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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Space Sim Shooter

 

Developer / Publisher

Origin

 

Released

1990

 

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Wing Commander

 

wing commander         wing commander

Wing Commander. If you hear that and think of that tragedy of a movie, well I'm sorry but then you obviously didn't spend enough of your time in front of a computer with your joystick in the early '90s. When it first came out my computer was WAY TOO SLOW to handle it and I spend the better part of '90 and '91 at my friend Ryan's house playing it. I'm sure his mother got as sick of seeing me as she did her own children. Anyways I digress, but this was the precursor to all the great space-sims of the 90's and every game that came after it took at least one of the numerous innovations and made it their own (the twenty or so playable camera angles, camera recordings of the flight, in-game simulators and so on and so forth). This was Chris Roberts' masterpiece, and he is still trying in vain to live up to his greatest creation (he became so disenchanted with Origin that he left with his brother to form Digital Anvil just before it became another Microsoft possession) - although WC2, WC3, and the Privateer series were great games they never could quite blow away people as much as the first game did.

This game brought every thing to the table - an enticing storyline, intriguing characters, fast-paced action, and most importantly was accessible to a large cross-section of gamers at the time. Some of the "early" computer gamers will argue by saying that there were superior flight simulators of that time period such as the earliest incarnations of the Microsoft Flight Simulator (1.0 or something like that) but you really can't compare them - you needed the entire keyboard a throttle control and an $80 joystick just to do the pre-flight checklist. Pretending to fly a commercial airliner is not exactly my idea of a fun time. This game could be played by anyone - I played the first two games using only the keyboard because I hated using computer joysticks but had to eventually overcome that phobia to play the 3rd one.

 

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The story (for the uninitiated) is that you are a cadet on board the flagship carrier of the Terran fleet. This flagship is the Tiger's Claw and is currently involved in an galactic conflict between your species and the aggressive Kilrathi. The Kilrathi are a feline-race which prides itself on terrorizing the galaxy by conquering all other races, killing small birds, tearing the furniture, and leaving dead mice on porches - you know general cat behavior. 

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Fresh from the academy with your "friend" Todd "Maniac" Marshall - you are brought into the squadron as an up and coming wing commander and are subsequently paired with all the pilots in the outfit at one point or another. In each sector, your wingman changes but you are paired with them for all missions in that sector - so if your friend becomes an expanding gas cloud on the first sortie you are probably going to be in trouble on a later mission. Success in missions means that you're going to head into Kilrathi territory and quickly fighting against the better pilots - start losing and you're going to be facing a s%^t-load of pilots that aren't the premier corps but they outnumber you five to one so they don't need to be that good.

The characters are one of those additions to the game that you'll never forget. From the original characters of Angel (back when she was an icy bitch and not the loser in WC2), Hunter, Paladin, Knight, Bossman, Iceman (not that sissy Val Kilmer - this guy would casually tell you that the capital ship you told him to get is toast), Jazz, Doomsday, and of course Maniac. Before each mission you get the opportunity to talk to them to understand the current situation or get valuable information about some targets in the area (like Kilrathi aces that you will be coming up against). Of greater interest is the way that rank plays in the game - early on you don't have any authority and you will fly the military equivalent of the charger (Scimitar) but if you survive long enough you'll increase in rank and be able to fly the much sought after Raptor (it sure chews up anything and everything that gets into it's sights).

Upside? This game was absolutely amazing. For it's time, it was ground-breaking and really fun to play even when you would die every other mission. It is very easy to lose a large portion of time playing this game but I can't recall having more fun losing an entire weekend before. Detractions? The only thing was the fact that landing your ship so touch and go you could smoke your mission without firing a single missile yet kill yourself by slamming into the hull of the Tiger's Claw - you though landing in Top Gun was hard? Try landing on a ship that will turn for no apparent reason - that'll ruin your day rather quickly.

Curious to try it out (or play it again)? Well Origin released "Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga" in '96 which was a revamping of the games to play in WIN95 but if you can get your hands on a copy I'd recommend using your older computers - I didn't have too much success trying to run it on my P2-500 and ended up refurbishing my old 200 to run it.

Tazman

"Uh, no. You've got the wrong number. This is 9-1-2." - Chief Wiggum

 

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