Wing Commander Arena

Panther1.0

Master Chief Petty Officer
Hi guys, I remembered this Xbox 360 Wing Commander Arena popping out somewhere around 2006/7 at the time I had no console and I never saw this game ever for sale, not even now, I have a Xbox 360 for the past couple of years which I picked up for a bargain with a bunch of games like Gears of war 2 and 3, Forza Motorsport 3 and 4, some of the later Halo games not available on PC at the time and even Batman Arkham City which is great to play with Xbox controller instead of a keyboard and mouse.

My idea was originally to play Arena but I can't find it anywhere, anyone played it ? Is it worth it?
 
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Pedro

Admiral
Honestly... no. It was never a great game, and the lack of players made it utterly pointless unless you took part in a game around launch with other people from #wingnut

The manual was neat, but you don't need to play it for that.
It was nice to have ANYTHING Wing Commander at the time, but I'd say the best reason to check it out now are the interesting takes on some of the fighters.
 

Mace

Vice Admiral
It's still in the live store IIRC, but unsure if the live servers are still up and running. There is not that much to do in the game single-player wise, save the gauntlet and a bot-match. The best thing about Arena is the manual, giving hints and connecting the cartoon and movie to the main games fiction-wise.

You can, for a more modern and free experience look into wing commander flat universe, join the channel on discord and see if anyone is available for a game.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
As mace mentioned, just search the xbox live arcade store and it'll be there. It's only $10. Alternately, you can buy it on the web right here: https://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/Wing-Commander-Arena/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258410868 It's still fully playable. In fact, it's technically better today than it was in 2007 because of various quality-of-life improvements to Xbox Live such as parties/party chat.

As with the majority of multiplayer games from more than a decade ago, playership has dropped off significantly, so you need to arrange a playtime with people here to get people for Multiplayer. From the August 2007 Official Xbox Magazine review:

Once you're ready to go public, you'll discover Arena's beating heart: a frenetic 16-player cosmic Thunderdome of tense duels, frantic free-for-alls, and satisfying joint strikes. Work as a team or shoot anything that moves in boneyard canyons or space-station corridors; capture satellites that double as healing stations and ammo suppliers; or shred the gun batteries and bridge of the opposition's capital ship. Space is the lobby, so keep guns blasting while you wait for teams to fill out, or for your turn in the mano-a-mano bearpit. Since each well-balanced ship is outfitted with different tools -- cloaking devices, mines, tractor beams, turrets, energy weapons, and missiles -- swiftly assembled squads of complementary cruisers can wreak absolute cooperative havoc with gleeful abandon.
A full sixteen-player battlecruiser capship takedown in Arena is absolutely exquisite. Not so easy to put together today, but for a brief moment in time, you could just log in, join one and it was amazing.

There are four single player modes, Melee, Meteor Storm, Gauntlet and Proving Grounds (bot training):

The single player aspect of Wing Commander Arena contains four play modes. As in a classic arcade game, it offers infinite levels. The high scores are conveyed via Xbox Live to a rank list. The four different variants are Melee, Meteor Storm, Gauntlet and Proving Grounds.

"Melee" is a free-for-all against a large number of AI ships. They fight each other and the player. The level is a very cool space station map. The engagements have a time limit and at the end the rank list is transferred. Although you play against the AI you are nevertheless in competition with other players.

"Meteor Storm" is a fun small game in which one must defend up to three satellites against emerging, burning meteors and plundering pirates again and again. The play ends as soon as the satellites are destroyed. An online rank list is likewise included.

In "Gauntlet" your own space fighter is stationed on a Midway-class carrier, which has had some interesting change over time. The task is to defend the carrier against attacking enemies who want to destroy it. With each new wave of enemies you can expect a larger number of attackers, better ships or more intelligent pilots. Some really spectacular firefights emerge later in the level. Gauntlet also offers a rank list at the end for comparison with other players.

In "Proving Grounds" the player is taken to an extensive area with a lot of open space with pickups, obstacles and numerous targets to shoot at. In addition, some of them fire back. As the name suggests, this is a training mode. Regard it as a playground in which you can try all the ships, weapons or maneuvers however you want. Proving Grounds contains no time limit, does not count your firing and does not have a rank list.
 
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Pedro

Admiral
That's the best review it received, it's metacritic was down at 51. I once worked on a game, where the online component (from what was until 5 months before release an online only game) was cut at the last minute because the Japanese publisher thought all kids got together to play multiplayer... despite being the most utterly pointless gaming experience imaginable without online multiplayer it still managed 64. 51 is a terrible metacritic average.

It manages to be both convoluted and shallow all at the same time. Playing this game can literally be related to Lost in Space.
Wing Commander Arena has the right idea, but the gameplay and presentation come together to form an extremely dull experience.
Four modes, 18 different ships, loads of weapons and power-ups, none of it especially enjoyable
To be fair there were two more positive reviews:

All-in-all, Wing Commander Arena is what an Xbox Live Arcade game should be about- fast-paced pick-up-and-play action with a dash of depth. If you can live with being lost in space, and in only one plane of such a vast expanse, then download Wing Commander Arena post-haste.
Honestly for 10 dollars/800 MS Points you really can’t go wrong with Wing Commander Arena.
It definitely had a marmite reaction from the few reviewers that bothered to play it. (3 reviews in the low 80s, 4 in the 20-49 range).

I had to agree with the latter reviews, I just wasn't having fun with it. I don't think it does any good to pretend it was a great game because that implies it failed due to lack of interest in the franchise. It was disconnected from what wing commander is and felt a bit like playing 3D asteroids.

