I like to think I am, in some respects, a modern man. I have liberal views on marriage, I embrace technology for its good points, I even allow for the fact that Americans don’t all focus on ruining every tea leaf they get their hands on! There are, however, some things from the good old days that just can not be beaten. Clinton’s winning smile, Pat Sharp’s mesmerising mullet (for the American audience, give Pat Sharp a quick Google, you can thank me later) and the halcyon days of switching on our computer, and taking up the joystick to enjoy simple games.
Recently Good Old Games announced they were to release a batch of LucasArts games, and for a few precious moments, I was a young, school uniform clad mite, rushing home to take up my simple game controller, and use it to utterly smash the vicious Imperial forces. How could this possibly go wrong? So, enjoying the rush of once again purchasing what I know consider my favourite Star Wars game and one of my all time favourite games overall, I went and bought it.
For those who missed out on gaming in the early 90s, X-Wing was a flight simulator based in the Star Wars universe which saw you take control of one of Sci-Fi’s most iconic fighters, as well as the A-, B- and Y-Wings. Each craft has different strengths and weaknesses and are used for different purposes.
Game play itself is made up of the Proving Ground, Historical Missions and Tour of Duty. The Proving Ground is the best place to sample each craft, with levels ranging from simple obstacle courses through to all out dog fights. A great way to get to know your choice of bird.
Historical Missions are a range of simulations from the now defunct extended universe. Here you can take your place in some of the Alliance’s “famed” missions against the Empire. Perfect choice for a casual 15 minutes of play.
Tour of Duty can be considered the real meat of the game. Joining the famed Red Squadron, and starting out as a rookie, you go through missions that include raid, bombing run, dog fights and recon, culminating in the big one; the Death Star run. You can go from a lowly pilot to a hero of the Alliance, thus satisfying your inner child.
Taking the rose tinted specs off for a moment though, the large gap between creation and now (a frankly shocking 22 years) does come with a few issues. Anything, and I mean anything visual that happens on the desktop happens over the top of the game whilst it’s happening. My desktop wallpaper is a slideshow that changes every 10 seconds, which meant every 10 seconds, the game disappeared so that the transition could be happen, and then reappear. Change the volume using my laptop’s personalised function key, the indicator appears and then I have to Alt+Tab back to the game. This isn’t the only visual problem. Other ships and models during game play appear slightly see through, which combines with the blocky nature of 1990s DOS based games to make for problematic visuals whilst trying to hunt down a small TIE fighter mid-battle.
Compared to modern gaming, the settings menu is fairly rudimentary, with little in the way of visual or audio settings. On the other hand the controls cover almost every requirement (sadly there is no button for Han Solo cocky one-liners). When used in partnership with a joystick and with a little practice, you can be flying like an ace in no time. Look past the low-res, 16-bit graphics and what you have is everything you wanted flying a fighter in space to be.
All in all, despite the few small glitches that would likely be easily fixed by a more technologically minded player, X-Wing is as fun today as it has ever been. A glorious laser shooting romp of a fighter sim with an unending re-play factor and the retro dial turned all the way up to 11! A guaranteed treat for the nostalgic, a brilliant intro to the series for new players and a proud member of the Star Wars Universe, X-Wing is a must buy for anyone who ever wanted to fire the great shot that was one-in-a-million.
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