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Game Name : Freelancer
System : PC - Windows
Date Added : 2003-05-09 06:00:34

Written By : Daniel Crabtree

You are thrown straight into the main game story of Freelancer as the now broke Trent, having narrowly escaping the destruction of the Freeport 7 space station you will be pulled into a string of events and mysteries surrounding the strange artifacts, very shortly the other 7 survivors of Freeport 7 begin to disappear not to mention many of the new friends you have made during the first few missions of the main story.

The story is quite good and has some nice cinematic sequences, but is over all too quickly for my liking, it would have been nice if there were multiple large missions with multiple parts like this one. But this isnít necessarily a draw back due to the open ended nature of the freelancer universe. You donít actually have to follow the main story line, at any time during, before or after playing through the main storyline you can simply fly around and do missions for just about anyone in the vast universe of 40 star systems each with tons of planets, space stations, asteroid and debris fields to fly through and to.

Apart from the missions you can just fly around and battle pirates and various other groups of individuals, or you can even attempt raids of storage containers that are near heavily guarded space stations. The later can lead you to your sudden death if you are not careful. The other way of proceeding in the game is to become a trader; you are able to transport many different cargos from place to place. Buying low and selling high is the key here and this is helped by the colours places next to your inventory when you are talking with a commodity dealer, if this is a good place to sell your product you get a green dot next to the good, if itís a bad place to sell you get a red dot and if its average you get a yellow dot. The same applies for buying, green means its cheap, red means expensive. The game however sadly places very little emphasis on trading as its main focus lies on combat oriented missions. However if you do decide to become a trader it is well warranted that you visit every planet and dockable base that you can find since the details of the prices of the items they buy and sell will be recorded into your onboard computer and can let you easily see where the best place is to buy or sell something.

The combat and in flight system is quite natural and allows novices to easily pickup and win in battles, no complicated joystick is required, the game is played entirely with the mouse and keyboard. There are just two flight modes, which can be switched between using the space bar. One of the modes is targeting towards combat, if you move your mouse to the right your ship turns and travels in that direction, right mouse button fires whatever weapons you currently have activated. If you have a ship with turrets and have weapons mounted in those positions then you can go into turret mode and fire in any direction without having to turn the ship around, turrets are highly useful of freighters which are not too manoeuvrable. There are a variety of things to consider when raging the intense battles that can occur as you progress through the game, you have to consider firing missiles, launching countermeasures against incoming missiles, using nano-bots and shield batteries to repair your ship, whether to sit still, or fly around using full thrusters and possibly afterburners. Combat has a huge number of options and configurability, if you have your ship decked out with a lot of large powerful weapons you will find that your energy reserves are drained very quickly and you will be left defenceless, however taking only low energy drain weapons will not give you much power in combat. There are many tradeoffs between what you equip your ship with. There are also a variety of different light, heavy and ultra heavy fighters as well as trader ships that you can purchase, each can have different numbers of weapons fitted, but alas all the ships have the same top cruising speed, this means that when youíre not able to use the trade lanes / jump gates which I will talk about shortly you can be in for quite a long haul between one mission waypoint and the next.

During the game your actions can affect your reputation, attack your friends and they will quickly turn into enemies, help your enemies and they will eventually become friends, alternatively you can bribe people to make your reputation good with certain groups, although this is quite costly.

There are three main forms of travel in Freelancer, you can just fly around in your ship possibly using your cruise engines, you can take the tradelanes, these allow fast intersystem travel, and you can take jump gates to get from system to system. Tradelanes however can be interrupted by pirates who will then attack you and try to steal your cargo. There are also abandoned jump gates, trade lanes and wormholes which are sometimes one way to be found around the systems, some of which will be encountered during the main story line.

During the course of the game you can dock your ship with the docking rings of many planets, orbiting space stations and even other large ships. At most docks you are able to repair your ship, have it fitted with new equipment, sell or buy commodities and at certain starports you are able to buy new ships. Most starports also have a bar where new missions can be acquired. Missions range in difficulty and in reward; also the rewards offered vary based on the region of space you are in. There are 4 main regions in the game Liberty, Bretonia, Kusari and Rheinland. Rheinland generally offers the most rewarding missions. Each area also contains its own unique blend of ships that you can purchase, in total there are at least 30 different ships can be flown. The missions you will get are always some variety of combat; they may be a straight assassination, or sometimes you need to bring back the target alive by capturing their escape pod. Escape pods and loot/cargo from destroyed ships is easily tractored in from the area surrounding your ship.

The multiplayer aspect of the game allows you to get online and play through the freelancer world with upto 127 other players. You can form cooperative groups and take on missions together and share the rewards or you can freelance and compete against the other players directly. The multiplayer mode doesnít feature the main story, but allows you to do everything else from the single player game. It offers a nice extension to the game once you have finished the main story and is slightly more fun than playing the game solo once youíve finished the main story. One drawback to multiplayer is that your character is stored server side and so can only be used on the server that you created it on and if this server disappears you will need to start a new character somewhere else.

Graphics: 8 / 10

Sound: 8 / 10

Game Play: 9 / 10

The combat model works very well, although some of the other aspects of the game such as trading could have included more depth.

Overall: 90%
Overall I found Freelancer to be a pretty good game, it has no major flaws and just lacks a bit of depth in some areas, if youíre a fan of space combat / trader type games then Freelancer is a must have game for your collection and other gamers should certainly take a look at the demo (link provided below) and see what they think, the demo provides quite a look into the first mission or two from Juni and also lets you fly around the starting system and to do some of the random missions.

Unlimited replayability with randomly generated missions.
Easy to use combat and navigational controls.

Main story a bit short.
Too much focus on combat and not enough on other game aspects such as trading.

Title: Freelancer
Game Type: Space Action Shooter / Trading
Players: 1 - 128
Content Rating: Teen
Developer: Digital Anvil
Publisher: Microsoft

Demo Download - http://www.microsoft.com/games/freelancer/downloads_05.asp
Official Site - http://www.microsoft.com/games/freelancer/

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