OH GOD IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN! Last time it didn’t matter, I was only eleven and had oodles of time to spare, but now, I have exams, I have a social life, I have to eat and sleep occasionally, I don’t have time to get addicted to this game.
I have just purchased the re-vamped (1997) version of X-Wing (1993), this version replaces the old, very clunky graphics, with nice shiny new clear graphics which make you feel much less like you are on your computer wasting time, and more like you are Luke Skywalker defending the galaxy from the evil Empire in his X-Wing starfighter.
X-Wing is a truly amazing game from the start, made in 1993 by Lucasarts it was a revolution of software, nothing like it had ever been seen before. It places you in the Rebel Alliance as a Cadet Starfighter Pilot, trains you up, then sends you off to battle the Empire in a series of very realistic, very hard missions, over 120 in all.
When you first load up the game you are treated to an impressive introduction, although the graphics are not as good as today’s, the atmosphere is conveyed superbly as you see the brave rebel ships flying against Evil Imperial TIE fighters.. The scenes are very simply made, with jerky animation, not that it matters because it is still very impressive.
Then the game takes you to the Flagship Independent, forget menus and icons, you are on the independent, instead of buttons you see a space port with doors leading to different areas, but first you must register. IF you try to go through the door without registering the guard points his blaster at you and insists, “you must register,” in a military voice. So you type in your name, anything you like, they will even let you in if your name is IMPERIALSPY or DARTHVADER. But nevertheless is surprisingly effective for getting you into the game.
Click on a door and you are shown a short cut scene of your shuttle going to either a specific ship where your tour of duty begins, or a “Secret Rebel Training Ship,” these scenes are calm transit scenes, but are none the less amusing to watch, at leas t the first few times, then you can turn them off.
Basic training is a very good way to get you used to the ships. For each play controllable craft (X-Wing, Y-Wing, A-wing and B-Wing) there is a course to fly. The course consists of large platforms with high or low arches on them, (usually three), and some targets that shoot at you. They are arranged in order, so that you fly under 110 arches per course. The courses get more and more difficult as you progress, requiring sharp turns, expert shooting and energy management to get you through under the time limit. If you complete them you get a little patch with a picture of the relevant ship on your uniform. Although, even expert pilots struggle to complete the courses under par.,
If you feel up to the challenge there are a number of “Historical Combat” missions you can fly in a “Training Simulator,” these are missions that teach you the basics of Dog Fighting, recon, and other essential skills. There are sic for each ship and a set of bonus missions as well. They start reasonably easy, but get very difficult. Even supposedly easy mine clearing missions are hard enough to take several goes. But you are rewarded with a patch on your uniform for completing a mission successfully.
If you clear the ”Historical Combat,” you proceed to “Tour Of Duty.” Actually it is only advised that you complete the Historical Combat missions first, you don’t technically have to. Tour Of Duty puts you in “real” combat, anything from inspecting enemy Star Destroyers, to dog fighting TIE Interceptors. They follow a plot line with various missions building on one overall objective, they are not completely random. Every so often you will be treated to a short, but atmospheric cut scene where you might be presented with a special medal, or simply plot advancement, Darth Vader at one point chokes to death a rebel sympathiser for instance.
The game play is outstanding; the missions require a lot of tactical thought so the objectives can be accomplished. Sometimes you will come very, very close to completing a mission only to have the Imperial escape at the ast minute, other times it might seem impossible, but somehow you manage it. The game is embellished with little touches like you can order wing-men to attack a target, keep away from a target, go home, or cover you. You can eject or go to hyperspace whenever you want (it ends the mission, but is fun to watch). One brilliant touch is when your ship runs out of shield, if you get hit in certain places things stop working, and the cockpit breaks. Sometimes you might lose engine power and end up a sitting duck in space, sometimes you might lose shields, or lasers, or communications, or manoeuvrability, all of which can spell doom.
If your ship is destroyed in a real mission on of three things happens. One, you eject safely, in which case you will either be picked up by the Rebels, placed in a Bacta vat and rehabilitiated or the Empire will pick you up, in which case you meet Darth Vader on board the Executor, and he wants to, “discus the location of the secret Rebel Base.” On the other hand sometimes the auto-eject is broken and you die, in that case you watch your coffin being dumped out of ship into the orbit of a planet below.
All the ships are different. The X-Wing has good manoeuvrability, good speed, an average hull strength and average shields. The A-wing has excellent speed and manoeuvrability, but low shields and hull strength. The Y-Wing is hell to fly since it has bad manoeuvrability, is very slow, but has excellent shields and excellent hull strength. The B-Wing is fairly fast, has excellent manoeuvrability, and is very durable. One interesting factor is you have “limited” ammunition, in other words you have to chard your lasers. This drains speed, so you can redirect power to the engines if you wish, the same for shields, to charge shields you sap energy from the engines. Getting the right combination for the situation is one of the skills you have to learn.
The sound is excellent. I know, I know, you should hear sound in space, but forgoing that the explosions are loud and impressive, the scream of the TIE fighters is a classic and the music is impressive. It is the original score from the movies, but there are different versions. If nothing is happening you might get a slow tune playing, but as soon as the action begins the music picks up on it and you are suddenly dog fighting to fast and exiting music. When you lose a mission the Imperial March plays, but when you win, the Star Wars theme is heard in all it’s glory.
The computer’s AI is ok, it’s nothing like human, but the game was made in 1993. Still, the missions are hard enough that if you can’t get one Top Ace TIE-Fighter, because it keeps dodging you, you could lose. Worse though is when you lose because of the stupidity of your computer generated wing-men, who will occasionally fly a little too close to a Star Destroyer in an A-Wing. But none of this distracts form the amazingly addictive game play.
The graphics are ok, not brilliant but ok. The original version was very squarey, sometimes so bad you couldn’t tell exactly what you were firing at. This version is much smoother, it looks almost as good as the movies, and flying down the Death Star trench with TIE fighters on your tail, and one proton torpedo left, with all power to front deflector screens, never looked better,.
Hugely addictive I’d recommend this game to anyone with a joystick. The sheer thrill of flying though a stars cape, and blasting TIE fighters is incredible, and when you finally have all of the patches on your uniform, and every single medal, the joy is indescribable. Be prepared to lose your friends, family, sleep, food and job because of this game.
Oh, and may the force be with you.