Action - FreeSpace 2
How can you not love this game? It's the heir-apparent to the great line of space combat sims dating all the way back to Wing Commander. FreeSpace 2 has a good plot that keeps up with the action and the absolute best space fighting ever seen on the computer. A game that has all the best parts of the classic space games (WC, TIE Fighter) while bringing in all the perks of today's technology. Imagine that the big ships actually, finally, fight back! No longer are they slow-moving proverbial broad sides of a barn. Now they fire intense beams at you and your wingmates, decimating your attack force within minutes unless you're careful. Your regular weapons are next to useless against these hulking behemoths, so you have to count on your bombers to do the job.
Ah, clear space
Of course, counting on the bombers means counting on their AI. FreeSpace 2's AI was top-notch. You could choose to command individual ships, wings or the entire squadron and they'd obey capably and with commendable determination, yet they were also smart enough to handle most situations on their own. Let's not forget the excellent mission scripting within the game. Thanks to the boys at Volition, 1999 brought some of the most intense space combat ever seen on a PC.
How could we write about FS2 without mentioning its amazing graphics? Blinding beams in green, blue and red that cut through space, fighters and ships alike! Grand explosions with the usual yet still beautiful shockwave effect. Distinct and unique, the star fleets of humans, Vasudans and Shivans, faced off with their own assortment of lethal weaponry. Fly these against the backdrop of a colorful and yet cold and devoid space, filled with behemoth carriers and battleships - even leave streaks as you turn quickly or accelerate.
Volition threw in dark and moody music during missions to chill you to the bone as much as the sound of any Shivan beam powering up. Truly immersive.
Imagine being in a 20 meter long fighter and battling your foes then turning your sights on an 11km long gargantuan super-ship. This is what set FS2 apart from other space games. The insignificance you felt when you fought those battles. Not just the physical size of your fighter compared to the big ships, but rather the feeling the entire game gave you. You were never mentioned by name, never singled out, never had a big deal made about you. Just one pilot doing his job and trying to survive in a hellish war against an advanced, vicious alien race and your own kind.
Yet while being insignificant in the grand scheme, you were still left feeling that you were important to the job at hand. Even at the easiest settings, you had to try or else the mission would fail. This remarkable balance between fun and believability, the addition of powerful, large capital ships that could defend themselves yet were not impregnable - this is FreeSpace 2's greatest charm.
FreeSpace 2: 4.5/5, Editor's Choice.