Here's another cool CD-based review from the Interactive Entertainment magazine. We shared Episode 19 with a Privateer 2 preview last week, and here's Episode 20 on Wing Commander 4. Like the previous clip, their 'articles' came on disc in audio format acompanied by a slideshow (and advertising). In these early days when few people were yet online, this was a tremendously cool way to see footage of the new game and hear about what it had to offer.
These previews also included a text article that differs a little from the audio/visual preview.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .
. . . a guy named Chris Roberts, a game and movie fan, thought to combine his hobbies into a new sort of interactive entertainment experience. Fortunately, he worked for Origin at the time. The culmination of this wish was Wing Commander, which went on to become one of the most successful and highly-recognized PC game products in the history of the industry - and the first of a fruitful series for Origin.
Skip forward a few years, to the third game in the series. Incorporating digitized video of live actors (some of them QUITE well-known already in the film industry), computer-generated sets rendered on Silicon Graphics machines, and a state-of-the art space flight game engine, Wing Commander III set yet another benchmark for the gaming industry.
So what do you do for an encore?
In Roberts' own words, "Polish." You take the tools you've developed and spend more time exercising your craftsmanship than you were permitted while you were inventing the wheel. From a technological standpoint, this means honing the tools you've already built. On the gameplay side, Wing IV should play faster and cleaner than Wing III, with bigger explosions, more detailed texture-mapping, and cleaner background music, thanks to the game's use of digital streaming audio. On the cinematic side Origin's code-wizards have cooked up a new compression scheme which allows for more cinematic techniques, like moving camera and zooming, as well as reproducing more colors and detail, permitting players to better appreciate the actors' performances.
From a storytelling standpoint, the developers were able to invest more time and energy in creating an experience that really gives you the feel of watching a movie. The game uses real sets ("practical," as they say "in the biz") to give the actors a better frame of reference, thereby enhancing the realistic atmosphere. It was shot on film, giving it a much more "movie-like" look and feel (Wing III was shot on Betacam, which doesn't reproduce quite as nicely, but is an order of magnitude cheaper).
Wing IV's script is bigger and more complicated than Wing III's (500 and a bit pages to Wing III's 400), and involves a more mature and emotionally-involving storyline. This time around, you're forced to make some serious ethical choices, which will drastically affect the course of the game.
Once again, you play Col. Christopher Blair. The Terran-Kilrathi war is over, however, and you've settled down on a quiet backwater to live out the rest of your days as a humble farmer. It's not destined to be, though. None other than your old pal Maniac appears on your doorstep one day to inform you that you're being pressed back into active duty. It seems a coalition of Border Worlds, demanding rights the Confederation was not ready to grant, is threatening civil war. Ships on both sides have been attacked. Things are getting hairy. Trouble is, Blair's not certain who's in the right. And then, there's the possibility of a hidden third party being involved . . .
Mark Hamill reprises the role of Col. Christopher Blair. Also returning are Malcolm McDowell as Admiral Tolwyn, Jason Bernard as Captain Eisen, John Rhys-Davies as Paladin, and Tom Wilson as the irrepressible Maniac. Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom should be available around the time you are viewing this episode of IE.