The light at the end of the tunnel.
Descent: Freespace – The Great War has absolutely nothing to do with Descent. You don’t fly around in a tunnel nor do the graphics resemble its ancient counterpart. Freespace is a completely different game – think Wing Commander or X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. And although Freespace doesn’t have many innovations – it manages to kick all the other games in the jimmy. It has better graphics, better multi-player, better missions, and even a level editor.
First of all, the graphics are amazing. By using either a Glide renderer (Voodoo) or Direct 3D, the visuals produced are stunning. Massive war ships that make you look like a fly in the vast world of Freespace are bountiful, while fighters of various alien races jump gate in from the vast reaches of the galaxy. The scale of the ships is one of the coolest features seen in a space sim – much like Imperial Destroyers in X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, but larger. The battle ships in Freespace look huge from miles away and even bigger when you get up close and personal. The asteroids, stars, and galaxies you can see in the distance are unrivaled graphically on the PC. Weapon effects are spectacular as well – missiles have trails, lasers bounce off of shields, and bombs explode massively. Truly the best looking space simulation on the market.
The single player missions are well thought out too, ranging from protection campaigns to all out attacks. What you have to accomplish in the massive single player campaign is extremely varied, giving a rewarding gaming experience all the way through. By the use of training missions that sporadically appear during the game, you will learn how to play better and more efficiently. And since there are so many features and functions to use in Freespace, these training missions are extremely useful.
The way the story pans out is interesting, while not being overwhelming (as in many games of the Wing Commander series). The rendered scenes between key levels are absolutely stunning and at the same time are able to tell a story well – the quality of the renderings are unparalleled. The single player aspect of Freespace may be its best part – the feeling that you are a part of an epic story is executed brilliantly.
Yet the multi-player isn’t half bad. You are able to play on the Internet as well as the normal LAN and modem to modem games. The Internet play really shines as you are able to join a game in progress, making it simple to get into a game quickly. The only down side is that there are some speed issues (i.e.: a 28.8 won’t be too fast), but Volition (the developer) has already released one patch to address these issues and promises more to come. You still can’t beat playing over a LAN though, because you can use the built-in speech features. By talking into a microphone, you can be heard on everyone else’s computer – trash talk in style. Freespace definitely has the best multi-player in the space sim genre.
Also included in this comprehensive game is a free level editor. Although difficult to use at first, FRED (FReespace level EDitor), is a very powerful tool and you can create anything that the level designers for the game had created. You can even import your own movies and sound files to create a whole new game under the Freespace engine. Truly an amazing product that was given to gamers for free. Add-ons for Freespace will probably be varied and expansive, adding to the longevity of the game. Tack on another reason to buy a copy.
All in all, Descent: Freespace is the best space simulation on the PC. Although it doesn’t innovate much, it is the best in its genre and has executed all the various parts in the game perfectly. Buy this game now.