Overpriced Privateers Make PC Format Mad (July 9, 2012)


Frog Blast the Vent Core!
The reviewers at PC Format seemed to have had something against Wing Commander. This time up it's classic and wingnut favorite, Privateer. At times praising the game, overall the reviewer is not impressed and sees it as a collection of rehashed ideas. We could also say the same thing of the reviewer's odd writing.

Yes, the enemy ships look incredible, the explosions are spectacular and the planets and bases are sumptuously drawn, but gorgeous graphics doth not a brilliant game make.
At ?49.99 you expect to receive something special, something new. OK, so there's loads of scope to upgrade your ship, fit new weapons, buy new ships, indulge in a spot of trading or smuggling, but didn't we find all these features in Elite (PCF 10, 29%)?
By introducing rogue bandits, smugglers and military conflicts, Privateer attempts to add colour to the Gemini Sector, but it's not enough to make you feel as though you're getting a new gaming experience. Even though there is ostensibly a wide variety of missions, they all boil down to: fly, shoot, deliver stuff, shoot and fly.

Overall, the reviewer gave Privateer a 79%, mainly it seems because of price. The same thing appears to be true of the "Another perspective" review. He also lays out a thought that has never crossed my mind as a reason not to like Privateer.

It really is simply Wing Commander 2 again, with a few high-res intermediate screens. The gameplay hasn't changed (it's shoot, avoid, shoot), the graphics are precisely the same technology and those jerky scaled bitmaps are looking very ropey these days. Any why is there only a tiny viewing window? And why is Origin recommending a DX2 to play it on, to move a couple of sprites around? I could go on for ages, but all you need to know is ?50? 52%? (Hear, hear - Paul).
- Ed


Original update published on July 9, 2012
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Red Baron

Rear Admiral
Maybe he played a different game, my version of Privateer doesn't have a flyable ship that's called Taurus. Does it fly on Red Bull?
I grant everybody his right to have and express his own opinion, but if you're loudmouthing in a gaming magazine, you should at least bother to actually busy yourself with what you're writing about.
On the other hand, why would i expect gaming journalists to have more integrity than "regular" ones?

Richie Shoemaker

I remember that review well and it probably kept me from buying the game until much, much later (in my defence I was yet to buy my first PC). If was from a UK magazine though, and I think the UK press looked down a little on the Wing Commander series, especially by this point in its life-cycle. It didn't help that an Elite sequel was spinning up its drives either.


Vice Admiral
WC2 and Priv were completely different games, that reviewer is clearly a crank. Priv has some of the best gameplay ever seen.

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
The British press was consistently negative about Wing Commander back in the day; I've never been clear exactly why.


Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Most of their reviews read the same..."Yeah, yeah, great story, great graphics, great whatever, but I HATE N WITH A PASSION! RUINS WHOLE EXPERIENCE!!!! Who wants MORE Wing Commander? Pfffttt. It's been done."

It's funny how they say how great it is, but then try to convince you it's really overpriced crap.


Wait... wait. They gave Elite a 29%. Let that sink in for a minute. I don't even know what to say to that. I mean at that point you just close the magazine and walk away.

Better still: they recommend waiting for Frontier: Elite 2. The first game was utter crap, but wait for the next one? Ah well.


In defense of the UK gaming press I always used to read PC Zone, and I'm pretty sure it was a PC Zone article which inspired me to purchase Wing Commander 4/ Privateer 2.


Unknown Enemy
Well now, let's take a deep breath here :).

First up, what's the story with Elite's 29%? It may seem amazing to Americans, but it's actually blindingly obvious to British gamers: they had already played Elite on the BBC Micro (an 8 bit machine that was pretty specific to the UK). The game came out on the BBC Micro first (in 1984!), and then was gradually ported to other systems (the last port, I think, was in 1991, to the NES). Some of the ports were better - the game looks great on the Amiga and the Atari ST. Other ports were markedly inferior, and the PC port is one of them. There's nothing that could have been done as far as sound was concerned (the PC Speaker doesn't compare well to the BBC's four channels of sound), but graphics? Elite was CGA at the time when the EGA was already around. So, the 29% for the PC version was actually well deserved - and the developers kinda acknowledged this, by releasing an enhanced PC version (Elite Plus) in late 1990. We don't know what score Elite Plus got in PC Format, but I imagine it would have been significantly higher.

