Wing Commander: Prophecy
Can It Really Be Seven Years Since Wing Commander was released? I'm shocked. I can clearly remember walking into a games shop and seeing a large group of people in the corner who were obviously very excited about something. A very enthusiastic sales rep was almost killing himself trying to explain why Wing Commander was the best thing since sliced bread. He needn't have bothered. No one was taking any notice of him. They were too busy staring in disbelief at the (then) incredible graphics on the computer monitor before them.
Mouths fell open as the cut-scenes before each mission showed the pilots dashing to their spaceships to take on the alien menace. Ears fell off as the incredible sound track roared from the speakers courtesy of a Roland LAPCI sound card. (Are you sure about the ears? - Ed) In short, Wing Commander heralded a new era of cutting-edge PC games and was probably the sole reason why Origin designed all their subsequent games on very high-end PCs. The success of the series speaks for itself: millions of copies sold worldwide, resulting in three sequels and new games based in the Wing Commander universe (Wing Armada, Academy, Privateer 1 and 2) and even today the series is still going strong. Which brings us neatly to the subject of this review: Wing Prophecy.
Horsec tor courses
Seven years and several sequels later, can gamers really handle another hefty dose of one of the longest-running PC games series ever? The answer, if I know Wing Commander fans, is a resounding yes. The Wing games have always had an almost fanatical following, despite heavy criticism from certain corners of the games press and serious competition in the form of the X-Wing games. Wing Commander fans simply won't be told that enough is enough. They don't care if the later games in the series were stuffed full of FMV. They're not interested in the fact that apart from the obvious plot differences, all of the Wing games are more or less the same, with the notable exception of the Privateer series. I know this to be true because I'm one of them. Obviously there are those of you out there who will want to argue the toss with me, which is why I'm going to say at this point that if you've always preferred X-Wing to Wing Commander, or just weren't taken with the Wing series in general, you may as well turn the page now and make your way to the next review because Prophecy, as you may have gathered, is essentially more of the same.
When you think about it, this is no great surprise. Do you really think that Origin would risk completely redesigning the series (and possibly cocking it up in the process) when they know they've got hundreds of thousands of people out there who like it just the way it is? I think not. Obviously the plot has changed, though. Quite dramatically in fact. Long-serving Wmgsters the Kilrathi have finally called it a day. But of course, there's always someone waiting to step into their shoes as Confed cannon fodder.
The war with the Kilrathi is finally over. At the end of Wing Commander IV, Christopher Blair (Mark Hamill to you and I) destroys the planet Kilrah, putting an end to the crazy cats' murderous antics and leaves the designer of Wing V without a suitable adversary for budding space pilots. To fully explain how the new enemy in Prophecy came to be, one must allude to the final days of the Kilrathi, during which they spoke of a prophecy, called Sivah. According to the final words of a Kilrathi priestess, it goes thus: "There shall come a time when our faith will be tested. When many will be misled by the selfish motives of a ruling clan. The Great Warrior, who has the heart of a Kilrathi, but is not Kilrathi born comes to deliver justice to the wicked. Our great loss will bring our bones." Simply put, this prophecy warns of a time when the Kilrathi no longer exist, and hints at a more powerful, more dangerous race that will take their place. At the beginning of Wing Commander Prophecy, an unarmed Kilrathi colony is attacked. Confed pilots rush to the scene (this is your first mission) and you encounter the new enemy at long last. During the course of the initial missions you will discover that your new adversary is a) alien b) responsible for the annihilation of the Kilrathi and c) none too pleased that you've showed up to spoil the party.
