Jumpgate: Evolution is NetDevil’s new MMO. The comparisons leap out at you - Stargate, Babylon 5 and even Star Wars all came to mind as we prepared to grapple with whatever crooked implementation of mouse-and-keyboard space flight they’d undoubtedly concocted. To our great surprise, on letting our stubby fingers maneuver our sprightly little fighter-jet into the infinite blackness of space, we were afforded the greatest of control. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that controlling Jumpgate: Evolution felt not just good, it felt right. NetDevil have made a phenomenally easy-to-pick-up and visually stunning space sim within the MMO model, and within a minute we felt like Malcolm Reynolds and Han Solo’s love child.
Controlling your ship is much like your average FPS, with the weighty, smooth movement and combat of FreeSpace 2 interspersed with the missions (read: quests) of an MMO that will have you hurtling all over creation. There’ll be your average “kill 10 Conflux War Sprites” quests as well as more interesting, Death Star trench-style adventures, buzzing into the heart of a gigantic intergalactic ship like an angry mosquito, and taking it down from the inside and reaping the rewards. While (unlike EVE) you can’t fly the big ships, you certainly find yourself fighting both next to and against them, usually as an agent in a bigger conflict.
Combat itself is similar to most space-sims - you lock onto a target, fly around them aiming for the best hit and fire until they’re space garbage, before picking up their loot and moving on. The game’s real-time nature makes it more interesting than some of the rest of the genre’s combat, but it’s a lot more forgiving of tiny errors within the first few hours of the game, with generous shields and remarkably unaggressive enemies easing you into the controls and the combat engine.
The modus operandi of the Jumpgate universe is accessibility and fun. NetDevil have with great pride spent months developing the keyboard control-system, as well as building in support for joystick junkies everywhere. We played with both a mouse/keyboard combo and a scary-looking thrust controller and a full-scale joystick that pivoted in our hand as we turned, and didn’t notice a large shift in usability. In fact, personally, the keyboard and mouse felt more natural - if only because it made me long for Freespace days gone by.