A new beginning
With Independence War 2: The Edge of Chaos, Particle Systems aims to build on the original's success. In this adventure, you assume the role of Cal Johnson, who resides in an outer colony called the Badlands Cluster. Cal earned himself a spell of 30 years in the slammer after hunting down the loan shark who killed his father, and 15 years into his sentence, he joins in an escape attempt, and once out in the open, steals a ship and becomes a space pirate with his fellow escapees. A slightly different tale to the rebellion-crushing antics of the first game, but no less cruel or calculating. Like the original, it uses realistic space physics, based on the priniciples of modern day science, although they still take a while to get used to, and this time you get to feel the effect of the physics engine on more than one ship, adding a much needed new dimension to the gameplay. This time four unique vessels will present themselves, the Tug, the Storm Petrel and the Light and Heavy Corvetted. The Tug is your escape vehicle, boasting durability but a lack of a speed, while the Storm Petrel is a light, nippy fighter without much in the way of weaponry. The Light Corvette is the closest of the new ships to the original Dreadnaught Corvette, and packs an average strength punch in every category, while its big brother, the Heavy Corvette carries more armour and firepower. Instead of abandoning one for another, you collect all four ships and store them in your ex-terraformers' base, where you can upgrade weaponry, computers and armour. Another improvement over the original IWar is the addition of a new 4-way heads up display, operated by joystick, controller or keyboard depending on your preferred control system, which allows you to issue commands to your wingmen and such. With a few easy hotkey combinations, it should be possible to get your supporters to do anything, from covering your smoky behind to laying down suppressing fire while you regroup.
Oh, and if you thought there was something we were missing out, how about the screenshots splashed over this page and the next? The visuals in Independence War 2 are simply breathtaking. Space flight sims always have impressive graphics, and like IWar, this game looks like something out of a NASA space cam. The ship models in particular, as demonstrated in the recent network only demo, are splendidly detailed, with plenty of reflective gun-metal and a decent coating of grime and space wear/tear. Even the game's interface is glitzy, with a wafty, futuristic feel to it. The whole system is in proper three dimensions, so you can fly anywhere you want and at anything you see thanks to the warp drive. In total there are several hundred star systems each with as many as a dozen planets in their confines. With about 50 missions available as you please, the game is shaping up to be a space epic. It's quite amazing, but the original Independence War looks almost shallow by comparison to the sequel. Even multiplayer is covered, with LAN and Internet games for up to eight players, including team deathmatch, standard head to head and an amusing Capture the Flag variation (Capture the Pod!). Players will even be able to take part in co-op missions, although you can't assign different roles on one ship to individual crewmen unfortunately. From the looks of things, several other vehicles are available in multiplayer too, including a Police Interceptor. The network code in the demo is a little shaky (we managed to crash it twice) but on the whole IWar 2 multiplayer is shaping up to be something of a kick to the system for space sims. Pun thoroughly intended.