|a game by||Imagitec Design Inc.|
|Platforms:||PC Atari Jaguar|
|Editor Rating:||7.1/10, based on 4 reviews|
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If you're looking for that epic space sim, I-War certainly holds some of the essential ingredients. The scope is massive, the plot is twisting, and the enemy AI is sensational, with your foes often resorting to hunting in packs in an attempt to single out some of your fleet's weaker vessels.
Unlike Wing Commander Prophecy and X-Wing Alliance, both of which are fairly simple games to get into, I-War is quite a complex affair. The main dreadnought under your control has four main tactical screens - engines, navigation, weapons and command - making this a galactic confrontation suited to strategists as well arcade junkies. If you've got a month to spare, it goes without saying that I-War is excellent value for money. If you're an impatient cretin, think twice.
As A Kid I Wanted To Be A Spaceman. I had Darth Vader on my duvet, pop-up books of the Apollo missions, a much cherished model of a Space 1999 Eagle and a life-size Alien poster that terrorised me every night for a month before I took it down and stuck it in the loft. But then I remember watching this documentary about astronauts and everything changed. Far from launching themselves bravely into the unknown, they spent fifteen years hanging upside-down in centrifuge simulators feeling motion sick. Even the ones lucky enough to take off were forced to wear Michelin man costumes and sit wedged in a capsule no bigger than an airing cupboard. And how did they take a dump?
A lesson in physics
Having played I-War, my childhood desire for weightlessness is back. Here's a game that allows you to sit in the captain's seat of a Commonwealth Navy dreadnought and experience Newtonian motion in space without the desire to laugh up your lunch. It's quite impossible to describe exactly how the craft responds so beautifully to tugs on the joystick, or how it manages to be so uncompromisingly realistic; the bottom line is that it feels just right.
To get things moving, tickle the set-speed indicator and the throttles will kick in to thrust you forward. Pull back on the yolk when you're hurtling along and the ship arcs gently round, boosters on the craft's underbelly wrestling noisily with the new heading. Swing full circle at maximum speed and you can almost feel your stomach fighting to get out of your butt.
Very interesting. Where's the fun?
Tacked on to a superb game engine are a splendid series of missions that link together and require hard thinking, imagination, and an ability to scrag the bad guys - an unruly bunch of fruitcakes who oppose the Commonwealth and spend most of their time stealing its ships. But combat is tricky and although you improve over time, it doesn't have the same immediate appeal of, say, X-Wing Vs TIE Fighter. Even the 'Instant Action' mission sees you dead in a matter of minutes, and where's the fun in that? A difficulty setting would help, but there isn't one.
Combat gripes aside, I-War remains a decent space adventure. It makes a mockery of the way rival titles play, and can be recommended as a worthwhile addition to the library of any genre fan for the fabulous CGI intro sequence alone.
The constant struggle that space combat sim designers face is knowing how realistic to make their games. Put too much emphasis on realistic zero-gravity physics and you get the kind of game that requires a degree in science just to do a three-point turn. Whack the options to zero realism and you get little more than a World War II sim in space (ie Star Wars).
I-War is surprising in that it has a very realistic feel to it (as far as you'll ever know, at any rate) but still manages to be fairly playable in the combat stakes. It isn't easy, and it's certainly not as immediately playable as other titles, but with practice you get used to the control system. The missions are good, with plenty of variety and a decent storyline holding everything together. The graphics are astonishingly good, too, without a 3Dfx card in sight.
None of which explains why I-War got so little attention at the start of the year. Perhaps it was simply bad timing - when it was released, everyone was still spellbound by Wing Commander: Prophecy. Perhaps the realism put everyone off. Perhaps, perish the thought, Ocean realised they had a minor game on their hands and tried to just push it out quietly without causing any fuss.
Whatever the case, I-War, like Darklight Conflict, is a game that deserves a wider audience. Unlike Darklight Conflict, there's actually a game of substance beneath the flashy graphics. It doesn't have the weight of the 'big boys', but you won't be disappointed.
Mankind has grown dependent on the Override mainframe, which was designed to handle the increasing complexity of the world net called the l-WAY. This system has worked for many years without a problem; however, its databases start to mutate and begin creating virus Datapods that clog the l-WAY. Now, you are mankind's only hope to clean out the mutant databases and remove the virus datapods that are blocking the l-WAY.
Choose either a light, medium or heavy mech, then enter the l-WAY. Attempt to clear out the datapods and databases by finding weapon and energy power-ups that will help you make more of a statement.
Your mission is to collect datapods that will remove the existing virus programs. You also have to destroy mutant databases to stop viruses from appearing. Once this is complete, enter the datalink.
I-WAR is packed with polygon graphics. The levels have different stages that are connected by a warp. These jump gates move you quickly to different areas on the map where there are additional enemies and datapods that should be collected. Levers and switches that raise platforms and other moving objects will be encountered.
Be sure to stay on your toes, because it is easy to lose lives during the course of this fast-moving game. Players looking for the Jaguar alternative to the PS Assault Rigs should check this one out. The polygon visuals and the interaction between background objects make l-WAR a mech game to look out for if you're a Jaguar owner.