The final entry in the Wing Commander series, which is also the first game in the main series with zero involvement from Chris Roberts, and it shows. It’s not a bad game though really.
While the UI and graphics have undergone a pretty major change, most of the same mechanics are still in place, with a few little exceptions. The new power distribution wheel is a step backwards. The way your mouse pointer now scrolls all the way to the edges of the screen instead of in a small, invisible box in the center, makes movement a bit sloppier, especially in the heavy fighters (that fucking box was there for a reason, guys!).
The plot and the new characters are sometimes…questionable. Well, ok, they kind of suck. All your new wingmen buddies are annoying youngsters that just got out of the academy, and none of them except the main character, ever really evolve beyond that. A few of the old characters appear, but mostly they just yell at you and/or die. Rachel in particular was an odd choice for a returning character, having not been seen since being a poorly formed love interest back in 3. Now she’s back just to make some weird, awkward advances on a guy that looks young enough to be her son, before quickly disappearing into the background except when she pops up to bitch you out for coming back with too much damage (nevermind that you accomplished the mission and saved everyone’s lives).
Come to think of it, half of the new characters undergo the same treatment too. They are introduced and have a ton of scenes in the beginning, but then just suddenly disappear almost entirely. Ironically, Maniac ends up being the only surviving veteran fighter by the end too. Maybe that was the new writers’ idea of a joke, I don’t know.
Anyway, as is often the case with space dramas that suddenly find themselves with nothing to do after having beaten their long-running main foes, the Wing Commander bros suddenly find themselves up against mysterious and weird new glowing aliens and are forced to shoot them in the face many times, as is the custom of our people. They end up being pretty poorly defined, as I think they were saving more explanations because they expecting this to be the first game of a new trilogy. Oops!
For the most part, the combat is actually pretty fun though, once you get used to the few rough edges. It’s far from the best Wing Commander game, but it’s enjoyable enough as a space combat sim. Too bad they killed off Mark Hamill in such a lame way though, just to make room for Casey and his awful new friends, who never ended up getting any more games anyway. Oh welllllllllllll.
That’s enough Wing Commander for me for a while. I’d like to go back and check out all the spinoffs I never got around to back in the day, like Privateer and Wing Commander Academy, and I’d still like to go back and finish Strike Commander someday too, but I need a long break from them for now (especially with Playstation VR coming soon to dominate my life…).