Space sims are cool. I realize that’s an incredibly banal and
general statement, but off-hand, I could definitely remember more
good sims than bad ones. I suppose the five and a half Wing
Commanders play a large role in it, since I enjoyed every single
one of them immensely, and played them many, many times over.
(I say "and a half" because I don’t consider Secret Ops to be a
full-blown Wing Commander. It’s sort of between an addon pack
and a real game). More specifically, LucasArts’ space sims are
cool; though here, a ‘most’ should be present somewhere. The
original X-Wing and TIE Fighter were amazing. I personally never
liked TIE Fighter much due to the absence of shields on all the
lower-end ships, but I freely admit it was a great game. Then came
the less than formidable X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, which was
essentially like flying an X-Wing vs. a TIE Fighter – no story,
missions were very similar and so forth. Then came out Balance of
Power, which improved things a bit, but the original bad
impression still stayed. Now, however, everything has been set
right again, with X-Wing Alliance. (And hey, no loser TIE Fighter in
The story in XWA is about a young pilot fighting for the profits of
his family. It’s on a small scale, not really heading off anywhere
but a few parsecs. Slowly but surely, however, he steps on one too
many Imperial toes, and is forced to join the Rebel Alliance in a
series of covert operations aimed at removing those toes. The
Empire has built a second Death Star – and it is your ultimate goal
to save the Galaxy, destroy the Death Star, all that while flying the
junky Millenium Falcon.
The above is accomplished through missions. (Surprise!). The neat
thing is, unlike the usual "fly here, here and here, destroy
everything you see" or the famous alternative, "fly here, here and
here, protect this craft, destroy everything you see" the player gets
to try out a much more varied array of tasks. Example: cargo
shuttling, espionage, recon, and last, but not least, but entirely
expected, but very cliché, but still expected, the tunnel run in the
Death Star where you get to use the Force. All right, your targeting
computer – as Han Solo would probably say (had he not been so
busy acting in crappy movies), "It’s probably way better, anyway."
The ships you get to fly in this installment of the Star Wars
universe aren’t particularly varied, but fun nonetheless. You have
the standard complement of X, Y, A and B-wings, as well as a Z-95
Headhunter (a rather crappy fighter, if an opinion may be
permitted), YT-1300 Corellian Transport (the one you start off with –
and no, this is not the Millenium Falcon), and a YT-2000 Corellian
Transport. There’s also, of course, the Millenium Falcon, but it’s
technically a YT-1300 with a few mods to it.
One of the other novel ideas is that you can actually man the side
turrets of ships. In the training missions, you get to feel what Luke
felt, back when he couldn’t use the Force and was the
laughingstock of the audience when he couldn’t shoot anything
down. While you do that, the ship is piloted by your friendly droid,
Emkay, which, while not as cute as R2D2 is at least more
Multiplayer is a blast. Though I was fortunate enough to be hosting
on a DSL connection, no lag was experienced by any of the
clients, which were dialup-based. The mode of play is virtually
identical to Skirmish, with the only difference in that some of the
opponents become human, rather than computer-controlled. You
can play as a deathmatch or coop, and have a varying number of
opponents flying various ships, from a cargo container all the way
to the Imperial Star Destroyer. You can also set different skill
levels, which results in a higher number of experience points
gained for killing each instance of that particular enemy. As well,
you can define what the enemy fires upon, for example, you can
tell it to attack non-primary flight groups first, and assign yourself
to the primary FG – thereby simplifying your task of killing them
Overall, X-Wing Alliance is a worthy successor to the X-Wing
cause. While it only allows play for the Rebel Alliance in
single-player mode for the moment, I wouldn’t doubt a
forthcoming expansion pack that will allow flying for the Empire. It
has great graphics, great gameplay and the omnipresent musical
score by John Williams. Add to that a captivating storyline and a
great multiplayer mode, and you have a sure winner. LucasArts
strikes back… again.
