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The war with the cat-like race of Kilrathis has ended. Unfortunately, peace is short lived as violence flares in the Border Worlds and the possibility of civil war looms. Colonel Christopher Blair (Mark Hamill) who is retired and working on his farm, is recalled to active duty by the Confederation. The player is cast in the role of Col. Christopher Blair, whose actions will determine the events that unfold in this interactive story.
The opening cinematic shows a pirate attack on a hospital ship killing everyone on board. You'll grit your teeth and mutter threats of revenge and want to jump into the cockpit of a Longbow fighter to extract some serious pay back. BUT - not so fast! There's ample video that separates you from the cockpit of a fighter.
All the action originates on the carrier where you're stationed. You can move around the carrier to various rooms and engage in conversations with other crew members. Sometimes you are offered a choice of two responses and selecting the right response is important. The response you choose will determine what happens further on in the story. The wrong response can affect the morale of the other person. Low morale is a bad thing especially if that person is on your wing, or the mechanic who is working on your fighter.
When you finally do get in the cockpit of your fighter the action can be fast and furious. Besides just going around blowing everything up, there are a variety of other missions like recon, rescue, protect and defend. There are two paths in the game with a total of 35 missions. The first time you play the game you will encounter 28 to 30 missions. You can lose a mission and move on to the next. But, if you fail, the next mission will be more difficult. There is no scoring system in WC4, just success or failure. You can however, view the Killboard to check your standings against the other pilots on the carrier.
You can fly seven different ships in the game. Before each mission you can (usually) select your fighter, the weapons loadout and even the person who will fly on your wing. Dogfighting is a blast. You can roll your fighter, automatically match the speed of an enemy fighter, or afterburn to or from the action. The Heads-Up Display (HUD) contains vital data such as: radar, gunsight, communications panel, target ID, weapons info, and indicators for power, fuel and speed. You can select the type of gun or missile you want to fire or even drop a decoy to distract an enemy missile that's hot on your tail. There is also an Action Sphere to view a map with your current situation. The Communication Panel allows you to give orders to your wingman (i.e. "Break and attack!) or to taunt (insult) the enemy. Be prepared if you taunt the enemy because they will give you their undivided attention.
With the two excellent manuals included with the game, New Officers Handbook and Battle Book, there's much information to digest and a slight learning curve before you feel comfortable in the cockpit. A tutorial is included which guides you through the first taste of combat via a mock dogfight with Maniac played by Tom Wilson.
WC4 has a number of settings to adjust the difficulty level. You can play as a Rookie, Veteran or Ace. The Flight Mode has three options: Arcade, Sim, and Custom. There's even an Invulnerable option but you must still complete objectives in order for the mission to be a success. Four options will let you configure the standard controller as you prefer, with an additional setup for SONY's dual analog joystick and analog controller. For maximum enjoyment the analog joystick and controller can't be beat.
The memory card uses one block. The next mission you fly is determined by your success in the current mission. Therefore, it's a good idea to save before each mission. The alternate missions and different game paths gives WC4 a high replay value.
The high resolution movie/video graphics are excellent with nice color and highly detailed sets. The graphics during combat on the other hand, do not match the movie quality. These graphics are low resolution and the detail is not as sharp. The explosions, capital ships and other fighters are well done but could have been better. When you fly towards a large object (i.e. carrier or cruiser) it tends to warp and finally break apart as you get next to it.
The 16-bit Dolby surround sound is excellent. External speakers with the bass cranked up provides movie theater quality sound. The sound effects really enhance game play and adds to the exciting action. The soundtrack is the standard orchestra music you'd expect in a science fiction movie. Unremarkable but definitely appropriate.
If you find the game too difficult, Origin's excellent PC strategy guide "Official Guide to WC4: The Price Of Freedom" is very helpful. The strategy guide includes abundant valuable information even though some of the missions in the PSX version differ from those in the PC version.
Written by Blaine
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