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Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger

aka: Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger, Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger for Macintosh
Moby ID: 826
DOS Specs
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Add-on (unofficial) Included in Special Edition

Description official descriptions

The war against the Kilrathi is going badly for the Confederation. Its flagship, the Concordia, has been destroyed, battles are lost on all fronts. War hero Colonel Christopher Blair is transferred to the old carrier Victory. Take the role of Blair and ensure the success of the Confederation's last-ditch attempt for victory: the destruction of the Kilrathi homeworld.

Wing Commander III has the usual mix of space battles and cinematic storytelling. Changes from the first two games include SVGA graphics, the use of texture-mapped polygons instead of bitmaps for spaceflight sequences, and real Hollywood actors appearing in the cinematic scenes.

Spellings

  • 银河飞将3:虎之心 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (DOS version)

232 People (230 developers, 2 thanks) · View all

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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 89% (based on 38 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 111 ratings with 8 reviews)

We sure waited a long time for this...

The Good
It was a solid game. We all waited nearly four years for the cliffhanger at the end of Special Ops 2 to be resolved, with mostly mediocre WC games coming out in the interim. At the time, the graphics were the best ever made, and the ability to get right up to a CapShip and fly down its length (or even inside it, Anakin-style) were wonderful. Plus, the use of the Strike Commander terrain engine for ground missions added depth that hadn't been there previously. Plus, of course, there were the ground-breaking cinematics with the best bunch of actors ever assembled for an "interactive movie." (and the full-sized anamatronics for the Kilrathi were impressive, even if they moved a bit too much like the Skeksis)

The Bad
It didn't feel like Wing Commander. The missions were fun, and generally had enough variety to be interesting, but somehow the tweak of gameplay that made WC distinctive was lost when they switched to polygons. (and never regained) Also, the script to the movie was more than a bit loose - it felt like they had two possible plotlines, and instead of picking the strongest, they strung them together with an extremely rough transition midway through. And, more bizarrely, a major plot twist (involving a surprise defection) is never explained - they decided to cut out the scene that let it all make sense.

The Bottom Line
Definately a turning-point in the computer industry; the first "interactive movie" style game that anyone took seriously and the first that the actors involved could list on their resumes without shame. Due to the somewhat dated gameplay, it's probably best played for the sake of the movie, but entertaining for that purpose.

DOS · by WizardX (116) · 2000

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.

DOS · by MojoHelperMonkey (39) · 2005

This game is the best of the series...

The Good
Strangely enough when I started playing this game I became immersed in the plot, the characters and the cool FMV. It took me back to when I first played Wing Commander on a friend's Amiga. I guess that when I played it solid for eight hours one evening, flying several missions and getting right inside the spirit of the game (something, with the exception of Wing Commander 4) I have not been able to recreate in terms of experience since that the true meaning of Interactive Movie became known to me personally. The game allows you to select various degrees of difficulty and the keyboard (the most important part) settings were at once intuitive and sensible. I had hoped that somewhere a gamer would create a game with WC3 compatble key stokes, similar to "Wordstar compatible" keystrokes. I miss this in other games. The fact it runs in DOS meant that I could play it full window under Windows 95 on my P75 with 24MB ram and 1MB VRAM card, unlike todays monstrousities which would be happier running on a server with a very fast CPU and tons of RAM, not to mention a graphics card with an amount of Ram of biblical proportions.

The Bad
The fact that it crashed when I had done four missions straight off and hadn't bothered to save it. The fact that I broke the joystick pounding away at Kilrathi. The fact that it it didn't like certain sound cards, and because it was a DOS based game took a dim view of Windows 98 attempts to "interpret" how it should run. I also found some of the missions truly insane, such as the one where if you don't cloak you go into an endless loop of Kilrathi fighters popping out of nowhere, etc. Some of the plot was a bit mediocre and when replaying, unless you had a suitable save game entry point you had to do the whole lot again to get to whichever mission you wanted.

The Bottom Line
An excellent DOS based space combat sim with cool effects, FMV and a decent storyline (unlike the Prophecy series which was just plain (a) boring and (b) virtually impossible to play on the machine I was using. If you play just one game in the Wing Commander series this is the one to get. Rec Sys Req: P90, 16MB Ram,1 MB graphics card, SB 16 P&P sound card,Port 220, IRQ5 DMA 1

DOS · by Richard Carrington (3) · 2000

[ View all 8 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Free on Origin chirinea (47516) Sep 5, 2014
A question about EA Classics release. Virgil (8563) Jan 3, 2008

Trivia

Actors

Charlton Heston was initially approached by Origin to portray the role of admiral Tolwyn, however several monetary drawbacks (such as spending nearly $15,000 on the purchase & processing of 16 mm film only to discover later that videotape served their digitizing needs better) made Heston's fee of $100,000 less than attractive.

