Title FreeSpace - The Great War Game Type 3D Combat Sim Players 1 (multiplayer support via Internet) Compatibility PPC: 160 MHz 603e/150 MHz 604e with graphics card (3D card supported), 64 MB RAM 68K: 50 Mhz 68060 and Permedia2/Voodoo 3 based 3D-card, 32 MB RAM (64 MB if no Virtual Memory running) HD Installable Yes Company Hyperion Entertainment/Haage & Partner Submission Seppo Typpö (firstname.lastname@example.org) Profiled Reviewer Review Ever since I saw TV programs like "Space 1999", "Star Trek" and "Battlestar Galactica",and movies like "Star Wars" I have been a sucker for space operas. I love the heroic stories of the battles between good and evil forces, the gigantic space battles between fighters and mighty battle cruisers and the awesome design of spaceships like the USS Enterprise and the Eagle Transporter from Moonbase Alpha. One of the greatest series is without doubt "Babylon 5" - which managed to mix the best elements of good Space Opera - a gripping story which contained strange aliens with their sometimes strange cultures, humans as the underdogs of the universe and a terrifying, evil, seemingly unstoppable enemy unknown. It was Babylon 5 which first came to my mind once I had loaded Freespace on my Amiga and played a few missions. There have been a definite shortage of high quality space games on Amiga since classics like Warhead and Wing Commander were released. Frontier - Elite II did its best to fill the void but it sadly had no continuing plot. Thankfully those magnificent dudes at Hyperion Entertainment remedied the situation by deciding to convert one of the best PC space games to our beloved Miggy. Descent: Freespace - The Great War (as the full title of the game goes) tells a classic story of two nations at war that must put aside their differences and join forces to overcome a new, much more deadly enemy that threatens the existence of them both. The truly excellent intro movie sets up the story and builds the atmosphere - it is one of the few game intros I never feel like skipping. When starting a Freespace session, watching through the movie puts me in the right mood. My heart yells for revenge. I feel determined. I shall stop those bastards, even if it is the last thing I'll ever do. The game structure of Freespace is admirable - the player is gently introduced to the ships and armaments available through a series of training missions. Even in the later stages of the game when new weapon systems are obtained, additional training missions become available. The good old Warhead had a similar structure - you first learnt to fly the ship and then how to fight back with it. It is recommended that you replay the training missions until you feel confident - those finely honed battle skills become extremely handy on later, more demanding missions. Progressing through the campaign in Freespace is pretty straightforward - you need to complete one mission to be able to advance to the next one. One of the minor niggles towards the game is that it does not allow the player to fail - you need to succeed in completing at least some of the goals in the missions (preferably the primary one). This can lead to some frustrating moments as some missions are really difficult to complete and the player can get stuck in one mission for days. The missions in the game are varied - there are pure dogfight, escort, rescue and some dare-devil reconnaissance missions for starters. Each mission is participated in by several wings of ships from both sides - sometimes leading into absolutely huge space battles. There are also several kinds of bigger ships, ranging from feeble transporters to enormous, deadly battlecruisers. The player starts as a ordinary wingman, but after managing to complete some missions can command his (or her) own wing, or later on, even the entire allied forces in certain missions. This gives the player the feeling that they can actually alter the outcome of the mission, which gives enormous satisfaction and a feeling of achievement if everything goes well. A few words about the computer controlled pilots - in general they behave in a quite intelligent manner - especially the computer wingmen which are pretty much the smartest I have seen in an Amiga space sim. While the game does not bond the player to the wingmen in a similar way to Wing Commander, for example, you soon learn to appreciate their presence. They are not invulnerable though so sometimes you need to help them, but in general they can hold their own and even turn the mission into a success with their contribution. While flying with these guys (and gals) I felt genuinely proud - I could trust them, assign them tasks knowing they were competent enough to complete them if given a chance. "We were mean, we were cool. We kicked the alien butt." When any of my wingmen was killed in battle, I felt sorrow. Very few games can raise such feelings towards your binary brothers in arms (Wings from Cinemaware and the aforementioned Wing Commander spring to mind), happily Freespace takes it place beside them in this regard. Freespace is not a very long game - there is a limited amount of missions and the player with enough perseverance will probably complete the game within a week. To add replay value Freespace introduces plot branches - in certain missions the performance of the player can open a different plot branch with some extra missions. So even if you complete the campaign once the chances are that there are some missions and movies you have not seen yet. Each mission, once completed, becomes available through the game's in-built training simulator, so the player can relive those exciting missions and maybe try to better his performance in the trickier ones. There is also the network multi-player mode for those who enjoy battling against (or with) other humans over the Internet. I have not tried the last option (mainly because I have a slow net connection and I am not very keen on net games in general) so I cannot comment how well this works. If that is not enough,there are sites on the Internet which offer user-made missions and campaigns which, despite being designed for the PC version, will in many cases run well with Amiga Freespace too. If Freespace sells well enough Hyperion plan to convert the official Mission Pack to Amiga, which will then open another set of user missions and campaigns to Amiga players. The Amiga version is shipped without a written manual - a strange omission from the game's publisher, Haage & Partner. There is comprehensive documantation built into the game but it is no substitute for the good old hard copy game manual. Another minor niggle is the save game system the game uses - there's only one save game slot per campaign which gets overwritten after each successful mission. It would have been nice to allow several save games, which would have allowed the player to return to those "plot branch" missions or otherwise restart the campaigh from a preferred mission. There is a clone option on the save game screen which apparently allows the player to clone the player file, a feature which can be used to work around the problem. The clever player can also copy and rename the pilot log manually after each mission, but none of these tricks would be needed if the save game system had been designed with a little more thought. Technically, there is little to fault in the Amiga conversion. Hyperion have waved their magic wand once again and come up with virtually faultless clone of the PC original, from excellent graphics right down to moody, atmospheric soundtrack that wonderfully mirrors the happenings during the missions. The game runs well on 68060 and on PPC - with 3D card or even without (if you have a PPC). There's hardly a need to use the very comprehensive detail settings screen - but if the player feels they could use some extra speed they can tailor the graphics to suit the horsepower of their Amiga. In most cases the default setting are good enough, offering fantastic visuals and yet a fast enough frame update. Freespace follows the path of Warhead and Wing Commander to the "Amiga Space Opera Hall of Fame" - The excellent slowly unravelling story accompanied by some of the most glorious space battles ever to grace Amiga monitor screens make it a definite classic. It is the "Babylon 5" of Amiga space games, and every wing commander in this Amiga universe should experience it.