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Mark Hamill returns in "WC5"

Wing Commander: Prophecy

Fancy Flights

By Steven Bilodeau

I've been waiting for this game for a long time and I am most certainly NOT disappointed. Wing Commander: Prophecy is the fifth in Origin's space combat series, one of the most successful in computer gaming. Wing Commander games combine blistering combat action with carefully written cinematic cut scenes to propel the story.

The first three titles in the series placed you in the midst of a Terran war with the cat-like Kilrathi. In WC3 your character was Christopher Blair, played on-screen by Mark Hamill. The game concluded with the defeat of the Kilrathi. In WC4, Blair returned from retirement to assist in a Terran civil war.

Those two games introduced full motion video shot "Hollywood style", the intention being to create an interactive movie. Origin succeeded in spades; both were superb games. However, the fourth game was criticized as being a movie with some gameplay rather than what it should have been first and foremost: a game.

Wing Commander: Prophecy screen shotThe designers acknowledged this and have returned the focus to gameplay in Prophecy. They didn't even call it "Wing Commander 5", wanting to send out a clear signal that this one would be different.

Now the Terran Confederation is faced with a massive invasion from insect aliens. These invaders are brutally aggressive and have already nearly annihilated the Kilrathi even before we Terrans get involved. The story is once again presented in high quality filmed footage. The interactive nature of this component has been nixed; you don't choose questions or conversation paths anymore. Now, you just watch the story unfold before you. Though this sounds like a major deletion, it really doesn't hurt the whole experience.

The story branches in the preceding games were often perfunctory; it didn't really matter which path you took the story - it had to play out a certain way. With the new format, the script is tighter (and fits on three CDs instead of seven!).

Mark Hamill returns, but this time he is your commander, not your character. Instead, you play a rookie stationed on the supercarrier "Midway". The acting isn't bad, and I enjoyed the scripted story. It is, however, a little too similar to Starship Troopers. It would've been nice if they could have come up with something a little more original. Wing Commander: Prophecy screen shot

The game play is phenomenal from a visual perspective. The advances in graphics are so good that I could stop the review right now and just fill the page with screen shots. There are details in the ships, weapons and explosions that have become possible because of the power of the Pentium processor. When you play the game with a 3D accelerator, your jaw will drop in awe. The missiles trail smoke that actually looks like smoke! Ships are richly detailed as are the weapons, explosions and backgrounds. Shields flare from weapons fire; sparks trail from damaged ships. You have to see how good it all looks to appreciate the work that's gone into this game. To top it all off, the game moves at a good speed. The program has been written so that it performs at top quality even with this kind of detail.

Sound effects are enhanced by Dolby Surround and combine with the musical soundtrack to complete the cinematic effect.

Technically, there are a few glitches that you may notice. The movies are very highly compressed on the CD to save space, which causes them to look a little muddier and blocky than they should. I don't think that the aliens fight as smart as the enemy does in TIE Fighter, but they're intelligent enough to keep you on your toes.

Prophecy is a single-player game; there are no multiplayer options. This shouldn't deter you from getting it, though, since it is still highly replayable . There are a number of difficulty levels to keep you challenged and the story branches based on your success or failure in key battles. The missions are quite varied, too, ranging from straight dogfighting, to recognizance, to strategic strikes on enemy carriers. You can't choose your ship, but there are more of them and a better assortment of weaponry. Wait until you see the swarmer missile break apart and attack three or four ships at the same time!

Even though I have dozens of other games to play, when I finished Prophecy I immediately started it all over again. It was so much fun, so immersive, so pretty to look at, that I didn't want it to be over. Any game player who enjoys combat action has got to get this game. Wing Commander: Prophecy has set a new standard.

Steven Bilodeau is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. You can find more of his columns at

Steven Bilodeau can be reached via e-mail at And for more computer news, visit JournalExtra, the World Wide Web site of The Edmonton Journal, at


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January 31, 2006