"Freelancer" In the sights of SniperWolf427 -- Tied for 3rd place in Review Wars! --

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...

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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.

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"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.

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"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.

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(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

Good review. The story is indeed crappy and the combat gets boring. The attraction I found in continuing to play was to explore the sights of all the systems. The later story missions have some great vistas as well. Get yourself a Very Heavy Fighter with some decent weapons and shield and find things like a neutron star, Planet of the Robots and Planet of the Apes.

Oh, and there is a way to turn your ship on a dime. Just turn off the engines, let her drift, turn you ship in the direction you want to go and turn the engines back on. Voilà.

zala-taichou:
Good review. The story is indeed crappy and the combat gets boring. The attraction I found in continuing to play was to explore the sights of all the systems. The later story missions have some great vistas as well. Get yourself a Very Heavy Fighter with some decent weapons and shield and find things like a neutron star, Planet of the Robots and Planet of the Apes.

Oh, and there is a way to turn your ship on a dime. Just turn off the engines, let her drift, turn you ship in the direction you want to go and turn the engines back on. Voilà.

Thanks for the feedback mate, it's greatly appreciated. I honestly never even touched the "Turn off engine" key, but thanks for the tip. Good to know there actually is a way.

It's a real shame that the combat was so bad, because I was able to forgive the story for not being entirely up to par. However, I was hoping that at some point you would end up with a capitol ship, or a frigate at the very least, but as time wore on, my patience grew thin. You had to spend an hour XP grinding just to get another story mission and once you got one, it turned out to be most of the same shit you had just been doing while grinding.

I'll be trying out another space sim soon enough. I'm determined to get into the genre.

Cool avatar by the way. Looks like Gundam Wing, but it's hard to tell; everything is exploding, haha.

I'm pretty sure there is a first person view? Albiet not a complete cockpit view.

I have played this game and found it really fun, it just felt like I was a small fish in a big vast pond, but the story is extremely bad.

I loved this game!
I never thought the combat got boring, though.
The best part was the multiplayer, really. I had a server set up in my college dorm, and there was about 15 or so of us who would play together. Which was great, since I was all about trading! I had a freighter ship, and would pay other players a share of my profits to guard me as we made shipping runs. It was awesome!

We should totally make an Escapist Freelancer server. That'd be bitchen.

Edit: And there was totally a first person view. I only used it and turret mode.

It seems that you have been playing another game than me. On my first playthrough of freelancer I sat down and finished it in 1 or 2 sessions. I found it that good.

It is also one of the very very few (singleplayer story driven) games that I've played through more than once.

Maybe it's just me, Wing Commander fanboy that I am, but this reminded me heavily of Privateer when I played it. Except for the protagonist being a complete jerk instead of a blank slate upon which the player could impose themselves.

Solid review. I can see why you outscored me. Well done!

Congrats on a high scoring review. The critiques of the judges were well intended, and I think if you fallow them it will really help you grow as a reviewer. Knowing your "style" I can safely say that the advice under your review by the judges was my "favorite" or at least, most applicable.

Also, it was a breath of fresh air for a game not to get a glowing review, what with the 'cult classics' title.

I miss playing that game for it massive universe and the awesome mods!

BlueInkAlchemist:
Maybe it's just me, Wing Commander fanboy that I am, but this reminded me heavily of Privateer when I played it. Except for the protagonist being a complete jerk instead of a blank slate upon which the player could impose themselves.

Solid review. I can see why you outscored me. Well done!

Honestly, I was quite surprised that I'd outscored many of the people that I did. Not to mention how surprised I was of the people who scored very highly. This Review Wars was simply full of surprises. Regardless, I feel as if it were the topic that threw many people off, including myself. Reviewing an old game that is considered to be a classic is certainly more difficult than reviewing something hot out of the oven.

Thanks for the kind words, by the way. But, after reading many of your reviews, I've begun to feel like I shouldn't have scored as high as I did.

Pimppeter2:
Congrats on a high scoring review. The critiques of the judges were well intended, and I think if you fallow them it will really help you grow as a reviewer. Knowing your "style" I can safely say that the advice under your review by the judges was my "favorite" or at least, most applicable.

Also, it was a breath of fresh air for a game not to get a glowing review, what with the 'cult classics' title.

Agreed. Maet and Fightgarr really seemed to pick up on the less mature areas of my reviews, which most likely stem from my being immature. I definitely understand how many risks I take with my writing style now, and will attempt to amend some of those things that they suggested I work on. However, many of the things that they critiqued me on were also several of the things that Stranger and Mjhhiv had praised me on. Talk about being confused...

Found this post from your Condemned review.

I agree so much with this review. I wanted to like Freelancer but every time I tried to finish it I got bored halfway through. Every single bit of combat was the same. As you say "hold down right mouse until win".

I greatly desire a complex (about as complex as Mech Warrior 2, that game had sooooooo many buttons) space sim with pilot-able capital ships. Something like EVE but where you don't need a masters in mathematics to play

I'm waiting Rockstar! I really think Rockstar could pull that off :P

2 points separated me and the third place? *sniff*
At least I can see I lost fair and square, the captions are especially good.

 

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