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Lucasarts' X-Wing Alliance

X-Wing Alliance

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 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.

Naturally, there's 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.


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January 31, 2006