Lucas' Latest Challenges
Like his Star Wars
movies, George Lucas' X-Wing series of PC games is nothing if not classic.
The games have steadily evolved over the years, too, which makes the newest
entry in the series as much of a technological tour de force for the computer
gaming world as "Episode One: The Phantom Menace" is to movies.
The LucasArts team
has updated the graphics - extensively in this incarnation - in which
you're the character "Ace Azzameen," a space trader who has
enough troubles with his family's Viraxo rivals that he doesn't need any
Imperial entanglements. But no, that would be too easy! Push comes to
shove when Darth Vader's minions throw a monkeywrench into Ace's life
in that galaxy far, far away.
Before you know it,
you've evolved from rookie family pilot to a Rebellion in X-Wing pilot
(who can also fly Y-Wings, A-Wings and B-Wings for good measure). Beating
the Empire isn't enough, though; you still have to keep your family obligations
in mind - and their problems with those pesky Viraxo.
At the end of the
game, assuming you make it that far, you have a chance to fly the Millennium
Falcon against the Death Star II in a remake of "Return of the Jedi's"
battle over Endor.
X-Wing Alliance is a lot more than just being skin deep pretty and will
push 3D accelerators to their limits if all the game's graphic details
are turned on. The graphics look great, with space taking the form of
detailed stars, ringed planets, galaxies, and more. We ran it at 1280x1024
resolution and it blew our socks off.
The ships, space platforms,
et al, have lots of detail, too!
And what would Star
Wars be without John Williams? His music is beautifully edited here, with
symphonic as opposed to midi versions and, if you have one of the new
3D sound cards, you're in for an extra treat: sounds completely surround
you. The music is edited to the action, so during lulls in the action
the music features quieter passages and when the Empire or Viraxo sweep
in on you it reaches a crescendo that keeps your adrenaline pumping.
You need a joystick
for X-Wing Alliance, and if you have one with force feedback support,
you'll be very glad.
Ace's sidekick droid
(Emkay) keeps you on track with the family side of the missions - in case
you forget that blood is thicker than ideology. He's a bit of a wimp,
though, so don't necessarily rely on him for the best information.
A nice touch is that,
when (or, in our case, if) you complete a mission successfully,
you may find you've been awarded a trophy.
X-Wing Alliance includes
50 single-player missions, some of which are hard; you can
skip up to three military missions, but no family ones.
After you've knocked
off all the missions, you can try a mission editor that lets you create
your own battles.
multiplayer support, for up to four players via Internet, eight players
via network, or head-to-head over a modem.
No game is perfect,
not even from LucasArts, and it can be confusing at times figuring out
what you need to do. Fortunately, there's a hints section - but you have
to read it closely and (drat!) it only appears after you've finished (well,
failed to finish) a mission.
Still, Star Wars fans
will undoubtedly love X-Wing Alliance. Its leading edge audio and video,
and outstanding game play, make it another LucasArts winner.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think