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Freelancer
This universe is HUGE! Digital Anvil has really outdone themselves with the size of the universe, trade options, and level of freedom this game offers. Finally, something that comes close to the standard that Sundog set.

Freelancer has all the graphical beauty you'd expect from a game made in 2003. The ship, planet, and space station models and textures are excellent. The people are surprisingly believable for a game, though they look a bit like their faces were pasted on the front of pre-existing heads so profile shots are a bit distorted. Hand gestures, as you might expect, are the weakest of the modeling.

The single player story line is very engaging, and the multiplayer is excellent. After playing multiplayer and having the entire universe open to me, going back to single player feels very restrictive. The story line makes it worthwhile, though. The multiplayer game offers the ability to explore, trade, and even take missions against AI opponents. Unlike most multiplayer games, a person alone on a server will not be bored out of their minds. Freelancer also offers the freedom to enter and exit the game at any time without interrupting the flow for the rest of the players or imbalancing pre-established teams.

Most unique about this game, though, is the control model. Unlike most space combat sims, which require a joystick and memorizing a myriad of key commands, Freelancer can be almost completely mouse driven. Supposedly, this was done to attract gamers who normally don't play space combat sims. As a hard-core star pilot, my initial reaction to this revelation was despair! However, after playing the game, it turns out that the implementation is masterfully done. Mouse control turns out to be very playable, and the lack of a radar is hardly noticable. The flight model is not space realistic, and it's very comfortable to play. Multiple piloting modes (2 ways to toggle mouse control and "Turret view") make the controls very workable and gives you a variety of strategic maneuvers.

Anyone who reacts negatively to the lack of joystick support and novel control setup should not let that deter them from trying Freelancer. Anyone who's considered a space combat sim but has been boggled by all the controls, this is the game to try. All in all, Freelancer is a honey of a game.

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