Written by  :  Anatole (61)
Written on  :  Jun 15, 2001
Platform  :  PlayStation

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This is a game?

The Good

Be aware, that when you buy Wing Commander IV, you are not getting a game trying to be a movie. You are getting a movie trying to be a game. So let's talk about the movie.

The plot follows Christopher Blair (nee Bluehair) as he is called out of retirement to put down a rebellion by the Border Colonies. Eventually, he winds up joining the terrorists and attempting to stop the mad General Tolwyn, and his secret force of pilots wielding devastating bioweapons.

The game essentially features about 20 minutes of 'choose your own adventure' type interactive movie watching, followed by a briefing, and then a mission. Overall, the transition between movie and game is obvious (no MGS-style smooth cuts here) and it's easy to see where the production values went. A cornucopia of B-list sci-fi actors are assembled, including Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, John Rhys-Davies, and Tom Wilson, all playing the only characters they ever seem to play (weary hero, psycho, well-meaning ally, annoying moron). And while the sound is excellent stereo, the video quality is, well, CD-level.

I must say, the movie is not bad by any means, the plot isn't original and Chris Roberts' direction seldom moves past the 'competent' level, but it would be a good popcorn flick if you didn't have to grab a controller every few minutes to make a decision or fly a ship. And it's definitely better then Wing Commander the movie (that movie NEVER HAPPENED, you hear me?)

The Bad

Game? Oh yes, the game. As I said, it's easy to see where the money was spent, and the end result is a gaming experience that is just plain bad, the console equivalent to Ultima IX. But here it's not bugs, it's simply a very poor engine. The low-resolution of the PSX results in a grainy HUD that could have been done better on a Vectrex. All the ship models are laughably pixilated and have ridiculously low polygon counts, especially the cap ships. And trying to map a game designed for a PC keyboard onto an eight-button controller just does not work. Cockpit communication is almost impossible thanks to the lousy control, very frustrating because two of the game's most major plot decisions have to be made in-flight.

To add insult to injury, invulnerability is not a cheat, but a gameplay option right off the top, which is Origin admitting the only reason we would play through the game would be to get to the next bit of movie, and letting us stroll trough these sections as quick as possible. Ugh.

The Bottom Line

If you want to see Mark Hamill in a B-grade sci-fi movie, save yourself $36 and go rent Guyver. This series peaked in it's second iteration, and it's sad to see another Origin franchise go out with a limp.