By Steven Bilodeau
I've been waiting
for this game for a long time and I am most certainly NOT disappointed.
Wing Commander: Prophecy is the fifth in Origin's space combat series,
one of the most successful in computer gaming. Wing Commander games combine
blistering combat action with carefully written cinematic cut scenes to
propel the story.
The first three titles
in the series placed you in the midst of a Terran war with the cat-like
Kilrathi. In WC3 your character was Christopher Blair, played on-screen
by Mark Hamill. The game concluded with the defeat of the Kilrathi. In
WC4, Blair returned from retirement to assist in a Terran civil war.
Those two games introduced
full motion video shot "Hollywood style", the intention being
to create an interactive movie. Origin succeeded in spades; both were
superb games. However, the fourth game was criticized as being a movie
with some gameplay rather than what it should have been first and foremost:
designers acknowledged this and have returned the focus to gameplay in
Prophecy. They didn't even call it "Wing Commander 5", wanting
to send out a clear signal that this one would be different.
Now the Terran Confederation
is faced with a massive invasion from insect aliens. These invaders are
brutally aggressive and have already nearly annihilated the Kilrathi even
before we Terrans get involved. The story is once again presented in high
quality filmed footage. The interactive nature of this component has been
nixed; you don't choose questions or conversation paths anymore. Now,
you just watch the story unfold before you. Though this sounds like a
major deletion, it really doesn't hurt the whole experience.
The story branches
in the preceding games were often perfunctory; it didn't really matter
which path you took the story - it had to play out a certain way. With
the new format, the script is tighter (and fits on three CDs instead of
Mark Hamill returns,
but this time he is your commander, not your character. Instead, you play
a rookie stationed on the supercarrier "Midway". The acting
isn't bad, and I enjoyed the scripted story. It is, however, a little
too similar to Starship Troopers. It would've been nice if they could
have come up with something a little more original.
The game play is phenomenal
from a visual perspective. The advances in graphics are so good that I
could stop the review right now and just fill the page with screen shots.
There are details in the ships, weapons and explosions that have become
possible because of the power of the Pentium processor. When you play
the game with a 3D accelerator, your jaw will drop in awe. The missiles
trail smoke that actually looks like smoke! Ships are richly detailed
as are the weapons, explosions and backgrounds. Shields flare from weapons
fire; sparks trail from damaged ships. You have to see how good it all
looks to appreciate the work that's gone into this game. To top it all
off, the game moves at a good speed. The program has been written so that
it performs at top quality even with this kind of detail.
Sound effects are
enhanced by Dolby Surround and combine with the musical soundtrack to
complete the cinematic effect.
are a few glitches that you may notice. The movies are very highly compressed
on the CD to save space, which causes them to look a little muddier and
blocky than they should. I don't think that the aliens fight as smart
as the enemy does in TIE Fighter, but they're intelligent enough to keep
you on your toes.
Prophecy is a single-player
game; there are no multiplayer options. This shouldn't deter you from
getting it, though, since it is still highly replayable . There are a
number of difficulty levels to keep you challenged and the story branches
based on your success or failure in key battles. The missions are quite
varied, too, ranging from straight dogfighting, to recognizance, to strategic
strikes on enemy carriers. You can't choose your ship, but there are more
of them and a better assortment of weaponry. Wait until you see the swarmer
missile break apart and attack three or four ships at the same time!
Even though I have
dozens of other games to play, when I finished Prophecy I immediately
started it all over again. It was so much fun, so immersive, so pretty
to look at, that I didn't want it to be over. Any game player who enjoys
combat action has got to get this game. Wing Commander: Prophecy has set
a new standard.
is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. You can find more of his columns
can be reached via e-mail at StevenB@msn.com.
And for more computer news, visit JournalExtra, the World Wide Web site
of The Edmonton Journal, at http://www.edmontonjournal.com.
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