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Freespace 2: Sci-Fi Sim of the Year

Platform : Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 95
Rated: Everyone
39 customer reviews

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Product Description

Interplay successfully eluded the "sophomore slump" with the 1999 release of Freespace 2. After great critical acclaim, Freespace 2: Sci-Fi Sim of the Year builds on the success of its predecessors, adding over 20 missions and allowing one to create, customize, and even exchange single-player and multiplayer scenarios with FRED 2, the new and improved mission editor. - Up to 12 players can battle in dogfight, team vs. team (up to 8 players), and cooperative missions via LAN, TCP/IP, or modem. New scenarios include flying with Vasudan squadrons, piloting advanced stealth fighters, and "painting" targets with TAG (Target Acquisition and Guidance) missiles. An in-depth combat system enables players to target and destroy subsystems, disabling engines, defensive turrets, missile batteries, and fighter bays.


Since the early 1990s, Totally Games' X-Wing series and Origin Systems' Wing Commander series have maintained a stranglehold on the space-sim genre. Until last year, the space sims released by other companies were derivative of those two series yet generally had less impressive graphics, substandard gameplay, and dull plots. But some worthy challengers finally appeared in 1998 when Particle Systems unveiled Independence War and Volition released Descent: Freespace.

Of those two contenders, Independence War was more original, as it featured a complex physics-modeling system and put you in charge of a large capital ship. Descent: Freespace was more of a traditional space sim, as it effectively cannibalized the best elements of the genre's classics in addition to providing an outstanding interface and several other refreshing innovations. But while Particle Systems' follow-up game, Independence War Deluxe, was a mild disappointment, Volition's FreeSpace 2 is an outstanding sequel that significantly improves upon its enjoyable predecessor. Even if Totally Games had not effectively abandoned its X-Wing franchise earlier this year, and Origin had not decided to focus solely on multiplayer games, there's no doubt there's a new king in town. FreeSpace 2 is one of the best space sims ever made and is a solid candidate for game of the year.

FreeSpace 2 picks up 32 years after the events of the original game. In Descent: Freespace, a 14-year war between Terrans and Vasudans was rudely interrupted by the appearance of an ominous and technologically superior race, dubbed the Shivans. To avoid extinction, the Terrans and Vasudans were forced to set aside their differences and forge a desperate alliance. Even though Descent: Freespace concentrated most of its plot developments into the first third of the game, the story ended effectively, granting the isolated remnants of the Terran and Vasudan civilizations a Pyrrhic victory. The plot of FreeSpace 2 ties deeply into the events of the original game, but new players can quickly learn what they missed through the game's comprehensive and interesting database. The Terrans and Vasudans remain allied and have rebuilt their societies, but their harmony is disrupted when a rogue group of Terrans secedes from the alliance because of its apparent distrust of the Vasudans. When the Shivans burst back into alliance space, the Terrans and Vasudans are suddenly faced with war on two fronts. But the alliance has had a generation to prepare for the reappearance of the Shivans and has spent that time developing formidable weaponry. Has the alliance now surpassed the mysterious Shivans? What are the real motivations of the xenophobic, secessionist Terrans? Will the alliance discover a way to reestablish contact with Earth, which was lost after the events of the original game? The complex plot of FreeSpace 2 is often surprising and consistently captivating.

As in the original, the story unfolds in FreeSpace 2 through a combination of mission and command briefings, sporadic cutscenes, and, most effectively, through events depicted within actual missions. Gameplay in FreeSpace 2 will be very familiar to Freespace veterans, but there are several significant improvements. You'll still pilot fighters and bombers, but the capital ships in the game have been made considerably more dangerous. The cruisers and destroyers weren't exactly puny in the first game, but they're positively gigantic in FreeSpace 2, and unlike in many space sims, the capital ships are as deadly as their ominous size suggests. Almost all the capital ships in the game are now equipped with powerful beam weapons similar to those that were on the Shivan dreadnought, the Lucifer, in the original game. The main beam weapons are primarily used in battles between capital ships, but most of the larger ships are also stocked with smaller, anti-fighter beam weapons. Capital ships have been decked out in flak cannons as well, which let them make quick work of bombers and fighters foolish enough to wander in range. They are also still equipped with laser turrets and missile silos as in the original game, collectively making capital ships flying fortresses you'll learn to fear.

But best of all, the capital ships in FreeSpace 2 aren't relegated to being exotic targets for your bombing runs. Too often in space sims there's very little contact between opposing capital ships. However, in almost every FreeSpace 2 mission capital ships will end up clashing with each other, adding an epic feel to the overall conflict and the individual battles. It's highly entertaining just to sit back and watch these titans pound away at each other, ripping through each other with their tremendous beam weapons. FreeSpace 2 is the first space sim to depict epic capital-ship battles in a manner that both plausibly reflects their importance and demonstrates their raw power in an entertaining fashion.

