A great space combat sim, even for today. Because of the FSO project, graphics are updated, and campaigns are plenty.

User Rating: 8.5 | Freespace 2 Gold PC
First of all, this game can be hard to find for a good price. It's worth going to www.gog.com to purchase a DRM-free download for a very good deal. Also check out www.hard-light.net to get FSO graphic/sound improvements and to download more than twenty additional user-made campaigns. User-made campaigns can also be found at www.hard-light.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page and are categorized in eras that span the first and second Great Wars, and beyond. I highly recommend upgrading since the game was released in 1999 and may be difficult to get running on newer systems, especially if you want to use a joystick and to easily customize controls. If you already own Freespace 1 then you will see a very big improvement with lighting and sound.

The setting for Freespace 2 is thirty years after the Great War (Freespace 1). You play a combat pilot and will fly various fighters and bombers (depending on the mission) so the majority of the time your view will be of the HUD of your controls and the void of space. What creates a feeling that you are just a spec on a heavenly map is when you have to race to a jump node (a warping point usually to exit a mission) while dodging and destroying enemy ships or when attacking/defending a space port or capital ship that are easily hundreds times bigger than your fighter. Despite being in space, the environment has a rich detail of color when encountering the multitudes of ships and sometimes backdrop to planets and nebulae. The ships are categorized into three main factions: Terran (mostly the protagonists), Vasudan (alien allies to the Terrans) and Shivan (the alien enemy that offers little in communication and destroys everything in its path with generally superior technology). You will fly Terran fighters and bombers but will on occasion get to try a few of the other alien ships. The game really shines during mission briefings where voice-overs and music get you into the mood of wanting to accomplish every primary and secondary objective. One of the more difficult missions is when you will need to minimize casualties of your squad or will need to protect transports that move much too slowly and are attacked all too often.

A nice feature is that you can customize what is a multitude of controls that are broken down to Ship, Weapons, Targeting, Shield, and Squad Commands. Missions are based on simple objectives such as Destroy, Defend, Recon or Stealth but the game does a great job using variety and plot twists throughout the campaign to keep you guessing. Not only are missions interesting but the combat is its greatest aspect, where you will have many opportunities to destroy Capital Ships by knocking out its subsystems while dodging fire from its turrets and having to dog-fight other fighters trying to protect it. The game is also missile-intensive, which creates an atmosphere of large explosions, and you constantly find yourself spinning, using afterburners and launching countermeasures to dodge. The ability to create a player that earns stats, badges and promotions gives the game an epic feel from campaign to campaign, so that you will have the satisfaction of fighting in every major battle using the same pilot.

I rate the game high but not perfect. Despite graphic upgrades and a large variety of user-made campaigns, the game slightly shows its age in that there are no planetary or surface-based battles, giving the impression that everyone fights only in space between occupied planets (although there are a few missions where you fight inside a nebula that messes with your targeting and navigation equipment, and on occasion will fight in subspace where shields are useless). The physics of space flight also follow a loose interpretation of maneuvering in outer space so that dog-fighting is more exciting. Even then, it is still a great game; and as a whole, Freespace 2 and the FSO universe is worth checking out for space-sim combat fans.