Freelancer Good game - could have been great

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There are many good space flight sim/RPG on the market, but where freelancer broke the mould was introducing a gameplay that doesn't require periferal devices (joysticks) to play it effectively. I suspect this may have put off the hard core flight sim fans, but it works surprisingly well. Graphically, it looks great. The ships are configurable, although again to to any huge degree. You can go with either the nice sounds and colours, or you can go in depth by scanning enemy ships and configuring your payload to give maximum effect against the various types of shields. Navigation again can be as easy as just point and click, or viewing the maps and going your own way. Just exploring the many systems and discovering 'unknown' planets can be quite exploring. The jobs get a bit repetitive after a while, basically offering ony ship kills, assasinations (same thing really) or object recovery.

The single player missions start off well enough; you get your intro that lets you know who you are, how you got there and what's to do. You're given a few story-related missions, but mostly left to explore and earn money as you see fit. The problem for me was that about half way through the story line, all free will is taken away, and you are forced to jump through hoops (literaly) to obtain level upgrades. That isn't so bad, but you have virtualy no control over this toward the end and are forced to complete about 6 quite difficult missions without the benefit of upgrades or the option to shop for more. Another frustrating facit of this was finding that those upgrades available at the view place you do stop anywhere at are either too expensive, unavailable to your level, or incompatible with your ship. This is what ultimately spoiled the game for me, as by the time you reach the end of the story you feel as though you've been dragged through it rather than played it. Also, the 'popularity meter' in the character info page seemed to be rather superfluious - yes, this did influence who you could get work with and who would attack you, but with the erratic alliances formed during the plot this was eventualy complete nonsense. I am told this game has a very good online support, and can see where much of this games features would work well on multiplayer servers, but this wasn't marketed as a multiplayer game primarily.
Ultimately, this is an excellent game marred by the pushyness of the singleplayer plot. Had it been paced a little better, It would have been brilliant. Looking forward to Freelancer 2... if it ever happens!
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