Elite: Dan­ger­ous

Space is big – re­ally, re­ally big… your Mac must be a Tardis!

Mac Format - - MAC GAMES -

£39.99 Devel­oper Fron­tier De­vel­op­ments, elitedan­ger­ous.com Re­quire­ments OS X 10.10 or later, 2.3GHz quad-core In­tel Core i5 pro­ces­sor, in­ter­net con­nec­tion, see web­site for graph­ics cards The fourth game in a se­ries that stretches back to the mid-’80s and the Ap­ple II, Elite: Dan­ger­ous gives you a space­ship and a 1:1 recre­ation of our gal­axy pop­u­lated by non-playable char­ac­ters and, if you wish, other play­ers. From then on, it’s up to you whether you carry out mis­sions, look for a fight, trade com­modi­ties or go min­ing – all so you can buy a big­ger ship and re­peat the cy­cle.

It’s a game of space­ships and they look won­der­ful – all chunky me­tal, gleam­ing weapons – and space sta­tions look in­cred­i­bly de­tailed. There’s a real feel­ing of so­lid­ity to them, es­pe­cially when they crash. You can’t get out of them to ex­plore, although this may be im­ple­mented in the fu­ture, and us­ing the ex­ter­nal cam­era shows an empty pi­lot’s seat de­spite you clearly pos­sess­ing a body in-cock­pit.

There’s a choice of two han­dling mod­els: the de­fault is to have Flight As­sist on, which gives you han­dling like an in­ter­stel­lar P-51, while turn­ing it off lets you fly in a more re­al­is­tic New­to­nian fash­ion, which takes a bit of prac­tise to master but is enor­mously sat­is­fy­ing to pull off.

Ships have hard­points for mount­ing weapons and in­ter­nal bays for shields, scan­ners and other equip­ment, all of which you can up­grade – but there’s a trade-off be­tween power, cost and weight that pre­vents you from max­ing out ev­ery­thing at once. Power man­age­ment be­comes a fac­tor once you’re fly­ing, with poor choices leav­ing you gasp­ing for breath as your life sup­port shuts down.

The game can feel empty, es­pe­cially when you get away from the pop­u­lated sys­tems, and has been crit­i­cised since its launch on Win­dows for be­ing wide but shal­low. Ver­sion 1.3 of the game ad­dressed this by adding fac­tions jock­ey­ing for power. There’s al­ways been a plot of some sort in the Elite: Dan­ger­ous sand­box, in­volv­ing the trans­fer of power in the Em­pire as the em­peror falls ill, but this new con­tent makes it big­ger and more ex­plicit. Prove your loy­alty to your cho­sen power and you’ll re­ceive bonuses and new weapons; de­fect

Space­ships look won­der­ful – all chunky me­tal, gleam­ing weapons – and space sta­tions look in­cred­i­bly de­tailed

and your erst­while master will hunt you down. Ig­nore all this and strike out on your own and you’ll still have a great time.

For Elite: Dan­ger­ous to look near its best, you’ll need a rea­son­ably re­cent Mac with a ded­i­cated graph­ics card. We could play on a 2011 21-inch iMac, but get­ting it to play smoothly meant keep­ing the set­tings very low – hardly the full ex­pe­ri­ence. Per­for­mance was good on our 2014 high-end 15-inch MacBook Pro, nat­u­rally.

Elite is a tri­umph for devel­oper Fron­tier. Va­por­is­ing a stranger, run­ning a load of stolen ex­plo­sives into the black mar­ket for a mas­sive profit or team­ing up with friends to hunt space pi­rates never felt so close to re­al­ity. Ian Even­den

In space, ev­ery­body can see you go BOOM even if they can’t hear it.

You need to strike a bal­ance with ship up­grades, rather than just max­ing out ev­ery­thing.

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