Disclaimer: So, this was the review that got me 94 points and 3rd place in PimpPeter2's Review Wars III
. Apparently, it was decent enough. And while there were criticisms of it, I did not change anything; partly due to laziness, and partly due to the fact that I wanted everyone to see the review exactly as it was judged.
Also, on an unrelated note, I have written an article about DRM for a small independent website called the Anti-Cookie (formed by Escapist member Hey Joe). Please read it if you get the opportunity. It is my first officially published work and I would certainly like someone to comment on it. It would make me feel all warm inside.
Here it is: http://theanticookie.weebly.com/dirty-drm.html
Anyways, onto the review...
I like to consider myself knowledgeable in all areas of gaming, and not just because of my ridiculous level of self-entitlement, but also because I've declared myself qualified enough to tell everyone whether or not a given title is worth their time. That said, if there is one thing I've neglected the most, (aside from my loved ones) it would be space simulators. It certainly isn't that I didn't give them a chance, because I did... Sort of. During a particularly dark time in my life, for reasons that I won't mention, I wasn't leaving the house unless it was to check the mail to see if my latest issue of Game Informer had arrived. During this time, I stumbled across videos of Egosoft's X3: Reunion on the place where all intelligence goes to whither and die, Youtube. It painted a lovely picture in my mind; one of giant epic space battles, real tests of strategical thinking, and involving more than one ship that my teenage mind considered close enough to the shape of a certain male body-part (the penis, for clarification).
Upon installing X3, I immediately knew I'd made a horrible mistake. I had no idea what I was getting into and it turned out to be one of the least user friendly games to ever exist. The sheer complexity of X3 was brain melting, but the lack of a well done tutorial completely destroyed any hope I had of ever understanding what the fuck was happening in the game. Upon seeing Freelancer in a bargain bin at the dullest place on earth, Office Depot, I was led to believe that it would fill that tiny niche' that existed between 'Fun' and 'Complex' that I so desperately needed.
Freelancer was developed by Digital Anvil, published by Microsoft, and released for the PC back in 2003, following a particularly rocky development over a span of five years. From my understanding, there was a lot of hype surrounding the game before its release, touting it as the "Greatest space sim of all time," or something along those lines. Well, it seemed as if the game met none of the expectations set for it, and quickly disappeared from memory, hence why I'd never so much as heard of its existence. After playing it for several weeks, I finally understand why.
"Staring contest?" "Fuck yeah."
The story in Freelancer places you in the role of Edison Trent, my new least favorite protagonist in any game ever, as he investigates (read: stumbles blindly into) a conspiracy revolving around the destruction of a major space station, alien artifacts, and the increasing tension between the heads of several different major governments. The plot is.... well, not exactly a plot at all. Instead, it could best be described as a nonsensical chain of events that string together the introductions of numerous, equally unlikable characters, who are then immediately killed off, or simply disappear. The writing for the characters is atrocious and, disappointingly, not even in the hilarious Resident Evil "Master of lock picking" sort of way. The story attempts to play out like a thriller by establishing a mystery in the beginning and linking one massive conspiracy to it, involving several shady Governmental figures that are probably cheating on their wives, but then goes absolutely nowhere with it. You simply run away a lot throughout the game, making the only mystery about why the fuck I was still playing it. However, I'm sure most people weren't expecting an Asimov Sci-Fi epic, so I'll simply say that the plot is shit and move on.
Obviously, any review of a game that is older than a couple years probably won't have much to say in the presentation department, but I'd first like to point out that the graphics have held up very well considering Freelancer's age. Seriously, the textures and lighting effects are all very nice, with only the character models being seemingly lackluster. The sound is another high point; the lasers and guns sound as they should, and the sound of a ship exploding is quite satisfying. One thing in particular that I found myself enjoying was the soundtrack. There's a lot of cool orchestral scores while flying through deep space, and some awesome techno in the planetside bars. If you consider that the game is seven years old, some of this is very impressive.
"Jesus Harold Christ, watch out for those giant space ice cubes!"
Now, unlike what I was initially led to believe by the box, Freelancer is by no means a space sim. The game has more in common with Star Wars: Starfighter than it would with X3, primarily due to the level of complexity, or lack thereof. You see, the main draw for space sim fans is an open universe full of possibilities to work the galactic stock market as a trader, arrest galactic sex offenders as a bounty hunter, as well as having to maintain and upgrade your ship, all the while shouting out "More power to forward shields," for giggles. Freelancer has all of those things, but in a much more watered down manner. For example, you never have to control the throttle of your ship, nor do you have to worry about fuel, or silly things like that. Instead, everything is automated. Want to dock with a space station? Click the dock button and let the game take care of everything for you. Need to fall into formation with a squadron? Click the formation button and the game will lock you into place with them, all the while automatically adjusting your speed in order to keep you in line. Everything also moves at a much faster pace than in other sims. You can traverse the entire universe using warp gates in a matter of minutes rather than hours, freeing up some time for you to have more sex, because your time is valuable, you sexy person. This all may seem like a horrible travesty to fans of the genre, but it was perfect for someone like me, who lacks the patience necessary to learn how to do everything manually.
Instead of a first-person cockpit view, as per tradition, you have a third person behind the ship view that ultimately works pretty well. The combat is fairly fast paced and can become quite exciting once you enter a fray with a large amount of ships, however, the closest thing you have to a strategy here is "Hold down the right mouse button until they explode," resulting in the combat becoming very tedious (not to mention boring) the more you play the game. The enemies' ability to drain your shields and make you their galactic bitch almost instantly sure doesn't help anything either. They also have the ability to turn on a fucking dime, something that you lack, and they are quick to remind you of it. Every time I find an enemy in my sights, they slow down, and instantly jet off in a complete other direction, forcing me to slowly turn around and relocate them; drastically raising my blood pressure and doing no favors for my opinion of the game.
(Insert sexual innuendo about docking here)
When you aren't getting pissed off in deep space, you can land on planets or space stations and get out of your ship. You don't actually have direct control over your character, but you can go into several different places, like a ship dealer, stock trader, bar, etc. These just serve as a place to get side-missions, upgrade your ship, or sell some space-loot you picked up. It does what it's supposed to do, but don't expect anything terribly exciting or interesting. All the planets pretty much look the same and have the same layouts, so exploration isn't exactly an option either. There isn't really anything to complain about here, but nothing to praise either.
I feel like my main issue about Freelancer is that it's completely boring. Looking at the individual pieces, you would think that the game would be a blast to play, considering that it's technically perfect. Everything works well and there are no glaring flaws, but the whole thing is just so damned dull, not to mention soulless. It is as generic as a game could possibly get, lacking any sort of personality on the part of the developers. I couldn't recommend Freelancer to anyone but a shell of a person who needs to waste twenty hours staring into a screen in order to keep them occupied. Not entertained, but occupied. If you enjoy fun, then stay as far away from Freelancer as you possibly can. I only played it for the sake of this Review Wars and the damn game practically stole all of my youthful energy. Now all I want to do is work a desk job 9 to 5 making photocopies of sales reports. Seriously.
On an unrelated note, I highly recommend you purchase the soundtrack to Freelancer.
Thank you for reading and feedback is always welcome.
If you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to read my other reviews:
Videogames: Call of Duty Classic, Bioshock 2, Videogame Box Art, Metro 2033, Ruse Impressions, Stalker: Call of Pripyat, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Stalker: Clear Sky, Stalker: Complete 2009, HAWX, and Fable 2.
Movies: Ninja Assassin, Shutter Island, and Halo: Legends