, but in reality, you'll be controlling it. The NeuroNet controls your waypoints and mapping though. One this that I really can't stand about this game is that every single ship has the EXACT SAME SPEED! That's right, every ship, included the bulky freighters go as fast as a light fighter. I guess this is done with balancing in mind, but it is a major minus for this game, very sad. The cruise engines are also way to slow. Your top normal speed is 80 m/s, on afterburners you can go 200 m/s, and on cruise, you go at 300 m/s. I think they should be at least double the afterburner speed.

<center>FL Trade Lane FL Docking Ring</center>

You won't be using your cruise engines for the entire game though, trade lanes will keep you in the traffic pattern and at least it is fast. It goes over 1000 m/s, and a good thing also. The distance between points of interest are far. The bad thing about trade lanes is you need to 'dock' with them, you can't just fly into them (ever seen Cowboy Bebop?). This takes a good 5-10 seconds to do, and you can't do anything while doing it. Meanwhile, you could be getting shot at, or destroyed. The jumpgates work the same way, as do docking rings and docking at stations.
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<center>FL Fight 1 FL Fight 2 FL Destroyed</center>

Ship to ship combat in the game is pretty simple, point and shoot. A plus sign indicates where to shoot at, which I think makes it way too easy. Combat itself is a joke, the AI is totally stupid. It only takes time to kill higher level enemies. And there comes a point where the game no longer becomes challenging.

If you think you're going to be a pirate, think again. You can't disable enemy ships and board them, nor can you try to capture them. You can't even hire or steal wingmen! What are you, the only Freelancer in the entire universe, Alpha 1-1?

<B>'Random' Missions</B>:

<center>FL Bar FL Jobs</center>

You can't be a Freelancer without jobs to run, and the game boasts a whole one type of job. Kill people. That's all. This is what makes the game very, very boring after awhile. Sure, there are variations, like tractor in and go back to the base, but every mission is essentially to kill someone, or everyone. I expected a bunch of different mission types, including: Cargo runs, Ferry passengers, Mining for a specific type of ore, Escort, Bounty Hunting and more. I also expected random on the fly missions, not just the ones you pick up at the bar. There are none, if you try to talk to a NPC in space, they just say some scripted thing, with no communication. I mean, really, no distress calls or anything.


One of the worst aspects of the game is mining. You don't really mine for ore. You shoot little chucks of stuff and hope something pops out of it, no drilling here. Another thing you'll notice when mining is that asteroids or other space debris will be stationary. Yep, they don't move and bounce off each other. And the ones in the background or the foreground will mysteriously disappear out of view. Scary.

<B>Planet Side</B>:

<center>FL Docking Ring FL CGI</center>

On planets, or any other type of base, you have a number of options to choose from. You don't walk, though. You just click and go, which I think takes away from the game. I'd like to walk to the bar or the commodity person. Whatever though. It is at planets and bases where you will be equipping your ship or buying a new one. Don't think that you can dabble in freighting though, you'll lose your other ship, that's right. You can only have one ship at all times, and no wingmen to increase your cargo or combat capacity. When you go to the bar, no one sits together. And when you talk to someone, prepare yourself for some very repetitive dialogue and the same faces over and over.


<center>FL Trade</center>

Dynamic economy, not in this game. The commodity trading is a pretty normal. You'll see the list of static prices when you want to buy and sell an item. There are no trade missions, so you'll need to do this stuff on your own.


You get a fair number of ships to try out, and the problem is, you'll only want to fly the Titan or the Sabre. They are the best ships in the game. There is nothing to compel you to get a better ship. You cannot pilot any large ships, which I think is a bit of a let down. I think you should be able to buy any ship in the game, but when they all go the same speed, it really sucks.


<center>FL Guns</center>

You have energy weapons and missiles. Each weapon has a specific class restriction, which just sucks. Each ship has a weapon level restriction, you can't put a higher level gun into a lower level hardpoint. I've found that the best weapons are the moderately slow, but very powerful ones. The faster firing weapons take a great deal of energy and have a lower damage output per second. Missiles in the game are a complete joke, they are just a waste of money. I never used them pasted level 1. Each energy weapon comes in three types, and they differ by which shield type they are most effective with.


<center>FL Shields</center>

You get three shield type in each level, Graviton, Positron, and Molecular. The only shield that I used was Graviton, as it proved the most hit points at the same level than the other two, by alot. The hit points of the shield cancels out any other weapon modifiers, so you should only use Graviton shields. The AI's shields do not regenerate, but yours do. That makes it really unfair and easy.

<B>Other Equipment</B>:

You get to buy different afterburners (but the speed is the same), and nanobots and shield batteries. Nanos and batteries will replenish your hull and shields respectively. What really sucks is that there is no other equipment. That's right, no different power sources, different armor plating, shield modifiers, sensors, nothing. What a drag.


<center>FL Reputation</center>

Your reputation changes dynamically with your actions in the game. If you're playing the story, your reputation will change dramatically, based on the scripted events. When you're done, you'll be a pretty clean slate with everyone. The various groups have a great deal of leeway, I killed at least 20 liberty ships and they still thought of me as friendly. If I kill someone, I should be an enemy, no questions or doubts.
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Multiplayer is really no different that single player without the story, ohh sure, you can get buddies to play some mission with you, but the missions are simple as cake anyway. The lag makes fighting last twice as long. No real fun here, I wanted this to be a single player thing anyway. This type of game should be single player or lan focused.


<center>FL Shield Effects FL Asteroids</center>

The game looks, for the most part, very nice. The shield effects are very cheesy, though. It looks like placed animated GIFs. Other than that and the vanishing asteroids, the game is looking good. Actually, the ambient lighting could use some minor working, there seems to be alot of it where there shouldn't be. The weapons and explosions look good, and the action is pretty fast so you won't notice most of the minuses.


Most of the sounds in the game are well done, with some repetitive sounding things. Most of the guns generally sound the same. Like I said, you won't be paying attention too much while fighting, the action goes pretty fast. The character voices can use ALOT of work, there aren't enough voices. After you've been to like three bases, you probably heard all the voices in the game (aside from the story voices). 'This is your first time here, right?' You'll get to know that question fast, most people say it to you. 'We run this base', or 'We don't run this base, but we have an understanding with the people that do' are also common phrases. Ship to Ship traffic is horrible, there is no need to contact any in ship NPCs, you can't communicate with them.


Every game usually has some problems with it. Freelancer was no different. I was pretty impressed that I had to uninstall Nimo codec package to get the sound in Freelancer to work. By the way, you need sound, or else the game won't function properly and there are no subtitles. There is a problem with the current Radeon drivers, but that should be resolved soon.

<B>How Everything Fits Together</B>:

The game is well made, but to me, isn't finished. Sure it looks polished, but the content isn't there. When I got this game, I expected so much, and I guess I set myself up for a let down. Some people may like the game, alot more than I do. This is just my opinion of course.


It is hard to really wrap this review up in a paragraph. If you didn't read the entire review, you should. The game is good, don't get me wrong, it just isn't complete in my opinion. It is a real shame, the game had the potential to be the best game ever, but sadly it just fell short. I would suggest getting this game if you like a good story and a control scheme that is pretty simple. If you want a pure freelancing game with a large variety of missions, look elsewhere.


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