This is a game, I’ve been looking forward to playing again. I have finished the floppy version once before relatively recently (within the last 5 or 6 years) but I’ll be playing the CD re-release this time around with full speech + an extra cutscene at the start (and possibly another at the end for all I know).
This makes 2 Chris Roberts games in a row but this has nothing in common with Bad Blood and is far more similar to his Wing Commander series. Infact, it can pretty much be summed up as Wing Commander with fighter planes.
When it came out this was to my knowledge the most technically demanding game ever produced. The install process alone could take about an hour to run and once unpacked the game with speech pack came to about 45 Mb in an era when most of us didn’t even have a hard disk that big.
For this game the 2D sprites are gone and the game is in full 3D with texture mapping. On the downside this means that it’s not up to the visual standards of Privateer at least during flight. It’s curious that a game using older technology like Privateer can actually hold up better in the long run than something cutting edge.
The CD release has an new intro. It doesn’t show any plot, just a dogfight but its a lot more impressive than the Shadowcaster cutscenes.
The CD has both the original game and the mission pack. I get to choose which game and then I also get the games original intro from the floppy version. This is a much better way of doing the CD release – additional content with nothing missing. The intro just shows my squadron shooting down a couple of fighters then refusing the shoot the bailed out pilot due to our high moral values.
The game is set in the near future (this long since its release the very near future). After a tumultuous decade it is now commonplace for governments and organisations to hire mercenary fighter squadrons to look after their interests. I’m second in command at the Wildcats sqaudron which is unique as only accepting missions which aren’t immoral.
The cutscenes are done in a similar manner to Wing Commander (only with full speech).
The games first scene shows the companies accountant Virgil complaining about us scrapping a damaged fighter.
He shows me the companies ledger. The sums of money involved are massive but running a sqaudron is not exactly cheap. I can also talk to various pilots that are hanging around – this is nearly identical to the first Wing Commander game.
For the first mission we jet off to Mauritania. Some rebels are attempting to overthrow the government. To make matters worse there is a famine and the rebels are stopping the aid from getting through which is where we come in with an escort mission for a Hercules carrying aid.
My first thought about the graphics is that they definitely don’t look as nice as Privateer. This game may have been a generation ahead of the competition but its showing its age now.
Once up in the air and dogfighting it doesn’t look too bad though. Its not like you get that close to the other planes for long and the smoke effects still look ok.
It may just be me but I find the opening mission quite challenging and have to attempt it a few times. Ammo and missiles are quite limited and it’s definitely less arcade like than playing Wing Commander.
I’m yet to evolve a real strategy to dogfighting but I need to be close in order to hit. I’m just armed with one type of missile + a machine gun for this first mission. The machine gun gives you a little circle which tells you where to aim but it only works well at close range. It doesn’t take many hits to take a plane down but without the freedom to move in any direction in the manner of Wing Commander, its tricky to hit anything. I expect I’ll get the hang of it as I go along. On this first mission the commander helps me out and takes out half the planes himself.
I come in to land and have somehow managed a couple of kills which I paint onto my plane.
The next mission involves bombing things. The buildings are not a lot more detailed than just rectangular blocks on a featureless plane but they do the job and this is something you definitely couldn’t do in Wing Commander. I’m armed with a big payload of bombs this time around. I’m given a little indicator on my HUD as to where these will strike the ground and have to attempt to take out all the buildings.
Again I’m not all that accurate but with the help of my wingman we take out all the buildings.
After a final mission which is another escort we fly back to home base. The commander wants me to sit in while he disciplines Janet for needlessly blowing up buildings on the last mission. I’m clearly being groomed to take over the squadron at some point.
We now need another mission and I’m sent out in a jeep to find one.
The place to get a mission is a bar called Selims.
There isn’t a lot of choice of people to talk to so I try Muhammed. He gives us a mission to stop a plane landing at an oil refinery for $3,000,000 which I accept.
I’ve never been into flight sims but this isn’t any sort of simulation and just concentrates on action. Despite that its definitely more demanding than Wing Commander and possibly a little less fun because of it. The overall presentation is superb once again and the MT-32 music is one of the best soundtracks ever created on that hardware. I like the speech that has been added to this version also – while its not the best acting but its a lot better than I was expecting and does actually add to the experience.
I definitely found the 2nd two missions a lot easier than the first and it could be that I just needed to find my feet but when the difficulty gets ramped up I reckon I could struggle a bit with this game.