Star Wars fever continues to work itself up into a fervor as the days count down until the new Star Wars movie. Similar to 1997 when XvT and SOTE showed up around the time the Star Wars trilogy was released, LucasArts has released Rogue Squadron and now X-Wing Alliance as the days count down to the latest Star Wars Saga, The Phantom Menace.
For those of you familiar with the past X-Wing series (X-Wing, Tie Fighter, XvT), this game should come as no surprise to you. It's the same style game and is very much resembles XvT. For those of you who haven't played those previous games, it'll be similar to the Wing Commander and Descent FreeSpace space combat sims.
When X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter came out, many were eagerly awaiting a revamped version of the previous two separate releases. Both X-Wing and Tie Fighter had invigorating, detailed campaigns that immersed the gamer in the Star Wars world. Missions were relevant and chronological, and therefore a good story was unraveled as the player completed missions. XvT came as a shock to these gamers with its total lack of a campaign. XvT was just a mishmash of scenarios with no storyline. The later addon, Balance of Power, added a campaign to the game, but it still was lacking a real solid plot. I was awaiting X-Wing Alliance with a little anticipation since it was supposed to bring back the engrossing story and environment that was severely lacking from XvT.
...and that it did. Quite well I might add. You assume the role as a young pilot just getting the chance to fly for your father's shipping business. It's nice to start out getting a little background just by flying around and getting used to the world. Then you get to mix it up with a rival business family and the occasional pirates. Unfortunately for you, one of your business transactions with the Rebel Alliance lands you in a heap of trouble with the Imperials and you're now a traitor to the Empire. Joining the Rebel Alliance seems to be your only option so that's what you do. Here ends the beginning chapter because now you're whisked away to fly for the Rebels.
Lots of flyable aircraft are available in the game, from the Corellian Transports YT1300's and YT2000's, to the standard compliment of Rebel fighters, the X, Y, A, B-Wings and the Z-95. The final mission will also allow you to fly the infamous Millenium Falcon in a strike on the Death Star. Woooo Boy! If you're good enough to make it this far, it's a ride that's quite impressive.
Flight controls are identical to the past X-Wing games and basically the same as all space combat sims so there's really no problems with mastering the controls. Although it may be a little bit harder to become a great pilot, its by no means hard to figure out which way is up and get to killing the Imperials.
Graphically, it hasn't come a long, long way from X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter's Direct3D patch. There's a lot more spacecraft in here and a few new eyecandy effects make it into XWA. Space is still a little bit .. empty, but hell .. it's space. The only real graphical issue I have is with the horrendously done graphics for hyperspace. It's damn ugly. Hey LucasArts, go play the last mission of Descent FreeSpace and come up with something a little less like someone mixing two cans of paint together.
Like all LucasArts games, the audio is great. Of course there's the standard compliment of the infamous Star Wars music background, so no surprises here. They've redone the audio effects of laser fire and engine noise to make them sound a little bit closer to the effects from the movies which is nice. There's a lot of radio chatter from your wingmen to assist you through the missions adding nicely to the storyline.
Multiplayer is spectacular. XvT was a superb multiplayer game just due to the fact that it was easy to setup and played great. XWA adds a bunch more aircraft including Missile Boats and the Millenium Falcon, so there's just a whole new level of options you can choose from for multiplayer. It was lag free on my 56k line so like XvT, I can see a lot online battles popping up in the next few months.
My main gripe is that some of the missions are just too hard. I had to skip some of the Rebel training missions because I just kept getting my ass kicked. Like I just mentioned, it does allow you to skip missions and that comes in handy. It also adds a few options to help you master your skills like the new proving ground and the already familiar combat simulator.
Overall, it’s once again another great title from LucasArts. The storyline has returned and created a entertaining game. It’s a little too hard for the entry level player, but the difficulty can be brought down and the learning curve isn’t too substantial. Multiplayer adds quite a bit of replay value and yes you finally CAN fly the Millenium Falcon!
Highs: Great storyline, excellent multiplayer Lows: Some missions are extremely hard, graphics aren’t quite up to what Descent FreeSpace had