Ah, Wing Commander 3. Back when I was a kid that was just starting to get into PC games there was stuff like Wolfenstein 3D that caused me to say “Holy shit dad, we need a Sound Blaster!”, there was stuff like Return to Zork and Wing Commander 2 that caused me to say “Holy shit dad, we need a CD-ROM!”, and then there came Wing Commander 3, which led to the first “Holy shit dad, we need a whole new PC to play this shit!”.
It’s hard to believe that not only was this quality of video acceptable back then, but was even wildly impressive. A whole movie-like production, including a whole cast of real actors who people had actually heard of? It wasn’t something anyone else was doing yet back then. The combat and graphics were amazing for their time too.
It holds up pretty well after all these years, in most areas. Roberts, again tried to improve all the various mechanics instead of just recycling all the same old stuff, and like before, most of it is pretty interesting, but not all of it quite works as well as it sounds like it should. Like the new ability to choose your own wingman, which sounds nice, but doesn’t actually have any effect on anything, or missile countermeasures, which sounds like a great idea on paper, but in reality, on your end it’s just another flashing light prompting you to push another hotkey occasionally, and on the other end, the enemy’s, it renders your missiles pretty much useless since the bad guys can now just pop them out just like you can every time and make 90% of your missiles miss.
That’s not really a big deal though. The one big problem is the control changes. The baffling addition of a “turn speed increase” button really fucks everything up. Basically, you now have to hold shift to move faster, as if you were playing an old 90s fps. If you don’t hold shift the movement is too slow to be playable and when you do it moves too fast for any kind of accuracy, so…it seems like the fast turning should actually be the normal turning since the slow turning is no good for anything but small, slow, precise movements, but hey, no, let’s make it reversed so you’d have to hold down the shift key 95% of the time instead. The fast is also so fast that having it on 100% of the time is also unplayable, so using an outside program to artificially held down the whole time isn’t any good either.
So basically, the game is unplayable using a flightstick or the keyboard. Your only real choice is to use mouse mode, which…just doesn’t use this mechanic at all, it moves at the same speed all the time, because of course it does. Also, even though you’re in mouse mode, it’s a flight sim, so you’re still using almost all of the keyboard controls too…except the button for afterburner, which is now disabled on the keyboard and is now assigned to the right mouse button, but not single clicking the right mouse button, no that is used to make you roll. Instead you have to double click and hold it. What a fucking terrible place to put probably the most used button beside firing your guns. Meh.
Anyway, it’s still a ton of fun to play once you get used to the weird new control scheme. The story is a bit goofy again, looking back on it, but again, still enjoyable (if you can get past that insane graininess!). Overall, a massive classic that holds up pretty well for the most part.