After the success of Wing Commander III, Chris Roberts and crew apparently got a much larger budget for IV. The frequency and scope of the cutscenes increased quite a bit, with the actors even performing on actual physical sets instead of being pasted on cg backgrounds. Apparently there was a rare, special DVD version back in the day too, for the ten people who had DVD-roms on their PCs back in ’96. It was interesting to see all the ultra-90s design and effects in “high quality”.
The gameplay is mostly the same as the previous game, with some minor adjustments here and there. Cockpit review is removed entirely and replaced with a permanent fullscreen HUD. Gameplay is also permanently fixed in a 4:3 ratio for some reason though, that was a bit weird. Slight graphic upgrade, which they unfortunately show off with a lot of extra ground missions.
Missiles have gone from being worthless to being insanely overpowered. Enemy countermeasures are a lot less effective than before and missiles are now strong enough to take out most ships in one hit. Mission objectives get a little more complicated than the previous games, which is a nice change from the usual patrol, patrol, escort, patrol, escort, etc. pattern of the old days.
They did get rid of that awful “hold shift to aim faster” bullshit from III, but I still couldn’t get a modern flight stick to work properly with this one either. Oh well. Still a very fun game that, again, holds up pretty well after all these years.