Review by HitBattousai

"The pinnacle of the FMV game age...review for PC and DVD"

The Wing Commander series in the early 90's helped get PC games seriously on the map, with the second game available with plenty of voice samples and great graphics for the time, and the third game when FMV heavy games were beginning to come around. The series has always been more arcade-style than simulation, and not quite as deep in terms of gameplay as it's X-Wing/Tie Fighter competition. However, the branching storyline options/branching mission options gives it a distinctive edge on those games in that department. Anyway, the FMV age unfortunately was mired with pretty crappy games, but Wing Commander IV along with Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within represent the best of that age. On to the review:

Once again, you are Commander Christopher Blair, great hero of the Confederation and the man most responsible for ending the long, and then losing war effort with the Kilrathi by blowing up their home planet of Kilrah. Blair has retired to become a farmer, but a crisis brings him back to the cockpit....

Story(8/10): A few twists you can pretty well see coming, but a pretty enjoyable ride, and the branching storyline options make this game, like the last one, much more interesting. There are 2 "good" endings, and 1 bad one, and all are pretty satisfying to view depending on the choices you made and your mission success.

Graphics(7/10): For the time, the in-game graphics were pretty good. The still frame shots within the ship are impressive, and the FMV holds up pretty well. The flying in-game graphics by today's standards are pretty well sauce though, lacking detail. It's all in old-school 2d fun though. The Kilrathi look positively goofy when you see them, and some of the CG looks dated, but most of it still looks pretty decent, and the sets look good, as well as some of the special effects for certain bodies you see.

Gameplay(8/10): It's arcade style, pretty simple stuff, but lots of fun, and you can customize what ship you wish to take as well as it's armament, and what wingmen you wish to fly with before you go out on missions. The missions themselves are fairly diverse, with the classic "seek and destroy" missions being balanced by recon missions, escort missions, and stealth missions. The missions also have branching options at times. For example, in the middle of a mission, one of your pilots on an alternate mission gets in trouble, and you can choose whether to save him and sacrifice the current mission or not. You also deal with the ramifications of your choices, and alternate mission paths are around for these situation and when you mess up certain missions. Overall, it's not as deep as say X-Wing Alliance but it's pretty solid and unique in its own way.

Sound/Acting:(8/10): Mark Hamill returns as Christopher Blair and does a solid job, immersing you in the character, and making him pretty easy to relate to. He and Tom Wilson("Maniac") play well off each other and have a good chemistry. The other good mains like Capt. Eisen(the late Jason Bernard), Pliers, Hawk, Admiral Tolwyn(Malcolm McDowell), and Paladin(John Rhys-Davies) all do solid turns, and the supporting cast is good as well. The only real weak spot comes from the main evil rival pilot to Blair, known as "Seether," who is really just too over-the-top with his performance. However, he makes Seether perfectly hateable which makes you pull for the good guys even more. The soundtrack has streaks of spectacular epic tones, but is not quite the level of a major motion picture. Overall, very good.

Replayability(8/10): The game's multiple endings and branching storylines/missions give it a lasting power that is pretty strong.

Mini-DVD version review: There is a DVD version of this game out that is dual-sided, and features better sound and video quality than the normal PC version by far. I played through this copy and it has some pros and cons. The pros are the video quality/framerate in general make the performances and good CG much better, and give it a better "movie-like feel", particularly if you have TV out, the video is crystal clear. However, it makes certain bad things more noticable. For example, you can occasionally see a clear outline of the people when they are behind CG backgrounds, and some of the sets/special effects look a little more fake. Lastly, you have to fiddle with a variety of patches to get it to work since it is only supposed to work with a certain type of DVD player that it was bundled with originally, and this took me about an hour's worth of fiddling around. However, it is definitely worth getting over the normal 6 disk PC version if you can find it for relatively cheap on Ebay.

Overall(8/10): Probably the best FMV heavy game ever made, and a classic game. I wish it had been the produced Wing Commander movie instead of the craptacular fest that came into theaters.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/16/04


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