Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 14, 2015

Wing Commander IV Review… first time playing it despite it becoming 20 years old

Wing Commander IV - The Price of Freedom Coverart.png

When a new game comes out of a series you have been playing, you want to buy it. However, if you do not have the right computer at the time (and Origin loved putting out games that required you to buy new computers), then you are out of luck. I told myself, “One day, I will play through Wing Commander IV.” I never realized it would be twenty years later.

The original Wing Commander was a watershed moment for gaming in that design began to shift toward production instead of design. Wing Commander came out in 1990. This was before the Super Nintendo and during the NES Era. It simply astounded everyone. We were like that guy in Gladiator who looks up at the Roman coliseum and says, “I had no idea that men could build such things…” Wing Commander pushed for 3d gameplay before 3d but really did a number with the sound. I remember gaming then requiring sound cards after Wing Commander.

Wing Commander 2, my favorite in the series, had the same rich tactical gameplay but with very good storyline mixed in.

Wing Commander 3 got a ton of attention due to the game being true 3d and being an interactive movie with actors like Mark Hamil. I didn’t like the direction Wing Commander was going with this. I preferred the hand drawn storyline of 2 instead of these actors. But who knew that twenty years later, it was the interactive movie that has aged well and not the gameplay. Thus, Wing Commander IV is nothing more than a basic sequel to 3.

As old as I am, I just didn’t feel like messing with the gameplay. Besides, the gameplay doesn’t seem that good in Wing Commander IV. The early missions are harder than the last missions because you fly a piece of shit. The graphics which were so ‘awesome’ back then now look like dogshit. I think Wing Commander 1 and 2’s graphics have aged better than the ‘true 3d’. The good news is that you can cheat in Wing Commander IV. Open up the command prompt and type in the exe to run it but have a space and put -chicken. Whenever you target an enemy, press ALT-W and then the enemy goes kablooey. You’d think you would run through the game in a matter of seconds of just going through it like that. But you would be wrong.

The ‘Interactive Movie’ is very lengthy. I’m actually surprised how much I enjoyed it despite its campiness. The movie starts off pretty cliche and bland at first but gets more interesting. The ‘Interactive Movie’ hits the same pleasure centers as when I read a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book. Most of the choices don’t seem to have any true bearing until during a mission when Vagabond asks which side you are on. I chose both. Even if you choose the wrong side, the game will let you be ‘wrong’ for a few missions and then force you on the rebel side. So lame. I enjoyed hanging out with Seether. Seether is my type of guy!

The plot of Wing Commander IV reminds me more of Star Trek VI than anything. It really isn’t well written. It will forcibly manipulate the audience in order to hate the bad guys. Seether shoots a prisoner. Oh no! What a bad man that Seether is! Oh no! Bio weapons! Oh no! Holocaust! Oh no! Hilter rhetoric! It is so cliche. However, the mass audience wants cliche. I kept trying to side with Seether and rooting for him as much as the game would let me. It is funny to see how far the game will let you go.

The ‘ethics’ the game’s plot shows, which are cliche, is not universal but only after the conclusion of World War II. After World War II, Nazis became ‘bad’, Hitler became ‘bad’, genetic purity became ‘bad’, and so on. Before World War II, none of those things were ‘bad’. After the upcoming World War, the ethical matrix is again going to change. My point is that no author is going to write against WWII ethics. No one. The mass audience wouldn’t be able to absorb it. Imagine if Seether was the hero and Blair the traitor!

The finale of the Wing Commander series (which is this game, not that damned Prophecy) ends not with a spectacular battle but with six Interactive Movie choices where, if you choose the wrong thing, the bad guys win at the end. I kid you not! My first time through the ending, I chose all the correct ones and (damn it!) I got the good ending. It was so cliche. Of course you choose ‘seize the moment’ and talk about ‘bio weapons’.

One thing I have to give Wing Commander IV writers credit on is at least they are halfway educated. The Price of Freedom quote, which is the title, is from Thomas Jefferson. But he may not have been the originator.  Irish orator John Philpot Curran: “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

Another instance came with the quoting of William Butler Yeats poem of ‘The Second Coming’. It is the most quoted poem of the twentieth century.

The most amazing thing did occur to me after completing Wing Commander IV. It did not occur to me until I read a youtube comment (when finding the trailer to benefit the incredible reader). The comment said: “good lord this game makes modern releases look like poop.” While the comment referred to modern game releases (and modern game releases ARE poop compared to the Origin and Old School classics), such a comment also compares to movie releases. When I think of great, fun movies, I think of Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, and Terminator. Those were from 1980. But the 1990s also had great films too. Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Titanic (I know, I know), Terminator 2, the Matrix. After the 2000s (not counting the magnificent Gladiator), most of the ‘big’ movies became trilogies from Batman to Lord of the Rings to the too many Harry Potter movies. Many of the films seem just special effects wastelands. Which is… ironically… what Wing Commander IV was condemned as. Yet, Wing Commander IV, as a movie, is more entertaining than most of these new movie releases. Why is that? Perhaps it had to do with the PC gaming audience back in 1995 (which I thought was dumbed down at the time).

Wing Commander IV is probably enjoyable as a game. However, it is more enjoyable as a movie. It is worth the six bucks or whatever from GOG to purchase it. You will get hours of entertainment even if you cheat through it all.

“You want to get interactive?” hahahahahahaha

Seriously, people should stop adding subtitles to that Hitler video and just add subtitles to the German editions of Wing Commander 3 and 4. Much more entertaining!


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