90% - Utterly Fantastic
Freespace 2 wins a unanimous victory in the graphics department, with some of the most beautiful visuals you will find in a game of any kind. All of the ships manage to use high resolution textures with extremely effective mip mapping that avoids any of the "detail pop-in" that was so common with X-Wing Alliance. Close flybys to the capital ships refuse to reveal any pixelization.
Although it cost Volition dearly in terms of system requirements, the enhanced polygon counts really shine. Even the immense, Juggernaut class Shivan warship has more than its fair share, and at close range it still looks impressive.
What is more impressive, however, is the scale. The Juggernaut class warship dwarfs every other ship in the game, and is so big that you need to be at least 5 kilometers away to fit it all on screen. Capital Ships on both sides of the battle look and act like huge behemoths.
Noticeably absent is a cockpit, however. While the incredibly styled HUD keeps this missing feature off of most wish lists, it removes some of the atmosphere from the game, as players really can't differentiate between the different fighters.
Freespace 2 once again puts X-Wing Alliance to shame in feedback effects. While it obviously has force-feedback support (the original Freespace was a poster-child for force feedback technology), what is really impressive is the screen effects. Some of the energy cannons used in the game are so powerful that your ship shakes as it fires! With the right options engaged, shield and hull damage are convincingly portrayed - shields through actual light-up geometry of the energy field, and hull through streaming particle effects.
Unfortunately, damage to your own craft is not nearly as convincing. Although your rear view clearly shows when your hull is damaged, their is rarely any effects or feedback to show when your ship is taking damage, and collisions seem to poorly implemented, resulting in either 1% damage increments or instant death.
Explosions, a hot topic when comparing flight simulations, is shown with style. Streaking particles, 2D explosion clouds, and 3D shock waves are shown in convincing fashion. Just as you would expect from years of Star Trek, its important to get as far away as you can from exploding capital ships, as the shock wave can be vicious to your shields and hull.
Light Sourcing / Colored Lighting
- Engine Glow
- Lens Flare
- 3D Hit/Explosion Effects
Maximum Resolution: 1024x768 32-bit Color
Sound & Music
79% - Great Tunes and Convincing Effects
Its the category that Volition was destined to lose. No matter how good the sounds could be, how could it compare to the majestic works of John Williams and Lucasfilm?
Almost right on par, actually.
The music is a great blend of industrial drums, a Castlevania styled chorus, and new age techno. It all combines to create a series of dark, brooding themes that give Freespace 2 a theme more akin to the TV series Space: Above and Beyond as opposed to Star Trek or Star Wars. When the future of humanity lies in the balance, you can almost feel it!
The sound effects are much more standard. Despite an decent implementation of DirectSound and A3D, other ships seem to lack the immediately distinctive sounds that the X-Wing series prominently displayed. Its more than functional, but it inevitably pales to the legacy of the Stars License. A lot of the effect that the truly massive ships give is lost because you can't really hear its engines hum, its hull creak, or cannons fire.
You can get some great samples of Freespace 2 music from the Volition Website at http://www.freespace2.com/downloads.cfm#freespace2music
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