Much like a sausage made out of filet mignon, Freelancer takes choice parts from successful movies and other games and grinds them up until they are almost unrecognizable. The game begins with Edison Trent (who, due to his unbelievably dorky first name only calls himself Trent during the whole game) that is one of a lucky few people to survive the destruction of a large space station. Sadly, all the other survivors are killed off one by one by an Evil Government Conspiracy. Later, Trent learns that in fact the government has been taken over by Evil Pod People, and so he must save the universe by destroying an Evil Alien Race. Best of all, the final missions have you flying in and out of trenches on an alien sphere that looks so much like the Death Star that George Lucas is no doubt spinning in his grave (assuming he's dead).
To combat the hoards of alien foes, Trent is given an array of ships to choose from. Sadly, all the ships Trent has to choose from are apparently made out of rotten moldy balsa wood, as even the mere presence of enemies causes your ship to promptly explode. The weapons fare no better, and are so weak compared to your opponents you wonder why Trent didn't bother just shooting baby kittens and rose pedals at the alien hoards. In most games like this if you save up your money you can buy powerful ships to make the game easier. However, the game does not allow you to purchase advanced upgrades and ships until you complete a certain mission (which was the whole reason you were buying a more powerful ship in the first place). The one bright spot in combat is that your wingmen are usually invincible. Therefore, you end up with the most humiliating task of having to run away from battles while your wingmen thin the hoards enough for you to survive in combat. This is not gameplay at its finest. Fortunately for you, all that running away will give you time to watch the space battles, which can be quite epic. Large battleships clash as swarms of fighters engage in dogfights for superiority against a stunning galactic backdrop. Just make sure you're watching all this in your rear-view mirror.
Hey, must be the money!
Since money plays such a vital role in the game, it's a shame that the game actually hampers your ability to earn it. Early story missions are great, since you are working for the local space police and are promptly paid. The real fun begins when you are fugitives running for your lives. The story missions pay next to nothing and constantly drain cash from account. With rewards such as your life and the fate of all mankind its no wonder Trent never has any money. The fate of mankind won't buy you a shield upgrade pal! There are only three ways to make money in the game. You can try and trade goods from one system to another. Of course, since you are on the run for most of the game, it makes it kind of hard to shop around for the best prices. Since Freelancer is first and foremost a space combat sim, this means that your large and slow cargo ship will probably not make it out of the sector alive. You can do optional missions for money, but unfortunately there are only about three or four types of missions to choose from, and all involve killing something or blowing something up. After a few missions they become repetitive and boring. Finally, you can try to blow up other ships and tractor in their cargo. Of course, blowing up regular ships will get the local navy mad at you (and the last thing you need is another group out to kill you) or you can destroy pirates and other malcontents (who always manage to call all 800 of their buddies into the fight if you attack them). Oh yes, I almost forgot. You can also destroy certain asteroids for water and minerals. Of course, you'd have to do this for hours to get enough minerals to make any money, and I doubt you spent close to $50 on a game just to simulate blowing up rocks (and not even big rocks, just the small ones).
Suicide mission? Well of course I'll go!
And yet in spite of all this, Trent manages to display his mind-numbing determination to do things the absolute hardest way possible. Here is an example of the needlessly difficult tasks Trent must face:
Trent: Thanks for saving us, Colonel. I dont know how much longer my afterburner would have lasted in that battle.
Colonel: No problem, feel free to stay at our base as long as you like. You can even upgrade your ship if you want. We have our newest in deadly weapons: our Water Balloon and Pillow cannons are now on sale. Now we must look for the final piece of the artifact.
Trent: I don't trust you!
Colonel: Um...I'm not sure what are you talking about Trent. Dont you remember my group of fighters saving your butt a few minutes ago?
Trent: I'll go get the piece of the artifact myself!
Colonel: But why? I have a large armada of ships to go pick up the artifact from my agent. They're invincible. Your ship is so weak it will never make it. Look, the wings just fell off it as we were talking. At least send some of your invincible friends as backup.
Trent: (defiantly) Never!
My personal favorite moment in Freelancer occurred as I was about to undertake the final mission. The leader of the group explained to everyone on the ship how important this mission was to the fate of humanity, and that we should feel free to stock up on provisions before we leave. Sadly, the shopkeeper apparently was not informed of this, and since I didn't have enough money to buy Nanobots I was unable to heal myself during battle. Nor was I able to do any missions to get more money. The hardest fight in the game and I was unable to heal myself - lucky me. The best tip I can give you is to do as many missions as you can possibly stand before you hurl your monitor out the window. When you have as much money as you think you'll ever need in the game - double it. Of course you could simply avoid the game and save yourself the huge headache.