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Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (DOS)

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4.0
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Written by  :  MojoHelperMonkey (39)
Written on  :  Aug 16, 2005
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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Summary

A worthy successor to the Wing Commander franchise

The Good

With the large, multi-million dollar budget for this game, the cinematics are obviously top notch. The acting by the large cast of professional actors is right on the money, as are the special effects and digitalized set pieces. I can remember watching the introduction to this game, and for the first time I felt CGI in computer games was able to match up to Babylon 5 and Star Trek on television. There was obviously a lot of effort put into directing the movie portions of the game, kudos to Chris Roberts. The characters are convincing (with the exception of Ginger Allen) and most situations are plausible and interesting.

The story is also of professional writing caliber. Throughout the game the player really gets a feeling for the state of despair that has befallen humanity. The various weapons and strategies employed by the humans against their Kilrathi aggressors give you a sense of grandeur and purpose, you really feel like you are a part of this war. Without spoiling an plot-lines, there are quite a few surprises in store for the player, including a betrayal that really will strike a nerve with longtime Wing Commander players.

The ships in the game are a departure from previous Wing Commander games, but I didn't find this distracting at all. Instead of the more colorful, fanciful fighters of Wing Commander 1 and 2, the ships of Wing Commander 3 have a more washed out and used look to them. They also appear as more practical, with few superfluous edges and extra parts. A good example is the new Thunderbolt, which basically just looks like a big V with a cockpit. Players could go either way with this, some may dislike the new fighters, but I found them acceptable.

The fighting portion of the game does not disappoint on any level. Finally we were given polygons to destroy in space! There may have been a game or two before WC3 that used full polys in space, but WC3 perfected it. The physics are similar to other space sims, very relaxed without a shred of Newtonian realism, but that suits the game nicely. The detailed ships and polygon hit detection give you real sense of dogfighting, and the satisfactory explosions look very nice as well. Not only that, but you can now fly right through the landing bays of some of the capital ships! How great is that?

The graphics in the game were ahead of their time at its release, and I believe they still hold up nicely today.

The Bad

There are aspects to Wing Commander 3 that I thought were annoying or downright stupid. First off, some of the situations Christopher Blair is put into are ridiculous. A scene where the player has to choose which girl to make out with really doesn't belong in the game, I found it juvenille and silly. The whole romance part of the game, while successful in both previous Wing Commander games, falls flat here without Angel from Wing Commander 1 and 2. While I can see why Chris Roberts wanted to include it in the game, I don't think he handled it all that well.

Part of that problem is Ginger Allen. She plays a love interest, but not very well. Her acting is quite flat and unconvincing and cliched. I was not impressed with her performance.

Gameplay wise, the ground attack missions were unimpressive as well. While I applaud the developers for attempting the ambitious task of including a bit of atmospheric fighting in a space sim, it really doesn't work out too well. The graphics for the planet surface come across as bland and textureless, while the physics of flying seem to not have changed from the transfer from space to atmosphere. It would be a difficult thing to do correctly, and as it is, it feels quite tacked on.

The grey-scale in the game seems to be quite high as well. The entire game has a grey/blue haze to it that I found annoying. Space is not black in this Wing Commander universe, its blueish. This also includes your cockpit as well, everything has this hazy blueish grey color to it. I always wondered at the purpose of this, it was fixed in Wing Commander 4, which used parts of the same engine. I don't know.

The last quibble I have with the game involves a very important plot-line spoiler. Thus, I will just say towards the end there is a betrayal that, while emotionally intense, seems to come out of no-where. I read that the explanation for this betrayal had to be cut from the game due to time constraints, but dang, what a crummy thing to remove from the game.

The Bottom Line

Wing Commander 3 is a continuation of the Wing Commander series of games. It's a space combat simulator/action game in which you play the role of Christopher Blair, a hero (or villain depending on what you believe) of the war with the catlike Kilrathi. While the gameplay consists mostly of what you would expect from a spaceflight simulator, where this game really shines is in it's acting and story telling.

The game features a full cast of professional characters, spearheaded by ex-Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill. Other notables are Malcom Mcdowell, John-Rys-Davies, and Tom Wilson from Back to the Future fame. In between missions, and occasionally during them, the player is treated to some of the greatest FMV (full motion video) scenes ever created for a computer game. Through the multi-million dollar budget, the developers tell the tale of humanity struggling against the ruthless Kilrathi. Humanity is becoming desperate, and throughout the game smaller subplots evolve between characters as well.

Wing Commander 3 was a new standard in space sims when it came out, and I'm a firm believer that no game, save for its own sequel and Freespace 2, have ever topped it. While some say Wing Commander 4 was a good movie interspersed with an average game, Wing Commander 3 most definitely is a good game intersperse with a good story.