Bear in mind, by this time, the British gaming press was already converged into just a few publishing houses. Each publishing house would have a range of magazines for different platforms - and there would be staff overlap between these magazines. So, the guy writing the Elite review for PC Format may well have reviewed the game already for the BBC Micro, the Amiga or some other platform, and he would be very well aware of the version's inferiority.

Secondly, why the emphasis on price? Again, the issue is probably pretty specific to the British press. Some of the British press (definitely not all), right from the start, were hell-bent on being as fully objective as possible - meaning, they refused complimentary copies from the publishers, specifically so that the review wouldn't be blind to the price the end user pays. This was back in the 1980s - I'm pretty sure the practice was more or less dead by the time Privateer came out. But the tradition of writing a review with an eye on the price remained.

Bear in mind, it's not a bad idea per se to mark a game down for price. It's perfectly legitimate and reasonable to do so. But it's easy to screw up - ironically, especially for the press. An ordinary person buys a game and plays it as long as he wants. An ordinary person, therefore, would initially think Privateer is expensive, but would probably quickly get over it - the game does have a lot more gameplay than other titles, after all. On the other hand, a reviewer has limited time, then he has to move on to other titles. Thus, he doesn't get to appreciate the fact that a given game has a lot more gameplay than other titles - and he's likely to wind up looking at the price as just another check-list item (maybe something along these lines: thirty pounds = you gain review points; forty pounds = gain nothing, lose nothing; fifty pounds = you're losing review points).

Other than that, though, the review is pretty weird indeed. It's remarkable how worked up the guy gets over the game supposedly being a rehash of WC2 (boy, I wonder what he eventually made of Frontier: Elite 2...). Chalk that up to the third distinguishing factor of the British gaming press - they're picky, opinionated, and weird. Is it fair to generalise this way? Can there really be a set of traits that are common to the British gaming press? Yes, and yes. Because people always look up to role models. And your average British gaming press guy of this period would have grown up reading highly opini0nated CRASH or ZZap64 reviews, and would have unconsciously tried to imitate them. Then the new guys, who no longer knew these magazines, would learn their craft from the old guys. I suspect even today, altough only Edge magazine consciously tries to maintain this kind of weird attitude, you will find traces of it in all British publications across the board.


Rear Admiral
79% is by far not enough for the best computer game that I have ever played in my whole life.
Sure newer games had better graphics like FreeLancer, but all in all the gameplay is unmatched for its time!
I'm still planning to play my GOG downloaded Privateer again in the next time... now that I even got Righteous Fire working there ;)

So far boys... about the Centurion Gun discussion... I'm still not sure. I played with 4 Tachyon guns when I was a kid. Now the last time I think it was 5-6 years ago I played with 4 Laser Cannons. The max. range and less energy drain gave me a big smile! I could use my afterburner more. I even tried 2 Tachyon guns on the inside and 2 Lasers on the outer wings...

If the numbers of the gun chart (https://www.wcnews.com/articles/gunchart.htm) are correct, then this means:


The Steltek Gun is unmatched in any way... but you only get one Gun - yes you can cheat 4 guns but that is boring. And yes - one boosted Steltek Gun is stronger than 4 Tachyon Guns!

The Fusion Cannon from RF is not too bad but the speed and the range is much too low. This really means only the Tachyon Gun is interesting.

About the boosted Steltek Gun: The Steltek says in the last mission something of: "limited number of shots" ... is this really true? I think I have asked this question before. Does anybody here know if the Steltek gun is set to normal after a few missions or after you are landing on a base?

So far: What do you think is the best gun layout for a Centurion?

Oh boy I love this game!

@Quarto - Good to hear from you again :D

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Master Chief Petty Officer
Other than that, though, the review is pretty weird indeed. It's remarkable how worked up the guy gets over the game supposedly being a rehash of WC2 (boy, I wonder what he eventually made of Frontier: Elite 2...).

It's a different reviewer but to satisfy your curiousity, here is the Frontier review from the December 1993 issue:-