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Its Sequel Would Inevitably Be Called FreeSpac3.

July 3, 2011

Ironic protestor: "Yeah! Free Space! What'd it ever do to anyone?"

Dogfight like it’s Space 1999.

Vrum.....mmm.... Vrum... No, wait, that's lightsabers.

Freespace 2. I’ve been playing it a lot recently, since buying it when GOG.com started running their Interplay deal so it only cost two Euro, and then the forty Euro or so I spent on a joystick because I have no brain. Or rather, I have a brain, but it’s all dusty and barren, save for an occasional memory of the very excellent X-Wing games of my youth. (The best X-Wing game, was, rather ironically, its direct sequel and mortal enemy, TIE Fighter. A thought: if it were to be released today, TIE Fighter would undoubtedly be the subtitle, with X-WING prominently displayed as the easily recognised franchise name, making the games full title X-Wing: TIE Fighter. Which would be stupid, and I think is a suitably damning indictment of the completely hypothetical stupidity of the modern day videogames industry. Bleh. (Despite this, I spent most time with X-Wing Alliance, because it had contemporary graphics and a very fun “Custom Battle Scenario” feature, which let me pit my rag-tag band of X- and Y-Wings against insurmountable Imperial forces over and over again until I could quite handily take down a wing of TIE Interceptors without even targeting them. I used to care about being good at things, you see. Alas, the wonderfully in-depth ship controls were no longer mounted on a cockpit, instead – horribly wrongheadedly – being pasted translucently directly onto the HUD, as if the pilot were wearing splotchily purple cyborg lenses, thus ruining the game comprehensively for everybody, despite it being really quite great in every other way. (Also stirring my spacefighting loins were the memories of Michael Stackpole’s tremendously readable Rogue Squadron books, which I should really read again, instead of re-reading Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn books for the fifteenth time.))

Anyway. All of this (along with a not-unreasonably desire to play all the great games I missed out on as a scruffy youngster on account of I was broke and stupid) is why I bought Freespace 2, 1999’s second most famous, and most fondly-remembered-by-crits, space sim, and spent the better part of an evening downloading the recommended mods to bring it up to divertingly modern graphical standards, and then waited a week and a half for a spiffy-but-expensive new joystick to arrive so I could play it PROPERLY and come on, I couldn’t buy the cheaper joystick because it only had three buttons and no Z axis, and have since played a fair chunk of the campaign. (Sadly, it’s lacking the aforementioned custom sortie feature of XWA, but let’s not hold that against it. MUCH.)

And hey, look at this: it’s excellent! The dogfighting is tense and difficult, but man, I felt like a champion when I was the sole survivor of a mission that ended up with my taking on four or five spacefighters and a capital ship all by my lonesome and only because I was so handsome and witty did I manage to survive the ensuing kerfuffle, culminating in a demented suicide run on the capital ship, braving its fearsomely accurate beam turret in order to implant some torpedoes in its gullet. Admittedly, it was mostly my own stupidity and inability to command my fighter squadron that resulted in my compatriots horrible vacuumy deaths, but let’s forget I mentioned that.

Equally hilarious was the bit where they entrusted me with going deep undercover into the enemy rebel forces, which ends in a mission where your entire wing turns on you after a routine destruction of some gun platforms when you refuse to obliterate a passing civilian ship. After dying several times, I decided that I’d try something slightly more subtle: instead of waiting for the inevitably double-cross, I’d “accidentally” take out some of the rebels while they were still on my side. Whoops – did I somehow inexplicably miss that static gun platform, instead exploding my squadmate with a violent volley of projectiles? I guess I did. The game didn’t call me on my sneaky cheating, either – I was left with a mere brace of ships to destroy by the time they decided that the guy who just exploded most of the squad probably wasn’t their friend after all.

BUT.

Now I just really want a sparkly new X-Wing game, with its friendlier flight model and John Williams soundtrack. Curse Lucasarts’ oily, console-focused hides. Hell, a re-skinned TIE Fighter would probably be the easiest money they’ve ever made.

Except for all that easy money they constantly make because of their bulletproof licenses, anyway.

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