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SummaryA decent space sim is marred by bad presentation
The GoodDuring the intro we hear a prophecy of the Kilrathi saying that the end is near, and that a mysterious race is gonna come and wipe everything in its sights. You play as a rookie Confed pilot named Lance Casey. As a routine patrol of Confed ships in space is commencing, a mysterious jump gate opens and reveals a huge armada of alien ships. The aliens destroy everything in sight. Your job is to go up the ranks while killing any alien ships you encounter (not much of a story, huh? We'll get to it later).
The gameplay is somewhat simplistic but it certainly gets the job done. The missions are very well done, from routine search-and-destroy to escort missions to defend your cruiser to engaging in huge battles with enemy ships and armadas.
The graphical design is very well done. Enemy ships looks just like alien ships should look like and are very lifelike. This is the first and only Wing Commander game that supports the use of a 3D accelerator and the game looks very well in 3D format rather than the polygonal graphics of the earlier games.
The BadIs this a Wing Commander game? I think not. And while it's a decent sim it has no place nor any relation to the early Wing Commanders.
There are good and innovative things about this 5th entry to Wing Commander series, but unfortunately the game is marred by bad presentation and a certain lack of life that was implemented far better in its predecessors (WC3, WC4).
My biggest disappointment comes from the fact the game simply doesn't have a strong enough story and lacks the cinematic feeling and character development that made the earlier games in the series so good.
As far as the story goes, you get the usual aliens-coming-to-destroy-your-homeworld kind of stuff. That's it. You do not have any kind of interaction with the aliens (except senseless fighting with them), unlike the Kilrathi who got a storyline of their own. Basically that adds up to the fact that you can't feel anything towards the aliens, not bad nor good feelings about them. You just know they're coming to destroy you. Now that might suit some people, but certainly not me. Without understanding and interacting with your enemy, you cannot relate to him in any way, and the enemy basically becomes, well, just another race you're gonna destroy.
As far as character development goes, it's bad as well. Colonel Blair, whom we love, is not absent here, but is featured only in some small scenes and mostly in the end of the game. Instead of the indomitable Blair, the hero you are playing is a kid with no experience in combat and flight that tries to rise up the ranks and show off his flying style. Maniac has lost much of the flair that we loved in earlier games in the series, and while he is still the joker on the ship, he just doesn't make much sense anymore without you as Blair by his side trying to straighten him out. You cannot relate to any character here, simply because none are presented well enough.
This all adds up to one thing. An enormous lack of life and you basically feel like you are piloting a ship senselessly in space with no real goal or purpose.
Another rant I have here is about the absolutely lame resolution. A 1997 game should have better resolutions than 640x480. This resolution was good enough in 1995, but not anymore. This resolution makes the game appear somewhat blurry, with a lack of life and I might dare say even downright ugly at times.
The last thing here and one of the most annoying things is the fact that you can select a ship only in rare occasions. You cannot select a wingmen and/or ship armaments throughout the game. You must stick to the default presets of "take what you can get". This makes the game even more linear than it already is.
The Bottom LineAfter all is said and done this game is a disappointment for me. When I heard Origin was about to release a new game I got very excited about it, and as exciting was the wait, as unexciting was the result.
The Roberts' brothers left a legacy of space sim games like no other. Their absence is evident in this game.
While the game has some strong points as far as its gameplay aspect, its shortcomings in the way of story, character development, variety, linearity is just a bit too much to take.
If you want to enjoy this game you need to take it as is. Do not think of it as a Wing Commander game, but as another decent space sim and you just might enjoy it a little bit.