Wednesday, 09 February 2005
Freedom: Something that apparently canít be taken if we believed the film Braveheart. But of course, the movies feed us little white lies and of course you can have your freedom taken away. Look at most platforming titles for example. Do you have the allowance to travel where you wish, when you wish, and do what you wish? No of course you donít. Itís not within the playing field that the developers envisioned. But what about the gameís out there that do offer freedom to do whatever you wish? The most recent example of course being Deus Ex, but even that did eventually push you forward through the story. But thereís always been one title that gave you true freedom, and that game was Elite.
The original X Ė Beyond The Frontier and its add on X-Tension were the beginnings of a series thatís been trying itís best the bring Elite into the modern age. The ability to be anyone you wanted to be made a great game even greater when you realised that you had true freedom. So whatís been improved for this long awaited sequel I hear you ask? A fair amount actually.
You start the game attempting to take a ship by means of theft, but after a failed escape you find yourself aboard a prison ship, doomed to spend the rest of your days breaking rocks. But, Ban Danna (who you may remember from the original game) requests that your character be released into his control, and soon enough you find yourself free again. If it all sounds a bit clichťd, then youíd be right. Thatís not to say it isnít a nice beginning to what becomes a very engrossing storyline though.
But what if your not particularly interested in the storyline and you fancy becoming a bounty hunter? In that case, go out into the wilderness, become the bounty hunter youíve always wished to be and collect yourself a grand fortune. You see, the thing about X2 is the fact that youíre not at any point (the opening section excluded) forced to go down the usual mission based route of this kind of game. If you want to go trade some kind of valuable commodity the other side of the universe then you may go do that. But beware; youíre not the only person in the universe. Computer controlled characters also go about making something of their own lives, and donít think that a percentage of them wont go down the route of pirating little trading ships like yoursÖ
X2 does go that out stage further in freedom terms, by giving you the ability to build your own huge factories and assemble huge battle fleets to control territory. Virtually every single way of going about your business you can think of is available to you, and as long as youíre good at it, this makes for a very enjoyable game. Thatís not to say you canít progress the story if you donít wish. For those of you who detest freedom then you can still go down the typical mission based route of the norm, but youíll be missing out on a huge amount. I mean, any game that develops itís own dynamic economy so you donít have to trade the same item as values change from time to time obviously wants you to have your freedom.
From a technical standpoint, as you can see by the screenshots at the right hand side of the page itís a gorgeous looking game. Admittedly youíll need a bit of a beast to have the visuals up to their brilliant best, but even if you lack a state of the art PC, the game still runs at a fair old lick. Your looking at a huge universe containing thousands of aircraft, stations and satellites. When all that can still run on your aging P700 (which is the minimum spec), you have to give credit to the talents of the programmers.
One pretty major problem newcomers will have is the incredibly steep difficulty curve. To start with your fine, a nice little introduction. But all of sudden your thrown right in at the deep end and unless you can grasp the basics pretty quickly you wont last too long. Itís a bit daunting, but donít let this little fact put you off whatís turned out to be a great title.
Of course some of you will look straight past this title once itís released on the 6th February, purely because of the amount of time you need to put in if you wish to really build yourself into something great. I suppose that this isnít a game thatíll be enjoyed by the likes of you who rushed out to buy Need For Speed Underground simply because you can put lights under your car, but this is more something for your mature gamer.
The best way to look at this game, isnít as a game thatís trying to beat Elite at itís own masterful game. I mean, I sincerely doubt anythingís going to reach those gaming peaks again. But think of it as more of homage to that great title and youíll no doubt feel a lot more comfortable. Yes it has its faults just like any game, but as a continuation of the X series, itís a worthy addition to your gaming collections. Put the time into it, and youíll feel the rewards.