Saturday, May 07, 2011

Freelancer - An old Classic Revisited

A 2003 classic that is still great.

Freelancer was released eight years ago and the box touts compatibility with Windows 98, Me and XP. I was not overly optimistic then that my unpatched version 1.0 disk would install and run on a 2011 computer running Windows 7 but it did. In fact it ran flawlessly from start to finish of the single player campaign. Apparently there is a 1.1 patch out there somewhere  but all it does is address multi player server issues.

That is a very impressive level of stability and polish for a PC game and it makes it somewhat mind boggling that the main complaint about Freelancer when it was first released was that the game was unfinished. It is a complaint that regularly cropped up in forum posts about the game. It is the reason why some reviewers chose to punish the game with middle of the road reviews whilee others lauded its greatness.

 I find this bizarre because replaying the game with a 2011 viewpoint it doesn't feel unfinished at all. The problem is that back in 2003 Freelancer was a victim of its own hype. Chris Roberts and Digital Anvil talked up a dynamic world but they delivered a static one. They promised EVE online but they  once technical and financial realities (including a take over by Microsoft) sunk in they actually delivered something closer to Grand Theft Auto in Space any many enthusiasts never forgave them for it.

Happily looking back from a 2011 perspective you can forget all of that and just enjoy a really really great game. The single player campaign is tightly focussed exciting and extremely well scripted. The controls are the best I have ever seen in a space game, simple and intuitive. The lack of a difficulty slider is a shame because the combat is fast and furious and gamers used to 2011 default difficulty settings may find it frustrating. Veterans can always up the challenge by adopting self imposed restrictions like this gentleman who completed the full combat heavy campaign in a basic freighter which is every bit as difficult as it sounds.

Quite apart from the space trading game there is a fully fledged space trading simulator there with trading, mining and piracy all included. The on rails nature of the story line only allows you to experience a taste of this (it is hard to be a trader when you are being hunted by almost every faction in space) but once you complete the main campaign you can keep playing in the open world for as long as you like. Freelancer also features a multi player mode that I have never tried but given that there is still an active community playing the game and its mods I assume that too was a success.


3 comments:

Scopique said...

My friends and I played a whole lot of MP Freelancer a few years back, and we enjoyed the heck out of it. We don't get too many new iterations of space or terrestrial dogfighters these days, so it's good to know that we've still got Freelancer to fall back on.

mbp said...

Hi Scopique. Good to hear you enjoyed Multiplayer Freelancer so much. I am tempted to see if I can find any active servers that still cater to noobs.

mbp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.