You take the role of Casey, a rookie pilot who's just been assigned to the TCS Midway (your base at the beginning of the game). Casey, unlike Hamill who starred in the last two games, is a bit too much of a smart arse for my liking, and he won't win any awards tor acting either, although that could be said about most of the actors this time round to be honest. The acting's a bit too cheesy and forced, and the few impressive appearances of Hamill himself only serve to highlight the amateur performances of most of the 'cast'. Thankfully. the multiple-choice questions which appeared at the end of the FMV scenes in the last two games have been dropped, so you can't say anything during these scenes that will affect how the game is played out. This means you can skip the FMV altogether if you wish, and use the mission briefings as a guide to what you've got to do next in the game. Which brings us to the game itself. I hope you've all remembered to buy that 3D graphics card you had your heart set on.
You don't have to have a 3D card to play Wing Commander: Prophecy, but if you don't have one you'll be missing out big-time. The graphics in Prophecy with a 3D card (particularly 3Dfx or PowerVR) are absolutely amazing. Apart from the obvious increase in frame rate you get with a card, the special effects are dazzling. Everything outside your ship feels like it's really moving about in space (debris, stars and all the other ships) and of course lens flare is used all over the place to remind you why you spent a hundred quid on a 3D card. Mission structure is pretty much par for the course: get your briefing, look at nice swirly map depicting all your nav points, fly mission (kill enemies, escort transports, blow up big enemy structures in space etc) and the whole thing is driven along by the between-mission meetings with the rest of the pilots on your ship who'll tell you how the war's going, or how well they did on their last mission, or even how their love life's going. It's all part of the wonderful world that makes up the Wing Commander universe. The familiar thrill of chasing the enemy through space at the speed of light, turning at the last moment to find yourself on their tail, and then letting loose with a missile (the missile trails look absolutely gob smacking by the way) and watching the bast blow up (the explosions look fab too), it's all present and correct and just as much fun as it ever was. Wing Commander fans will undoubtedly love it, but there's one thing they should take into consideration before rushing out to buy it, and it concerns another Origin product.
The inevitable Cbut'
My only reservation about the game is Origin sort of dug a hole for themselves when they released Privateer 2: The Darkening. P2, in my opinion, is far and away the best game in the Wing Commander series to date. The fact that you can fly almost anywhere you like in the game area, trading goods between one planet and the next, upgrading your ship as you go along make it a much more interesting and involving game. There is a set plot in Privateer 2, and a bloody good one it is too, but you don't have to follow it if you don't want to. Wing Commander: Prophecy, on the other hand, is strictly mission-based by its nature and consequently is much more restrictive, although some people may prefer the fluency of a straightforward action game to a game which encourages you to explore and trade goods. The choice, as they say, is yours. Privateer 3 anyone? (Oh please, don't complicate things any further for God's sake - Ed).
Download Wing Commander: Prophecy
The Wing Commander legacy lives on--and barely misses a beat--in Wing Commander: Prophecy. The Prophecy programmers get offended if you call this game Wing Commander 5, but for all intents and purposes, that's exactly what this is. Despite all the claims to the contrary during its production, there's little to differentiate it from other WC titles--other than absolutely stellar graphics if you have a 3D accelerator. The biggest new feature was to be multiplayer support, but alas, that feature didn't make it into the game; it won't appear until the expansion pack is released later this year.
Starting as a green recruit,you fly a series of missions going from Nav point to Nav point, mixing it up with a mysterious alien race. The success or failure of the Confederation in the face of long odds is still largely in your hands. Mark Hamill returns, as do those cats you love to hate, the Kilrathi--but this time, as allies.
The gameplay may not have changed much from previous WC games, but a graphics accelerator provides glorious pyrotechnics. Sans a 3D card, the visuals are pretty unremarkable. The story unfolds through a series of well-acted full-motion video sequences, which are kept to a minimum.
If you want great graphics, a good story, and lots of dogfighting in space, you can't go wrong with Wing Commander: Prophecy. If you were looking forward to a brand-new Wing experience, however, you may be disappointed.
- When you first see the Kilrathi, you'll want to blast 'em. Don't. It will make things easier on you later.
- Get as close as you can before firing--your ship doesn't take damage from debris or enemy ships exploding, and ammo is at a premium.
- Before taking out enemy cap ships, make sure you've taken out their turrets.