Freelancer - PC

When I was growing up the game that I most remember and enjoy was Elite. Hours would go by as I traded in narcotics, fought off rebels and did the occasional space mining. Then off course my BBC Master became outdated, I changed computer and the game was lost. Over the years I have played with BBC Master ports, down right fakes and poor wannabes. Only now, has a game come so close. That game is Freelancer, and whether you like it or not the people to bring it to us is Microsoft.

On the outset to those who have no idea what I am talking about, this game could easily come across as a futuristic yarn with the usual elements of bad guys, a plot to survive and striving for the love of a good woman. In reality this game has more depth than your average psychiatrist.

The storyline is simple. You play Edison Trent, a freelance pilot who has lost his ship on Freeport 7, a colony ship when it is attacked by rebel scum. Being one of the only survivors, things don't look good, but using your charm and wit you quickly manage to commandeer a ship and set about making your fortunes once again. It's here that you get to choose your fate ahead of you whether to play good guy or join the rebels.

With the open-ended universe, gameplay is pretty much up to you. In between planets and star bases, the game takes on a standard space style quest similar to that of the decent series and other space titles. Controls are easy to get to grips and Microsoft has done a lot not to alienate those of us without joysticks. The system offers an ingenious control system that is easily controllable via a mouse and keyboard without the need to invest in a hefty joystick.

Part of the beauty of this game is that the ships are fully customisable to suit your style of gaming. Want to become a mercenary and your can build your ship accordingly with bigger guns. Feel like devoting yourself to becoming a trader and you'll find yourself getting a ship with a bigger cargo loading area.

On the planets and star bases, the interface changes to a point and click system allowing you to easily work your way around the different areas such as the mechanics bay, traders shop and bar where you can look for assignments.

Graphics of the game are great with large sweeping space-scapes. Close combat offers plenty of eye candy and you can be sure that this game offers plenty of that.

For those looking for more than just a single player quest, the game offers a comprehensive multiplayer arena that allows for co-operative and competitive play.

Verdict

This game is awe-inspiring in its depth and gameplay offering and is one that you won't find completing in a short space of time. With so many options of being a mercenary or trader, pirate or diplomat there is plenty to work with. In fact the only down side to this game is its depth which some gamers might find a little overwhelming. This was the problem that some complained about with Elite that you could get lost in the game for days, even months without really achieving anything. Yet this is a small price to pay for what is ultimately a great game and one worthy of taking on the Elite crown for the next couple of years. As we're 18 months into those two years, if you want to get lost again, buy X2 The Threat.