Lose your chains. Preview

Lose your chains.

Does anyone remember Elite? I hope so, or I will retire in shame from

the game reviewing business at the venerable age of thirty. I first played Elite

on a BBC microcomputer (don’t ask!) at my uncle’s place when I was about ten.

It was way ahead of its time, with beautifully executed vector graphics supporting

a space trading game that was truly original in concept.

Ok, Ok… maybe you don’t remember Elite. How about Ambrosia’s Escape

? Anyone with a Mac will surely have encountered this fabulously

addictive game. Both of you have? Excellent. I have now succeeded in connecting

with at least two of my readership.

For the

rest of you who are wondering what on Earth I am rambling on about, let me introduce

you to Freelancer, a game from Microsoft in the middle stages of development.

Developed by Chris Roberts and his Digital Anvil team, this highly-anticipated

title looks to single-handedly redefine the space game genre.

Webster’s dictionary defines a Freelancer as either 1) A medieval soldier who

sold his services to any state or military leader; a mercenary or 2) A person

who acts according to his principles and is not influenced by any group; an

independent. So, for once, the title is a remarkably apt description of the

game. You are a gun for hire, at liberty to do whatever you want – escort terrified

freighters through hostile territory, mine asteroid belts, work for the government,

trade goods, or turn pirate and shoot the hell out of anything in sight. This

last choice would probably not be recommended until you have spent some major

credits upgrading your ship, however.

This all sounds like good fun already. But I have not yet mentioned the sumptuous

attention to detail that the Freelancer team has displayed, or the beautiful

environments in which you will be immersed as you play this game. While navigating

through the various systems, you will encounter ringed planets, warp gates,

asteroids, and gas-clouds which rival and surpass in beauty the best that the

Star Trek studios can produce. The sheer opulence of the graphics is

nothing less than stunning.

This looks to be the perfect kind of game for space exploration buffs. The

complexity of a dynamic and multi-threaded plot, together with the action of

a space fighting game and a gorgeously rendered universe easily puts Freelancer

in the top five games I saw previewed at this year’s E3. The one downside –

nobody will admit whether this is going to be a single-player or multi-player

game. On the other hand, for those of us who also need to blow real people to

virtual smithereens online, there is always Microsoft’s Allegiance.

Either way, you are going to love Freelancer. I promise.

Countdown T-minus one year! Freelancer is due to launch in Spring 2001

for the PC.

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