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COMPUTING

Can FreeSpace II fulfill the hype?

July 22, 1999
Web posted at: 9:21 a.m. EDT (1321 GMT)

by Thomas Crymes

From...
Games.net
iconINTERACTIVE: FreeSpace II screen shots
screen grabs

(IDG) -- Visually dazzling, wonderfully playable, Descent: FreeSpace was one of '98's best space-combat sims, leapfrogging to the top of a genre long ruled by the Wing Commander and X-Wing series. Now, just a year later, Interplay is poised to release FreeSpace 2, and we've got high hopes indeed. Can this follow-up deliver all the fun and excitement of the original? Judging by a look at an early version of the game, it sure can--and we think it's going to be awesome.

While graphically brilliant, the cornerstone of FreeSpace wasn't its graphics; it was the gameplay. Most dogfights took place at knife range, and made for megainvolved, superexciting skirmishes. Combined with breathtaking visuals and painstaking detail, these elements made Freespace one lethal game. Fortunately, the sequel retains the feel of the original. The dogfights are as quick and furious as ever, and the control, as expected, is spot-on.

Where FreeSpace 2 distinguishes itself from its forebear is in the graphics department. The highly detailed textures and careful use of lighting are a feast for the eyes, and flying through the vacuum of space at 1,024 x 768 resolution is truly a sight to behold. Ships are lit harshly, a blinding sun brightly lighting up one side while the other is bathed in inky black. Planets loom in the distance; nebulas decorate the vastness of space in a variety of fantastic colors. As you might guess, this game will require a 3D card. The payoff is that it'll be, without a doubt, the best-looking space sim yet, bar none.

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Aside from graphics, developer Volition has added several things to enhance gameplay. You'll find new ships to use and fly against, including new capital ships that simply dwarf those from the first game. Some of them are armed with deadly beam weapons and flak cannons that will end your career in a second if you're not careful.

FreeSpace 2 also features nebula effects similar to those in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, wherein flying through a nebula can damage your ship's hull and its sensors, but also enable you to hide your ship from enemy sensors.

FreeSpace 2 features another gripping storyline that will compel you to play on to see how it all turns out. The Shivans are back, but you'll also have your hands full with your own people as civil war threatens to tear the Terran/Vesudan Alliance apart.

Volition has made strides in the multiplayer department as well. Freespace 2 will have options for both deathmatching and team play, not to mention a new metagame called Squad Wars, in which two teams vie for control of territories throughout the universe. The game will offer multiplayer support for up to eight players via a LAN or the Internet, and players will be able to hook up with other FreeSpace 2 pilots on Volition's free online server.

FreeSpace 2 has all the makings of one of the great games of 1999. Fans of the original won't be disappointed, and newcomers to the series are in for a treat. If the game's unmatched beauty and great gameplay pan out in the release version, due this winter, then this will certainly be a must-have for PC gamers everywhere.


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