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Trucker, mayor, space cowboy: Five sim games that let you live out your dreams

Erez Zukerman | June 10, 2013
Whether you enjoy controlling the fates of countless Sims or driving a truck across Europe, you can be sure there's an excellent simulator out there in which to hone your skills.

If you enjoy FreeSpace 2's detailed gameplay and wish for nothing more than some updated graphics, you're in luck. Open-source, free mods dress FreeSpace 2 in updated graphics from franchises you probably already know, and include new storylines and game mechanics to boot. I launched myself into Diaspora, a mod based on the Battlestar Galactica 2004 remake, and was impressed by its slick graphics. It was nice to find myself in the pilot's seat of a Viper, trying to prove myself as a nugget (and badly failing).

The FreeSpace 2 story only shows that a great simulator will likely live on, business circumstances notwithstanding.

Strike Suit Zero
Strike Suit Zero
Strike Suit Zero's interface is much simpler than FreeSpace 2's, and offers a fluid gameplay experience.  

After FreeSpace 2 was released, the space simulator market remained relatively dormant for years. FreeSpace 2 and other space combat classics kept the genre alive, albeit on the back burner. That is, until indie game studio Born Ready Games came along and decided to create a modern space combat simulator: Strike Suit Zero ($20).

Developing the game was not without its difficulties: When funding ran out midway through the project, Born Ready Games turned to Kickstarter for extra funding. The crowdsourcing website doesn't always work out, but in this case it did: Born Ready raised almost double their original $100,000 goal, and carried on to release the game as planned.

The end result is a game with thoroughly modern, gorgeous looks, and simple, intuitive controls that puts you in the cockpit of a space fighter. While the game's controls and HUD are simpler than those of FreeSpace 2, it innovates in the spacecraft department in a big way: You get to fly a giant robot.

Most of the time, Strike Suit Zero looks and maneuvers like a typical space fighter. But hit a button on your controller, and it instantly transforms into a hulking mech, armed to the teeth and capable of hairpin turns and aerobatics that just don't make sense in a fighter.

Transforming into a robot makes the game feel almost like a first-person shooter...in space. It's a throwback to the old Descent series, the same one FreeSpace 2 eventually evolved from. For example, in one of the early missions you have to destroy a series of storage platforms containing enemy supplies. You can fly at a platform at breakneck speeds, afterburners ablaze, only to transform at the very last moment and find yourself hovering in front of the platform as a fully armored mech, ready to obliterate everything in sight. This makes for a very engaging, cinematic gameplay.

 

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