Remember x-wing, freespace 1, and elite? Remember how much fun you had playing them?
They're nothing to freespace 2. This is the best space sim, bar none.
The basic premise of freespace 2 is to pilot a small fighter or bomber in some of the most intense and fun space battle sequences ever created. In this, freespace 2 shines.
The story of freepace 2 picks up 30 years after freespace 1 left off. The shivans, all-around jerks from the first game, haven't been seen since their superdestroyer, the lucifer, was taken out trying to get to earth. Unfortunately, that also resulted in the destruction of the subspace node to earth. Nodes are really the only way to get around, and all ships from the largest to the smallest rely on them. The vasudans, who are still your allies, had thier homeworld completely destroyed. Together, the vasudans and terrans form the gtva, with the only opposition being the ntf, led by a rogue admiral. The game starts out with the player dealing with that threat. The plot progresses, and soon an old enemy resurfaces.
The plot is actually quite a bit better than it sounds on paper. It's acted out by briefings and a sprinkling of cutscenes, but most of the defining events and plot twists take place ingame. This gives the player a sense of not ever knowing exactly what's going to happen. Most missions don't go exactly as planned and the player has to think on their feet, sometimes deciding moral issues, such as whether or not to kill a civilian vessel in order to survive the mission. The voice acting is the best I've heard in a long time. They are all believable and when certain integral characters die, I found myself yelling at the screen in protest, wondering if I could have saved them. This game will suck you in and keep you going 'till you finally reach the last level with a completely unexpected climax.
But lets face it. As immersve as the story is, we're really playing this for the massive space battles. Fortunately, that's even better than the plot. The interface is sleek, with all important information displayed in all the right places and all the necessary commands easily accessed. The controls are tight, and your craft handles differently depending on which fighter or bomber you choose (of which there are dozens.)
The battles are intense to the point of sweat-inducing. If you get a particularly aggressive enemy on your tail, and you can't shake them, you might start to panic and desperately call your wingmates over to save you. Capital ships are in almost every single mission, and are a focal point of the battles. Most missions have you destroying or protecting capital ships and dealing with fighters in your spare time. The ships themselves are literally miles long. They have anti-fighter and ship beam cannons, flak guns, cluster missiles, and deck cannons. Your position relative to the nearest capital ship often determines whether you live or die.
The fighters are not just going to let you walk all over them either. Some are aggressive and will actively shake you if you get on them. Attacking a bomber formation causes the bombers to split up and enemies will protect each other. Fortunately, your wingmates do the same, but they seem to die faster than they fight.
The sound in this game is incredible. If you don't have bass, get it. Surround sound is almost necessary. Fighters shriek past, flak erupts all around you, and missiles roar by. Don't cheat yourself. Turn the sound up all the way.
The graphics...oh my. When I first played the game, I thought it was good. Then I discovered the source code project. That's right, the community has completely altered the source code, turning this aging game into a veritable wonder of modern programming. You want a new flak effect? Go to the forums, grab one, and slap it in the right folder. Want a new model for your favorite ship? Same process. For comparison, the original game vs the 3.6.7 version source code project:
The community is huge. There are more mods and missions coming out than I can count on two hands. These are not ameteur mods, either. The battlestar mod, starfox mod, and babylon 5 mod are all incredibly detailed, with some modellers actually doing professional work on the side.
The multiplayer unfortunately takes more of a backseat in this game. You have your standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, and co-op, but it's very lag-oriented and the dedicated system for setting up games is now down permanently, though there is a community supported way of setting up games. It's fun, but not as fun as single player.
This is the best game I have ever played. It has reminded me of why I play video games in the first place. With an immersive story, incredible graphics, and immense community support, this game has it all. If you have a pc and a functional joystick, you cannot pass up the opportunity to buy this game.