Wing Commander 3 Preview – PC Format

Here are some more scans from the July 1994 PC Format of a look behind the scenes of Wing Commander 3. It’s mostly the usual “interactive movie” hype that was going around at the time before the backlash against FMV kicked in about a year later.

Right at the end it mentions that there was a plan to release a movie and a game simultaneously in the future by filling in the gameplay bits with new footage. It might have needed to be a mini series but it’s a pity this never happened as a Wing Commander 4 movie would have been a whole lot more fun than the one we ended up with:-

Wing Commander 3 Preview Page 1 - PC Format Wing Commander 3 Preview Page 2 - PC Format

Wing Commander 3 Preview Page 3 - PC Format

Wing Commander 3 PS1 – Part 2

The differences to the PC version quickly dried up as I got further into Wing Commander 3 on the PS1 with no different movie edits and only one or two additional news report each on CD’s 2,3 & 4. The news bulletin on CD #3 had actually been used in the background of an earlier scene when Rollins was commenting about how badly the war was going.


The most famous change on the PS1 is the addition of the scene in the locker room where Hobbes explains his motives. This bit of exposition really should have been in the PC original although it’s not a plot development I was keen on with or without it.

Something I failed to mention before is the lack of an option to turn the cockpit on and off in this port, with the only option being a cockpitless HUD. This is something of a loss depending on your point of view. I know most players just turned it straight off on the PC but I always left it on myself. It worked far better in Prophecy with the full 3D ship interior but in 2D still added atmosphere and gave each ship some character.


Other than that this was a clone of the PC version all the way to the planet missions. I’d been wondering how the PS1 would deal with these when I got that far. In essence it didn’t, and they were removed from the game and replaced with FMV instead. This makes some of these later missions extremely anti-climactic as the interesting part was planetside and there isn’t always a whole lot of mission left after it’s been removed.


The fact that the FMV was done after the fact is made clear by the use of speech samples from the game in relatively low sound quality. Also, I mysteriously gain a wingman on at least one of them which is a major continuity problem. I honestly would have thought the PS1 could have coped with the planetside missions in some form. I can understand the 3DO having to use FMV but this seems like a copout. Having said that, the new FMV is pretty cool and from the point of view of a PC gamer looking for something different, they were my favourite thing in the whole port.


With no trench run, the final mission ends with the fight above Kilrah which is a slight anticlimax although the final WC3 mission was never quite up to the standards of the real trench run in X-Wing. Thrakhath gives a lengthy speech at the start which I don’t remember hearing before. I never actually finished the fight with him before I was taken straight into the final FMV’s, presumably due to an emulation bug.

Out of all the console port’s I’ve played, this is the one where the gameplay suffered the most from d-pad controls. I’d often find the controls unresponsive and the speed of turn in each direction was rarely consistent. I’m definitely blaming the emulator rather than the port for this. There were numerous issues including instability, sticking sound, missing notes, incorrect fonts, movies skipping, etc.. and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d have been a lot better off picking up an old PS1 or PS2 and using the real hardware. They are practically being given away these days so I’ll be keeping my eyes open for one before I take on the PS1 version of WC4.

With the dubious controls, I found the gameplay lacking and this has been my least favourite of the Wing Commander ports to play so far because of it. WC3’s plot drifts around for most of the first 2 CD’s not getting going until Tolwyn shows up. From here on it kicks into gear building up to the big finish and I couldn’t not enjoy these later sections but it was frustrating at times getting that far. The battles with aces were especially tough with endless chases where I couldn’t get any clean shots in. The only tactic I found was stopping dead and being quicker at outshooting them when they steered toward me. To avoid too much of this sort of thing, I ended up dropping the difficulty level in later missions which certainly raised the fun factor but it’s not how I would have liked to be playing this.

With my setup this is one port that would have been best left alone until I had the right hardware. I don’t feel like the emulation worked well enough for me to even be able to offer any clear opinion now I’ve finished the game. However with the option for analog control it looks like the 3DO version has to be the console port of choice provided I ever get hold of a CH flightstick and can play it properly.

I’ll probably have a go at FM Towns Ultima 3 next to finish off the trilogy. On an unrelated side note, I just did a deal for the motherlode of 90’s PC gaming magazines complete with cover CD’s and floppy disks. Not sure where on Earth I’ll put them all but they were an absolute steal so I wasn’t going to worry about little details like that. I can’t say how many magazines there are but there are just shy of 600 cover CD’s which gives an idea. It’s a reasonable bet that there will be plenty of scanned articles appearing on here in due course.

Wing Commander 3 PS1 – Part 1

I’ve see that I’ve been linked on wcnews again which is becoming a habit. While this site is busy(ish) with the extra traffic, I’ll take another chance to plug the best piece of Wing Commander history on here (as far as I’m concerned) which is the uncut WC3 bloopers reel. It’s had criminally few views so far, so head over to here if that’s of interest.


Wing Commander 3 was released on the Playstation in 1996, 2 years after the original. The UK packaging is subpar compared to the PC but it’s a game I’ve been looking forward to trying for some time. WC3 pushed the technical requirements on the PC more than just about any game before it but it was still limited to 256 colour and the movie compression made its roots in the early days of FMV all too clear. It also predated 3D acceleration limiting the effects to some extent although with a decent PC it ran smoothly and looked great anyway. There is plenty of room for technical improvement on the PS1 anyway and my hopes were high that this could be a PC beater.


