Get this game a Kilrathi, stat! - Review By Mr. Domino
I always wanted to be an X-wing pilot. For the three of you who haven't seen the Star Wars trilogy (which still remains a trilogy despite the existance of that fourth... thing), an X-wing is a neat looking space craft with a pair of wings that can split into four separate wings in an X-shaped pattern for no good reason other than to look even neater while hopelessly darting around ominous looking cruisers and blasting away in a futile effort to destroy the evil Empire. I really didn't care about destroying an evil empire or anything. I just wanted to fly around in a snazzy futuristic jet and blow stuff up. I'd equate it to a guy who always dreams of driving a Porshe. A cannon equipped Porshe. I'd imagine that's special order.
Of course, that'll never happen. Stupid reality. While I know there's no such thing as a real X-wing since Santa can't seem to heed my request and bring me one, I can still sort of live out my dreams with the next best thing: Star Wars licensed combat games. While X-Wing certainly satisfied my desire to pilot my craft of choice, there was no denying that LucasArt's TIE Fighter was the game to beat. Everything about TIE Fighter screams perfection: the combat, the controls, the atmosphere, the missions, the AI, the music... everything. Once I unlocked the TIE Advanced, any quibbles I had about piloting the blocky looking TIE fighters was soon forgotten.
All this took place on a friend's PC since I could not afford one. I'd go to his house and bug him to let me place his games. I always wanted to see a port of TIE Fighter on a Sega system. The closest I ever got was the dismal Star Wars Arcade, a 32X game which lacked the depth I wanted in a simulation. In fact, there has not been a good space combat simulator of any kind on all of Sega systems, but Starlancer hopes to change that. Does it succeed? Read on and find out.
Searching for wingmen to kill against a pretty background.
The control is good -- nay, the control is great. Yes, that's right. The game controls perfectly with the wee little six button Dreamcast pad. I was worried that the game would have to be severely dumbed down to fit into the limitations of a console controller, but that's not the case with Starlancer. That's not to say that you'll grasp the controls right away. Far from it, as Starlancer's control scheme is among the most intimidating I've ever seen. Nearly every button has several functions assigned to it, based on whether or not you hold it down, press it, double tap, or use with a combination of other buttons. For example, pressing both the Y and A buttons simultaneously will target the next closest enemy. Holding Y will reveal a menu, and you can scroll through a list of allies or enemies with the D-pad. There are dozens of combinations possible, and, surprisingly, they all become natural in time. The simplicity of the controller and wealth of options are really impressive and makes the combat all the more enjoyable.
You'll probably want to turn the music up a bit to drown out all of that controller tapping you'll be doing, and thankfully Starlancer has a good if brief soundtrack. It's nothing you'll be humming in the elevator on the way to test for various diseases, but it fits well with the theme and helps provide for a moody and dark atmosphere suiting the game. It leans more toward a low key foreboding score than, say, any of John William's bombastic orchestral pieces he composed for Star Wars. Of course, during the combat you'll notice the sounds of laser blasts, shouts from wingmen, and the boom of explosions over the music, but, hey, the music is still good.
Go! Go! Power Rangers! (cheesy guitar solo) Go! Go! Power Rangers!
The combat graphics are also pretty impressive itself. I love the way the pilot controls pivot and move around within the cockpit. The animation here is superb, and the textures are rich and detailed. Although space is a pretty barren place, what objects that do float around look really nice. This basically means that asteroids look like asteroids and not potatoes. The ship variety is impressive and each sports a unique look, from the "I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-A-Klingon-Bird-Of-Prey" Predator to the very A-wing looking Shroud. With 12 ships to choose from, there's bound to be a sci-fi knock off to match your tastes. The explosions are simply magnificent. Go blow up a ship and you're treated to an amazing display of pyrotechnics and light which simply should not exist if the game followed the laws of physics. The resulting fireworks makes kills really satisfying and are a nice graphical touch to help illuminate the dead of space.
If you enjoy the explosions as much as I do, then you're sure to check out the on-line scene. You can play with up to six people per game (despite the manual claiming eight is possible) in a near lag free death match experience. You pick a call sign, choose a team, and let the destruction ensue. The game keeps track of the total kills and deaths, although this information only lasts as long as a session remains in play. The keyboard can be used to chat with other pilots during combat, although a dog fight really isn't the best time to put down the controller to go pecking away on a keyboard. As such, while fighting on-line is technical achievement for a console, the "real" pilots pack about as much personality as the "fake" ones in the game.
Next: The Bad and The Final Word