by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Deep in space...
The pirate Kraits fired first, impatiently, and as the beam lasers shot past Commander Marcan Wolfwood's Cobra Mk III, he smiled to himself ruefully. He knew that by the time the enemy was close enough to actually hit him, their weapons would already be too hot to continue firing. Marcan waited for a few more seconds before squeezing the trigger of his own weapons. The laser beam sheared the space around the first pirate Krait until at last it found its mark and the small ship exploded in a brilliant flash. Marcan did not waste time but turned his ship quickly towards the next enemy...
Origins of Oolite
Elite is a game, the name of which makes many old gamers sigh and remember the numerous days and weeks that they spent playing it late into the night, living the alternate life of a commander of a small spaceship. Many games since have attempted to capture the same atmosphere and playability that the original Elite had, but none, or almost none, have succeeded. Even the official sequels, while they held on to the core of Elite, expanded it in ways that made them essentially different games. If this game is unknown to you, I urge you to take a look at our Elite Retroview (in Features) before reading this preview.
With the lack of a true successor to the original title, some fans started their own pet projects to bring the game to the modern computer. Those who have followed the discussion threads know about Elite: The New Kind that promised a lot, but was eventually discontinued and withdrawn from the Internet. It was only one of many projects that held up hopes, but ended up discarded because of various reasons. That is, until Giles Williams from Aegidian first released Oolite for Mac in 2004. Oolite is an entirely independent interpretation and expansion of the original game. For a fan effort, it has progressed pretty quickly from basic flight simulation into a fully playable game and the PC port came out of Alpha to Beta in March this year and is now keeping up with development on the Mac version.
Being a fan-made remake of Elite, Oolite offers much the same gameplay as the original game, but naturally brings it up-to-date with modern technology. Thus, as you roll and pitch your ship around, the framerate no longer drops to around 3fps, as in the C-64 version. Similarly, the original wireframe vector graphics have been replaced with textured 3D models. Still, the graphics hold onto the retro feel of Elite and you will not see well-rounded 3D spaceships in this game - rather they are still relatively blocky and textures close to the old style. Other than these graphical upgrades, the game resembles the original. The flying is done similarly by rolling and pitching the ship and the weapons and other upgrades and items are the same as in the original(s). Additionally, Oolite brings some of its own features to the table, while still holding onto the original feel.
In the old days, ArchElite was one of the few versions that made the universe alive with police Viper fleets patrolling the space and pirates attacking other trader ships besides the player's. Now, in Oolite, you will not only see these kinds of events taking place but some other steps have been taken to liven up the place. You'll be able to visit Rock Hermits (small bases on some asteroid fields), fly ships other than the Cobra, haul cargo or passengers on assignment etc.
No Pros and Cons at this time