When I start the game up, the movies are indeed a huge improvement in quality. They still aren’t perfect but there are way more colours, less artifacts and I’m not so sure the sound isn’t better as well. I can make out all sorts of details that just weren’t there on the PC, with the hitch that this does show up the limitations of the production in the process.


Hobbes especially looks a lot more impressive in this version. The PC’s movie compression never could cope with all that fur.


Walking around the ship is exactly as in the PC. The MIDI music is recreated although it doesn’t sound anywhere near as good as a Sound Canvas. It sounds worse still during flight but I can’t say what it would have been like on the real hardware.


An entirely new touch for the PS1 is news clips that are accessible from the computer terminals in the game. These act as a little reward for the effort of opening up the terminal and saving your game. None of the news has related to anything I’ve been doing in the game, so it’s all superfluous but still a nice bonus.


As good as the movies look, what I’m here to do is fly some missions. If I’m honest, I’m slightly disappointed with the graphics on starting up. I’m sure the emulator isn’t doing a perfect job here but they are only a marginal improvement on the PC even with the HD resolutions available via an emulator. The best aspect is the full colour FMV in the communications HUD which certainly beats green. Things move reasonably smoothly at least but with the same colour schemes adopted to the PC version, there isn’t much use made of all the extra colours.


My biggest gripe with all these console Wing Commanders has been the lack of analog control. I thought with the PS1 I was finally going to be able to fly my ship properly but no such luck as it only supports the original PS1 controller with its d-pad. The top shoulder buttons act to speed up or slow down my rate of turn adding some extra control but it’s all a bit fiddly and not a patch on what analog would have been. It looks like it will have to be the 3DO port if I want analog WC3 on a console.


The other snag with Wing Commander on a console is the myriad of button combinations needed during the game. To be fair, this isn’t done too badly here. The PS1 controller had way more buttons that anything else I’ve used and I’ve soon learned everything I need to play the game. My only real complaint is the effort required to tell my wingmen to break and attack which is slow and awkward considering how often it is needed.


Other than the controls, the missions play much the same as on the PC. Hobbes is getting more kills than me so it does look like the AI of my wingmen might have been boosted. This is just as well as I don’t find it easy to fly with the d-pad. WC3 required precise aiming compared to WC2 and WC1 and scoring hits on these small and fast craft is tricky. Every new console port has been a struggle at first while I get used to it though and I’m sure I’ll improve with practice. If nothing else, the auto aiming on the Excalibur will help in the later missions.


Back out of the cockpit again, some of the movie editing is different to the PC. I’m berated by Eisen for not speaking to the crew even though I have and chose one of them as my co-pilot at the first opportunity. Also, the first conversation with Flint has some different takes to those I’m used to. Apart from that it’s all been the same as ever but I’ve only played up to the mission where I go joyriding in the Excalibur.

On first impressions, I love the improved movies but this game isn’t winning me over from the PC version. It’s still early days so if I can get the hang of the combat there is time yet. It’s certainly not a bad alternative to the PC at the very least. It’s a pity it requires both sets of shoulder buttons or I could have put it on my PSP and had a fully portable WC3.

Wing Commander 3 Glass

I see that the site has been linked again (admittedly only in the second-hand) on wcnews, which is usually a cue for me to post something to do with Wing Commander. The first item to hand was this glass used in the Wing Commander 3 bar movie segments:-


Anyone who hangs around wcnews will be familiar with these as there were three for sale a few months back and this is one of them. I was initially reluctant to buy one myself, largely because of the price but also the fact that it’s so inherently breakable. While I do my best to look after them, I prefer my expensive collectibles to be fall proof. It was offered as part of a much larger bundle that I simply couldn’t turn down though and I can’t say I’m sorry to have it. It’s sat in a nice, safe, out of the way corner of the games room where it shouldn’t get accidentally knocked.

I always thought these looked like blue plastic in the game but it is real glass and a lot better looking in real life than I was expecting. I vaguely recall there being plenty of them on the bar set but I’ve no idea if any have survived outside of those 3.

Origin Pak – The best compilation in the world ever?


This is a compilation of Bioforge, Wing Commander 3 and System Shock (CD Version) which I think was published in 1996. It wouldn’t have belonged in the Ultima guide but I couldn’t spot it in the Origin companion guide and it’s not got an entry on Mobygames so I thought it must warrant a post. Despite the lack of information, it can’t be especially rare as I’ve seen several of them around without looking very hard.


It comes in an oversized box which is about the same length as the Utlima 9 Dragon Edition but not as wide. One of the curiosities with this package is that since no one seems to have heard of it, it’s usually cheaper than the unboxed copy of System Shock CD would be on its own. I could have ditched the box, spilt and sold the contents and made a few quid but that would be sacrilidge to any real collector. It was still shrinkwrapped when I got it, but I didn’t feel any guilt about breaking into this since the box was badly squashed. I’ve attempted to straighten it out but it’s still a long way from flat.


The box was also sealed with silver masking tape over the bottom flap, which I’m assuming is standard given the shrinkwrap over the top of it. This more or less gives a choice to cut off the tab that slots in from the lid, or to rip the art off the back cover when you first open the box.


I would have been dubious about the originality of the shrinkwrap because of the masking tape but the contents were pristine and it certainly gave the impression of not having being opened. All the regular manuals, reference cards and the like are included for each game.

These are 3 of my all time favourite games and they would still have been near the cutting edge technoligcally in ’96. Other than the masking tape, it’s a nice package and worth considering even for non-collectors who only want to play the games. Just make sure you have a large shelf for the box.