Wing Commander IV is the fourth in the Wing Commander
series from Origin Systems
. WCIV continues the story from Wing Commander III
, allowing the player to again take the role of Colonel Christopher Blair
, and guide him through a series of interactive movies and space combat missions.
After the Kilrathi War, the Confederation economy is in the dumps, and there is a general feeling of blah in the military due to defense cutbacks. It also seems that the Union of Border Worlds, a group of distant Terran worlds, is making trouble on the frontier. Colonel Blair is called up out of retirement by Tolwyn to investigate. Blair proceeds to get to the bottom of the whole affair, making some startling and disturbing discoveries. The ending is dramatic, and very well done.
WCIV is most significant for its high cost; ten to twelve million dollars (US). The massive costs were the result of the full motion video scenes that made up the interactive movie portion of the game. Chris Roberts, creator of the Wing Commander series, has moved over the course of his computer game design career to more movie-like games. In contrast with WCIII, WCIV uses real sets and was filmed on 35mm film (WCIII used green screen and video recording).
The cast of WCIV is rather star-studded. Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker) reprises the role of Christopher Blair. Malcolm McDowell returns as Admiral Tolwyn, Tom Wilson as Maniac, Jason Bernard as Captain Eisen, and John Rhys-Davies as Paladin. Robert Rusler (who was a fighter pilot during the second season of Babylon 5) plays a bad guy named Seether. Various others appear in WCIV, including Caspar van Diem, who had a single line of dialogue in the opening movie sequence.
As a movie, WCIV does a great job. High production values are evident, it is well acted, and is well written (there is very little dialogue that makes you wince due to awfulness). Indeed, there are many memorable lines and scenes, thanks mainly to seasoned actors such as Malcolm McDowell and Mark Hamill (who interact wonderfully together on screen). There is a good story that evolves, though in danger sometimes of becoming trite. WCIV has set the standard for the interactive movie genre (though the genre isn't as popular is it once was).
The space combat simulation aspect of WCIV is pretty good as well. Based on the WCIII engine (with some slight modifications), there are many new ships to fly. Though the Confederation's Arrow IV and Thunderbolt cannot be flown in WCIV (they were flyable in WCIII), the Border Worlds ships become available later in the game (and they have some nifty jury-rigged weapons and tricks too!), as well as the dreaded 'secret, unmarked fighter'... the Dragon.
There are some moderately large engagements (nothing bigger than what you'd see in a Freespace game, though), and there are enough missions to keep you going for a while. If you're really playing to see the movies though, it would be worth it to put the difficulty on 'rookie' in order to bypass the flight sequences more quickly.
Wing Commander IV will run just fine with all detail options at max on a machine as old as a P90 (make sure it has at least a 4x CD-ROM drive, though), making it a great game if you've got an old machine. It doesn't look all that bad, either.
When you login for the first time, while the text is scrolling by, type 'animal', and you'll get to play an old UNIX game. Wahoo!
You can also type 'chicken' while the text is scrolling in order to access a very special Simpsons audio mix.