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Written by  :  Ashley Pomeroy (233)
Written on  :  May 28, 2006
Rating  :  1 Stars1 Stars1 Stars1 Stars1 Stars

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A tremendous disappointment

The Good

This was a very brave attempt to create a multiplayer-only game in the Star Wars universe, a few years before Quake III Arena and Unreal: Tournament made the multiplayer-only genre a convincing success. On its face it seemed like a good idea. Everybody wants to fly an X-Wing. Everybody wants to beat their friends.

I write this from the perspective of the UK, where in 1997 most people who had private internet access only had a modem, and the game was not a great hit. Doom and Quake were popular online, but that was because students could play them on university computers because Doom and Quake did not require a joystick. It was hard to smuggle a joystick into university without attracting attention. And nobody wanted to because, compared to the previous games in the series, X-Wing vs TIE Fighter was an enormous let-down.

The positive. The graphics were quite attractive in their day, adding texture maps to the simple Gouraud shading of TIE Fighter. Some of the models had an impressive sense of scale. Because this was released in the earliest days of hardware acceleration it did not have 3D card support out of the box. You had to download a patch, which tended to make the textures look blurry. As I write these words there are no screenshots for the game because no-one liked it, and also I believe it ran under DOS. I have no idea if it will run on modern hardware.

This is the "what I liked about this game" section.

The Bad

The game was not developed by the same team behind TIE Fighter, and it showed. The space combat was very poor, because the AI opponents were very obviously perfect, but slowed down slightly so as to simulate human flaws. They could sense your crosshairs and react to you, even from a great distance. They did not miss. Playing the game with bots was hilarious, because the computer opponents were so perfectly alike they would blow each other up at exactly the same time. The single-player missions were perfunctory. The missions were played individually. There was no ongoing storyline, no plot at all.

And as a multi-player game the idea was flawed. Space is not an ideal venue for multi-player action because it is empty. There is no real cover and very little eye candy. The game tried to alleviate this by including asteroid fields, but they were spartan. Because the game was set in space - unlike a traditional flight simulator - there were no clouds, mountains, no gravity. As a multiplayer experience the basic gameplay was no different to ancient 3D space shooter games such as Star Raiders, but without any of the depth.

The Bottom Line

A brave try that failed on every level. It didn't even have a Star Wars vibe; the intro movie - which was rendered rather than being animated, as per previous titles - looked like something from Star Trek, and the polish that we had come to expect from Lucasarts was completely missing. After the triumphant TIE Fighter it was a particularly unimpressive effort. With one exception the company seemed to give up on space combat games entirely after this.