Game Review - by Randy Widell
FreeSpace, from the creators of Descent and Descent II, is the latest addition to this revolutionary series. FreeSpace takes the player out of the planetary mines of its predecessors and in to open space. Now you are a pilot in the Galactic Terran Alliance fighting a campaign against a known enemy and watching over your shoulder for a phantom enemy, one whose existence has neither been confirmed nor discounted.
FreeSpace is fully loaded. That is about the only way to put it. FreeSpace includes a 30 mission, branching campaign; 20 multi-player missions with support for 12 concurrent players and real-time voice messaging; 3 species, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, tactics, and ships; 40 different ships; and a full-featured mission editor. FreeSpace supports the following Direct3D hardware: 3dfx (Voodoo, Voodoo Rush, Voodoo2), Rendition, Matrox MGA-G200, Nvidia, Intel 740, ATI Rage, and the 3D Labs Permedia2. FreeSpace has an incredible range of functions available to the player during flight, so many, in fact, every key on the keyboard is used. FreeSpace is easy to install, but one must remember to press the "Setup" button on the opening screen before playing it for the first time. From there, hardware acceleration and such can be configured.
The graphics in FreeSpace have their pros and cons. As far as the cons go, some of the ship textures are a little amateurish, and the background nebulas are angular and unconvincing. Every other graphical aspect is a pro. The greatest effects are found in damaged and exploding ships. Damaged ships limp around trailing extraordinary plasma-like fire and exploding ships go up in massive, photo-realistic fireballs. Like the enemy robots in the FreeSpace predecessors, ships suffer dramatic deaths as they spin out of control and throw fragments about.
This is definitely a game worth buying a sub-woofer for. Despite the incredible graphics, I am not sure explosions would be quite the same with out one. The ambient engine and weapon sounds really add to the overall intensity of the game. I have, however, experienced problems with speech and cut-scene sound. Speech seems to slur and skip during gameplay and cut-scenes skip.
I am not one for playing training missions. I like to get out and blow things up. I was kind of disappointed when I found out that training missions were part of the FreeSpace campaign. FreeSpace, however, ranks up there with Microsoft Flight Simulator in complexity. At first, playing FreeSpace is pretty complex, but the training missions teach everything needed to play effectively. Plus, FreeSpace's controls are completely configurable to help ease the learning curve.
I remember playing a Descent demo on my old 386 and being completely in awe. Ever since the first time I played that demo, I have been a fan of the Descent series. FreeSpace lives up to the tradition of the series and is a reable sequel in graphics, story, and fun.