Wing Commander (CD32) (Second Review)


Title		Wing Commander (CD32) (Second Review)
Game Type	3D Combat Sim
Company		Origin
Players		1
Compatability	AGA (With Patch)
Submission	Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer

Review
This review applies to the CD32 version of Wing Commander used in
conjunction with the Wing Commander patch on Aminet
(game/patch/WCPatch.lha) which allows you to run the game on a 1200 or
4000, taking advantage of  fast ram, faster processors, and an improved
Chunky to Planar (C2P) routine. All this while playing the 256 colour
version of the game, previously only available to CD32 owners. On top of
this the patch allows various options to be chosen, like slowing things
down if your processor runs the game too quickly, being indestructible,
destroying targetted enemy ships at a keystroke, and even the ability to
use the original C2P routine to see how much slower things were.

In Wing Commander you play the role of a fighter pilot who must, with the
rest of Earth`s military forces, remove the feline Kilrathi invaders from
the Vega sector of space. The battle is fought through a series of
missions within various star systems. After completing one set of
missions, you move on to another system, but which one it is will depend
on how well you have performed. This makes the game something more than a
purely linear experience, and provides greater replay value with the
possibility that events will differ dramatically.

When you first load the game you are placed automatically on your
squadron's flight simulator machine and you can enjoy taking down a few
virtual Kilrathi in their virtual ships. From here you have access to the
bar, where from a static screen you can choose who you wish to listen to,
(conversation is pretty one-sided) about general gossip and the
occasional useful combat tactic.

Leaving the bar takes you to another static screen, this time the sleeping
quarters where you can save or load games, exit to AmigaDOS, or go to the
next mission briefing.

The mission briefings are quite well done, with close-ups of various
pilots, your commander, and a sequence of map screens. It obviously pays
to read through the information carefully here, and have a clear idea of
your mission objective. The missions themselves vary quite nicely, with
reconnaissance, escort duty, seek and destroy missions and variations on
these themes. Usually though they follow a fairly routine pattern, you
leave your carrier, the Tiger's Claw, you travel to the various waypoints
with the autopilot, engage any hostile ships that you are supposed to, and
return to the Claw. Sometimes you will encounter mines or asteroids, which
can become very frustrating, particuarly as they can just do your ship
enough damage to make winning the following engagement at the next
waypoint, extremely hard.

The combat itself does not look amazingly impressive. 3D graphics have
come quite a way since 1993 and it would be great if someone could
increase the resolution of the various craft that you encounter.
Wing Commander is fairly unique in appearance for this sort of game
because it uses a series of sprites rather than polygons to portray the
various ships. I suppose either technique has it's pros and cons, suffice
to say that things work quite well, but the graphics are unlikely to
impress people very much these days. Once you get into a dogfight though,
you are likely to forget all about these limitations and concentrate on
blowing your opposition straight to hell. The Kilrathi ships, like yours,
vary dramatically, and their flight characteristics, armament and
vulnerability are quite distinctive. You will decide fairly early on, for
example, that it is highly inadvisable to attack certain fighters in a
head on run. Their firepower makes this virtually suicidal. other ships
are less deadly and can be dispatched with relative ease. There are also
capital ships which require huge amounts of punishment before they explode
in a mass of fiery sprites, though once you've destroyed their fighters,
they shouldn't prove too much of a problem. Your ship comes with various
missiles and energy weapons, and can scan a targetted vessel giving a
useful status display. A range of different views are available, and there
is also a comms system where certain messages can be transmitted to nearby
ships.
 The missions themselves are very do-able, and most will not present too
much of a problem. Occasionally though, you'll come across a slightly
different situation where you have to think things out carefully and be
prepared to just keep trying. One mission in particular involving the
protection of a captured Kilrathi cruiser is particuarly tricky, and I
wasn't able to complete this without first asking advice from the
comp.sys.amiga.games community. I didn't want to cheat and use the trainer
options on the patch to get past this mission, but neither did I want to
fail, as this causes you to go to a different system, filled with the
dreaded asteroids.

Sound effects are fairly good and the music is particuarly ambitious.
Various pieces accompany your efforts, but in combat the music actually
reflects events, so if you suddenly notice the music changing from an
exciting pace to something altogether more sorrowful, you'll know that the
Support vessel you were supposed to be guarding has just been destroyed.
It's a very good effort, but when you're continually getting killed on
certain missions, the music and the reloading sequence can become
tiresome. I actually found it quicker to reset and reload the game rather
than clicking through the funeral sequence, waiting to get back into the
action.

On completion of a mission your commander will debrief you, and if you've
done well, you may be promoted, awarded a medal, or transferred to a more
prestigous squadron.

I played my way through the game over a few weeks, and looking back I've
had a pretty good time. It's a very different approach to Frontier or
Elite, there is no real feeling of an alternate reality with
seemingly endless ways of playing, instead Wing Commander concentrates on
being a fast paced action sim with some variety in the storyline, while
going through the motions of being partly an Adventure game (not very
convincingly) and finally has a definite objective which you must strive
to achieve. It's enjoyable, playable stuff, some of the dogfights are
genuinely exciting and reminiscent of scenes from the film "Top Gun"
except the setting here is in space. If that sounds like something you
might enjoy, then get hold of this game. It shouldn't be too difficult
because at one point this game, along with Dangerous Streets, was included
in the CD32 pack so presumably there are a lot of copies out there
somewhere.

One final point, if you allow the intro just to run, the authors of the
patch have added quite a lot of amusing text, which is definitely worth
sitting through once.




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