Written by  :  Alex Man (32)
Written on  :  Sep 28, 2002
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Note to self: Buy a joystick

The Good

Action, action, action. And teamplay. That about sums it up. Just that feeling: dozens of ship around, fighting with each other, and you're one of them. NOT one against all, but a part of a team. You're not special, you just go out there and do your job - take out as many of the enemy's ships as you can, keep an eye on the special objectives and hope others are succesful in doing the same.

The combat itself is mostly a case of moving your joystick (or in my case, mouse) frantically around so that you get your chances of landing some hits on the evil (er) critter buzzing all around and trying to kill you. There is a bit more complicated thinking going on BEFORE you entire close combat - ie, when you approach your enemy you could try weakening him with some missiles, and you have to be really careful to dodge in the last moment before he hits you straight on with laser fire (killing you in seconds) - but once you're past that stage, it's just mindless fun, killing your controller of choice by whacking it about like crazy, trying to guess which way the enemy will go and then getting an immense feeling of satisfaction as after 2 minutes of chasing that elusive spot in your radar suddenly in 5 seconds you get 5 hits in and lower his shields to 10%. And before he gets the shields back, second-guess his move, get on his tail, equalize speeds and blow the sucker out of the sky. Then mutter to yourself: "one down, three to go", or something of that nature, and get on to the next one. If that doesn't speak FUN in very large letters to you, then you probably haven't tried it yet.

Teamplay is, to be honest, probably not that important a STRATEGIC element in the game, but for entertainment value, no Wing Commander dramatics can stand close. You've got your dopey Y-wings all sorted out? There's your wingman battling a wily A-wing 2 k's off - so switch to missiles, get your target fixed and help him out (missiles are only good for middle-distance fighting, when you're up close and personal it's lasers only). Or perhaps it's a routine clean-up mission, four of you against some X-wings and A-wings: throw out all your missiles on the A-wings, move in, engage the X-wings, bang bang, your teammate's lowered his shields to nothing, you do the rest - then you return the favor, leaving some poor X-Wing roaming about on no shields and 50% damage so that one of your wingmen gets an easy kill. Or perhaps you have your base ship with it's heavy laser fire in this mission, and can draw your enemies in towards it's range and watch them being burned alive in all the lovely beautiful GREEN (that's your allied color) laser fire. In short, winning in this game is a total blast (on losing, read the Bad section).

And another thing which makes this game different from WC (that's Wing Commander not Warcraft) is the general mission design: three words, Matter of Fact. No soap opera going on here - exactly like the actual mission gameplay, the grand plot is just the Evil Empire getting on with its evil business. Settle a civil war, destroy a rebel outpost, defend the building of your own outpost in order to battle space piracy. And it all goes about slowly, one engagement after another as you gradually take the conflict in your hands, or as your outpost is gradually constructed, or as you gradually move in on the rebel's location. Realism rather than drama, and WC fans will probably be bored but for me, it just adds to the immersion effect. Not to mention the schematic mission briefings, the weathered old pilot with his wise (and practically useful) words of advice, the emperor's agent with his "special tasks" and the stars and secret tatoos you get for it all. No big deal as far as rewards go (certainly not if compared with FMV cutscenes) but that's what this game is about - not the loud pomp of saving the galaxy, but the quiet satisfaction of killing 8 Y-wings in one mission.

The Bad

Well, the flipside of the coin is that though the winning totally kicks ass, the losing is REALLY REALLY irritating. Your ship is just as vulnerable as all the others, so if you have a stroke of bad luck (enemy getting on your tail), within 5 seconds the mission might be over for you. And you have to replay it from the start. This is okay with the fun missions - I don't really mind going out against all those hordes of Rebel small craft cannon fodder one more time - but if the mission we're talking about is one of those buggeries with a "twist" in it, then it gets really annoying. The "twist" I'm talking about here is generally along these lines: you have a weakling ship to watch out for WHILE you're battling an armada of enemy ships, or you have big huge enemy ships that kill you in approximately 0.005 seconds time if you don't watch out or hammer them out with missiles right from the start (which isn't very easy to do). Or, most absolutely worst of all, you have a field of about 20 floating mines which are nearly impossible to target and which continously fire lasers at you. And I'm talking NORMAL DIFFICULTY here! If that's normal difficulty, then who needs enemies?

The Bottom Line

Splashes of laser fire on an X-Wing's warm twisting wet body. The crossfires turning blood red on the enemy battle cruiser. You shields down to nothing and suddenly the screen turning green from allied fire. If dated (though servicable) graphics don't bug you, those are the things you'll be eating and drinking and having sex with for the next two or three full days after buying this game. Good luck.