Budget

At the time, it was the most expensive video game ever made, at approximately $3 million. It was dethroned by its sequel, Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom.

Bugs (Spoiler)

This game has an interesting example of how bugs can critically hinder gameflow. As most people know, once you've defeated Hobbes and Thrakhath the game is pretty much over, since the trench run is a piece of cake. This wasn't intended to be so, since the cloaking device is supposed to function only once. However a bug exists that resets the cloak once you enter Kilrah. In reality you should have been going through the trench while avoiding endless swarms of fighters, which is a really difficult thing to do.

Of a somewhat less importance but equally exemplary is the pretty undramatic finale for both Hobbes and Thrakhath. In reality both of them send you a final message when you blow them up, however you can't hear them while playing normally. You've got to pause the game just as they blow up, and for some weird reason they'll play just after the explosion sfx dies out.

CD-ROM

While the manual and test program clearly state you need a double-speed drive to play the game, over 90% of the video sequences play just fine with a single-speed drive.

Cut scenes (Spoiler)

Several FMV scenes were cut from the final release of the game, including several newscasts from anchorwoman Barbara Miles (the one that appears in the opening sequence), three rendered action sequences, and most importantly of all the so called "Hobbes explanation" a scene in which Hobbes leaves Blair a holographic message explaining his betrayal.

This scene appears on the 3DO version of the game but was left out of the PC release because of lack of space (no one has ever explained why they removed such a critical scene and left others which were of absolutely no importance), however all these scenes appeared later on other sources (the behind the scenes interactive cd, etc...) and are all available for download on several sites around the 'net.

Also removed from the game was a scene which supposedly played in the final stretch of the game (when you reached the first secret asteroid base) and only if some key wingmen were with you at this point. In the scene Blair addressed his wingmen and prepared them for the final fight. It is unknown if this scene was filmed or not, but it does appear on the master script included on the Behind the scenes CD.

Novel

There's a novelization of the game published by Baen Books.

References

  • The phrase "Atomic Batteries to Power, Turbines to Speed'" listed at the bottom of the pre-flight checklist displayed before each flight is a reference to the old, campy Batman TV show from the 60's. Everytime the Dynamic Duo would get in the Batmobile in the Batcave, Robin would say this line (after buckling up like a good passenger, of course).
  • Besides the standard manual, the game came with a booklet called Victory Streak - Your personalized guide to the TCS Victory, which gives new recruits all kinds of background info. In the back of the Victory Streak there's a section with HoloVid reviews, one review is for the HoloVid "Hail SHODAN":

Hail SHODAN radiates with cyberpunk action and the good looks of Clint Mason. After streetwise hacker James Finn (Mason) accepts the challenge to punch deck into Citadel research station, he unknowingly removes the logic systems behind the station's artificial intelligence. Finn finds himself trapped in a steel jungle with nothing but his good looks and a few electro-magnetic grenades. The furious pace of this game-based HoloVid will send you reeling through the aisles... the ending will astonish you. (2.24 hours) ***

Shodan is of course the A.I. from the game System Shock.

Special Edition

The Special Edition was a special release only available trough a select few retail outlets (like Sam's club). It includes all the original documentation plus the T-shirt, the film canister packaging, and a "behind the scenes cd" which is not the one included on the premiere edition, it's actually the VHS tape documentary encoded as an avi file.

Story branches and endings

Unlike most games, there's actually an entire branch in the story that leads to a so-called failure ending aka The (Last) Battle of Earth. Failure on some plot-critical missions will lead the storyline into the Proxima system, where confederation forces fight a losing battle; retreating to Sol in an unwinnable scenario. Obviously since the activation of the dialog/videos for this branch require LOSING, it's probably a minority of players (or people who download from fansites) who have seen all this, flown the missions and most would probably just restore from a saved game. There are also three separate "good" endings, depending on your choice of who to befriend.

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • May 1995 (Issue #130) – Action Game of the Year
    • May 1995 (Issue #130) – Best Male On-Screen Performance (for Tim Wilson's performance as Maniac)
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #54 in the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #9 Most Innovative Computer Game
    • May 1997 (Issue #154) - Introduced into the Hall of Fame
  • Mega Fun
    • 1996 - PlayStation Game of the Year
  • PC Gamer
    • April 2000 - #30 in the "All-Time Top 50 Games" poll
    • April 2005 - #48 in the "50 Best Games of All Time" list
  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1995 – Biggest Hype in 1994

Information also contributed by Kasey Chang, PCGamer77, Ray Soderlund, Roedie, WildKard, WizardX and Zovni

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Terok Nor.

Windows added by Picard. PlayStation added by Quapil. 3DO added by quizzley7.

Additional contributors: Trixter, MAT, CaesarZX, Patrick Bregger, ZeTomes.

Game added February 5, 2000. Last modified March 19, 2024.