Even at launch though I could never find enough player, I never earned the achievement for a 16 player game.
 

Panther1.0

Master Chief Petty Officer
Nah I think Im to spoilt with 3DO now, I red a few reviews on Arena, not good at all.

Im enjoying both Super Wing Commander and Wing Commander 3 on 3DO , oh and I finished Prophecy SOP last night, cool ending!!🙂 Looks so cool now with the new visuals and ship improvements. Game is pretty fun with my Thrustmaster t16000m joystick, anyone looking for a good stick, I recommend this.

I might replay Prophecy with DVD cinematics soon, want to try that Panther ship update also on the original game.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
It definitely had a marmite reaction from the few reviewers that bothered to play it. (3 reviews in the low 80s, 4 in the 20-49 range).

I had to agree with the latter reviews, I just wasn't having fun with it. I don't think it does any good to pretend it was a great game because that implies it failed due to lack of interest in the franchise. It was disconnected from what wing commander is and felt a bit like playing 3D asteroids.

Even at launch though I could never find enough player, I never earned the achievement for a 16 player game.
The context is absolutely crucial here. I find the contrasting reception that Prophecy on the Gameboy Advance received to be a very interesting comparison. In that case, the tiny development team took a knife to Prophecy and whittled it down until they got something that would work on the GBA... plus added in some awesome multiplayer. Absolutely nobody expected much, because it's the Gameboy Advance, and instead everyone approached it as some amazing marvel because it's accomplishing a lot for what it is.

Now if you're trying to play through the series and you're experimenting with the 3DO and playing FMV blockbuster after blockbuster, and then you hear the Xbox has a Wing Commander game too, then your expectations are going to be set at a certain level. And so if you go in with that mindset and you see that it's 3D asteroids, most people come away rather disappointed. But that's literally what it's supposed to be. It's an asteroids clone reskinned with a bunch of cool Wing Commander ships and some very creative alternate modes... plus some awesome multiplayer.

If you recall back to what Xbox Live Arcade even was, remember that digital distribution of games wasn't even a thing then (still, even though it was a decade post Secret Ops). Live Arcade debuted in late 2004 with Ms Pacman and a handful of other tiny little shoebox games. In 2006, a team of dedicated people finally got the green light to use the Wing Commander license to do something in the Xbox Live Arcade space. There were huge restrictions levied by the platform, not the least of which was a 50 megabyte cap. When we first got a preview of the game in early 2006, it was an incredibly simplistic top-down asteroids clone. Literally just asteroids with some WC ships. With no budget and enormous technical restrictions, the Gaia team and couple folks at EA Vancouver lovingly transformed that into the most incredible asteroids clone the world had ever seen at that point with numerous clever single player takes with callbacks to the series (such as the gauntlet over top of a Midway class carrier) and extremely fun multiplayer (such as the battlecruiser combat I mentioned above).

Here's the original incarnation of Arena (bonus Gothri is still in there):
10.10.34.187-image15.jpg

Which turned into this:
GamerScore7.jpg

With lots of plans to do all this:
gaiavisit3.jpg

I'm not saying Arena was a great game. In comparison to the gold standard Wing Commander experience, sure, I understand where most people got their 20-49 review score. But what I'm saying was that it was the absolutely most amazing game for Xbox Live Arcade released up to that point in the same was as Prophecy Advance was the craziest technical marvel released on GBA. Again, keep in mind that Arcade was limited to pretty much boring '80s arcade-style games at that point. There were also Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica competitors to Wing Commander Arena that tried to do the same thing in a much lamer fashion. While 16 players was an Xbox standard for many years prior, Arena was the first 16-player capable game on Live Arcade when it arrived. The BSG equivalent only supported 8 players and didn't have all the side features Arena did. If you were an expert in Live Arcade games in the mid 2000s, you would not have given Arena a 20-49. It absolutely would earn a solid 8/10 or so while its lame competitors got the 4/10 scores.

Unfortunately, all this is something of a nuance mostly lost to history today. You don't have to ever play Arena, but if you are a big Wing Commander fan ravenously getting acquainted with the series, don't just think of it as a disappointing Xbox game. It was a disappointment, because the team at Gaia had planned out tons of expansion content: the addition of the Gothri and Centurion, campaign story missions with Confed, the Kilrathi and Firekkans and more, but they never got the time, budget or mandate to go make that happen (this is all in the CIC archives). That's the disappointing part. It's only half the WC game that they envisioned, and it would have been much better received with the full package, but the half that they produce absolutely trounced the competition of the day.

Every couple years, somebody within EA or with a connection to the series tries to take a run at the franchise and make a new WC product. For nearly twenty years, all have failed to see the light of day, except for Wing Commander Arena. Arena doesn't compare well with other cutting edge contemporary games of 2007, but I'm really proud of how it pushed the boundaries of the confined platform that it was created for.
 
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Pedro

Admiral
The last line I will agree with, but at the same time I feel like one of those low scoring reviews countered that point more than adequately to justify the score they awarded it.

Four modes, 18 different ships, loads of weapons and power-ups, none of it especially enjoyable
You work with the medium you're in, having features that other games didn't doesn't improve a title.
I'd have probably have gotten more of a kick out of an 80s arcade game interpretation (and a single player title I'd still be enjoying to this day). I personally loved a lot of titles on the platform at the time; Geometry Wars was my favourite XBox 360 game for a long period of time.
 
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