It would be even less plausible if the Shivans, a race that has effectively stalked through galaxies for thousands of years, redesigned its forces every few years. Accordingly, almost all the Shivan ships encountered in the original game return in FreeSpace 2. But there's no shortage of new Shivan ships either, and their existence is easily justified on the basis that the Terrans and Vasudans only encountered a small portion of the Shivan forces in the original game. Ship design is just another example of how Volition has carefully crafted a believable and constantly engaging gameworld.

Another notable addition is the nebula in which you initially encounter the Shivans. The nebula is beautifully depicted and envelops the entire screen, limiting your line of sight and making navigation difficult. Certain areas of the nebula are subject to entertaining but harmless energy flashes, and other areas are prone to EMP pulses that completely disrupt your HUD. The graphics in Descent: Freespace garnered plenty of well-deserved accolades even though they were limited to 640x480 resolution and were consistently quite dark, but FreeSpace 2's graphics are fantastic. A new high-resolution 1024x768 option has been added, and 32-bit color depth is supported if you have a capable video card. The game requires 3D acceleration, but it's used to good effect to depict the nebula, beam weapons, flak bursts, and the most impressive explosions yet seen in a space sim.

Mission design is varied and almost uniformly excellent throughout the game. Objectives change in response to scripted events, and there's plenty of wingmen chatter to further develop the plot and give context to mission events. There are very few missions in the game that are as simple as the "kill all the enemies you encounter" type commonly encountered in space sims. There's almost always a twist or two in each mission, but the missions are beatable and almost never feel puzzle-like as they do in some other games with heavily scripted missions, such as Independence War. FreeSpace 2's campaign is linear, but rather than having to play each mission until you succeed, you can skip the ones you've failed five times or more, which should appease gamers who are easily frustrated.

The game's interface is virtually unchanged from Descent: Freespace, but if there was ever an appropriate use for the cliché "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," it's to describe Freespace's outstanding interface. Valuable information that is rarely displayed in space sims, such as the status of craft being escorted, is accessible at a glance. The HUD lets you instantly identify craft that are targeting your ship, the heading of missiles homing in on your ship, and your current target's relative orientation to your ship. The interface used by the Freespace games was clearly designed by experienced space-sim players, and as a result, it's just about perfect. As in the original game, the interface is also completely customizable, and you can even useyour own pilot picture for multiplayer opponents to grow to detest. And force-feedback joystick support gives afterburner thrusts a tangible feel and physically rebukes you for colliding with other craft.

While Descent: Freespace promised a plethora of multiplayer features, its multiplayer aspects didn't work well, at least not in the game's initial release. Online lag was a real problem, and Volition was exceedingly optimistic in contemplating 12-player conflicts. But lag is now handled much more effectively, making multiplayer battles a lot more fun, especially if you're fortunate enough to have a high-speed Internet connection. You can find plenty of games to join on the free Parallax Online servers, which also maintain comprehensive pilot statistics records. (Volition actually threw a couple of the pilots who had racked up the most impressive records with Descent: Freespace into one FreeSpace 2 campaign mission.) Even more interesting is the addition of Squad War, another free multiplayer service that lets squads of pilots conquer other squads' territories, ultimately giving you the opportunity to dynamically change the gameworld in a way that massively multiplayer games have yet to permit. Finally, in addition to a lengthy campaign and the multiplayer options, FreeSpace 2 is also packaged with the latest edition of Volition's mission editor, which lets you craft and trade your own missions and campaigns. Very few games offer as much inherent value as FreeSpace 2.

All my complaints with the game are relatively minor. Wingmen and enemy AI have improved since Descent: Freespace, but they're still occasionally disappointing, as ships tend to collide with each other too frequently and then seem to become unable to accomplish their objectives. Capital-ship explosions aren't just eye candy and can be deadly to nearby fighters and bombers, but wingmen and enemies seem incapable of effectively dodging such effects. There's also no 800x600 resolution option, which will disappoint Voodoo2 owners in particular. If you don't have a powerful system and a capable video card, you'll have to play at 640x480 resolution, but even that resolution boasts graphics more impressive than those in Wing Commander: Prophecy or Descent: Freespace. The music and sound effects in FreeSpace 2 are both excellent, and 3D sound is well supported, although the game shipped with a bug in the A3D support. Fortunately, DirectSound can be chosen as a viable alternative. FreeSpace 2 is an outstanding game. It retains the outstanding customizability and interface of the original game and presents a more involving story and the best graphics seen in the genre to date. FreeSpace 2 also retains all the gameplay features that worked well in the original game and adds formidable new weapons, 32-bit color effects, and improved mission design. The inclusion of a variety of multiplayer options and a mission editor should also ensure that the game has plenty of longevity. Descent: Freespace was a solid game with the potential to be even greater, and that potential has been fully realized with FreeSpace 2. FreeSpace 2 is a true classic of the genre and one of the best games to be released this year.--Desslock

--Copyright ©1998 GameSpot Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of GameSpot is prohibited. -- GameSpot Review

Product Details

  • Domestic Shipping: Item can be shipped within U.S.
  • International Shipping: This item is not eligible for international shipping. Learn More
  • ASIN: B00004KHB0
  • Media: Video Game
  • Release Date: March 13, 2000
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,359 in Video Games (See Top 100 in Video Games)
  • Product Warranty: For warranty information about this product, please click here
  • Discontinued by manufacturer: Yes

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Deinabo D. George on March 22, 2000
What else can you do for a game that has garnered as many awards as Freespace 2 has? Why add new missions of course! The result is Freespace 2: Sci-Fi Sim of the Year Edition, a product which includes 20 extra missions as well as some high-res artwork and wallpaper not included on the original CDs. The missions have been crafted by users and are approved by Volition and Interplay.
First the specs: Freespace 2 requires at least a Pentium 200MHz processor and 32MB of RAM with a 4MB 3D video card. Ideally, you'll want to run the game on a Pentium II 266MHz or faster processor with an 8MB or higher video card and 64 or more megs of memory. Because the game has a 1024x768 screen resolution option the maximum install is about 1.2GB of hard drive space. But it's worth it, all of it. Freespace 2 is the ultimate representation of what any computer game should be. From the opening cutscene, which chronicles the Battle of Deneb from the previous game, to the first battle in which a cruiser destroys another with an iridiscent energy beam the game unfolds in magnificent fashion. The plot is set 32 years after the first game and casts you as a pilot flying sorties and missions against a rogue faction of Terrans called the New Terran Front (NTF). The implacable Shivans make a return from the previous game with new ships and weapons of mass destruction. Battles range from the cold void of space to the miasmic shadows of ubiquitous nebulae.
Graphics are handled by a game engine that requires a 3D accelerator card; supported chipsets include the 3dfx Voodoo family, nVidia's TNT and GeForce offerings, ATI's Rage Pro, and Matrox's G200 and G400. Direct3D and Glide are also supported as are EAX for Creative Labs' SoundBlaster Live!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Matt Dunphy on July 30, 2000
This is one of the best games to come out in the last couple of years. I'm not sure that I would say that the extra missions included in the 'SF Sim of the Year' edition make it worth paying the ten extra bucks, so you might want to point yourself in the direction of the standard edition if you're pinching pennies this week.
This is a space sim (duh); so you want to have a joystick or a gamepad unless you're into punishing yourself. I'm of the understanding that a lot of people avoid or are disappointed in games that are built around a joystick, which is too bad. This game deserves wider sales than it has had, because it's the spaceflight equivalent of Half-Life or Starcraft.
System requirements are also fairly heavy. It can be played in 640x480 or 1024x768 (older Voodoo owners, take note: no 800x600) at 32-bit color, and at 1024 in 32 there still is no game to date that looks better. But you've got to be prepared to throw some hardware at it. I get fairly decent framerates on my Celeron 400 with TNT2 Ultra, but it's the kind of game that makes you want to buy a whole new system just for better play. If you want consistent 30fps and beyond, think bigger CPU.
Enough with the technical details. This is a work of art. As gamers we live for those jaw-dropping moments when you see something that you've never seen before that astonishes you with sheer visual impact and wonder, followed by a rush of adrenaline as you try to survive what's being thrown at you. The first time you see a huge beam of alien energy scream by your puny fighter and start carving up an allied capital ship like a roast, you'll have one of those moments. This is, as people have noted, the closest thing so far to having a movie-like experience in front of your computer, and then some.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 18, 2001
Review System: P3-450, 96M RAM, RIVA TNT2
Sweet mother of god. Just thinking about this game gives me goosebumps, bringing me back to long sleepless nights spent in the eerie confines of a nebula, told that SOMETHING is out there, but silently knowing you won't see it until it's too late... Then something appears out of the shadows.
Freespace 2 is without a doubt the best space combat sim I have EVER played, blowing away its contemporaries X-Wing Alliance, Independence War, Starlancer and Tachyon: The Fringe. Graphics wise, unmatched. It's like playing a $100 million movie. Huge explosions, screen filling shockwaves, and incredibly detailed and bump mapped ships. Sound: Excellent. Atmospheric music, good voice acting, and perfect sounds for weapons, engines and more. Value: Great. A long campaign and good multiplayer options will keep you playing for a long time.
But, you say, Starlancer had great graphics! Tachyon had great sound! X-Wing had great value!
Where Freespace 2 really excels is atmosphere. I remember the first time I went up against a capital ship. All other space sims had taught me to believe cap ships were big, sluggish tugs, useless in a fight and just waiting for me to light 'em up with a few well placed torpedoes. Heck, even the first Freespace didn't do much to shake this belief.
So, towards the ship I went in my bomber, thinking this would be a cakewalk. I saw the normal ineffective and poorly aimed lasers flash towards my squadron. Smirking, I armed my torpedoes and fired a volley. As they streaked towards the bridge of the enemy corvette, I saw strange looking flashes surround the torpedoes, then they exploded 500 feet away from the target. Hmm, I thought. Better get closer in.
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