Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom

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Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom

DOS - 1996

Also released on: Windows - Mac

Alt names Wing Commander IV: מחיר החופש, 银河飞将4:自由的代价, Wing Commander IV: Mekhir ha-Khofesh, Wing Commander IV: O Preço da Liberdade
Year 1996
Platform DOS
Released in Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, United States (1996)
United Kingdom (1998)
Genre Action, Simulation
Theme Regional differences, Sci-Fi / Futuristic, Shooter, Space Combat, Space Flight
Publisher Electronic Arts, Inc.
Developer ORIGIN Systems, Inc.
Perspective 1st-Person
3.86 / 5 - 7 votes

Description of Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom

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Is WC4 worth $10 million?

Wing Commander 4, the latest installment in the Wing Commander saga reportedly cost over US$10 million dollars to produce. Was the money well spent? A definite yes in this gamer's logs.

So what is Wing Commander?

Wing Commander series is a space combat simulator series similar to X-Wing and TIE Fighter (from LucasArts) of in-cockpit first-person space flight, but mixes some interaction between the "player character" and other characters in the game between the missions. The series progressed from bitmap overlaid polygons to surface-mapped full 3D objects, from VGA to SVGA, from talking head animations to live actors, the series just gets better and better.


Those of you who have played earlier installments in the Wing Commander series needs no introductions. All the mission elements are back: you are the hero flying against overwhelming odds. Only this time, there are other types of missions than just killing enemies. You have recon (fly through and take some pictures) and salvage missions (pick up something with tractor beam) now. There are also capture and infiltrate missions in which you are detailed to disable and capture enemy ships/fighters, and send infiltration teams into enemy ships. In some missions you must fight without using the radar, which is essential to locate your enemies. In other missions you fight in a nebula, which means visibility range is way down and you fly partially blind. You will also have a chance to pick from multiple missions, not just from plot choice.

For the ones who must have different toys, several new weapons (and old weapons, for those who played earlier WC installments) are in WC4 and their use will affect your tactics. There are also alternative guns that are may be available in the crafts you fly, which introduces even more variables.

Instead of picking wingmen just by whim, you can now look at their combat ratings and decide to take (or send) on missions. In some missions you will need to send a separate team toward a different objective, and your choices will affect that mission's success.

The power allocation are still adjustable as in WC3, and this becomes more important now with different types of weapons available. The flight engine is based on SVGA (640x480x256), with optional VGA (320x200x256) mode. Explosions are now more spectacular. Missile launches are now accompanied by missile trails for easier tracking and evasion, and the ships and fighters themselves look as good as ever. There are more ground missions now, and texture-mapped ground shows a much more realistic terrain than WC3's ground missions, though if speed is a concern you can have WC3's ground style back (detail level medium).

Between Flights

Between flights you wander about the ship you are on and interact with various characters onboard. As the sets are now real physical sets instead of computer generated "virtual sets", better camera work really shows. You will see more panning and zooming which makes the whole thing fell more like a movie.

The new "global map" has been added so you can jump to the next available "conversation" instead of wandering about the ship looking for the next plot point.

The plot is interesting enough: unknown fighters are destroying civilian ships of both the Confederation and Union of Border Worlds. Who are behind the attacks? Confeds reactivate Colonel Blair, which is you the player, to find out, and there starts your adventure... In which you must make several choices which may leave marks on your soul... It involves betrayal, loyalty, decisions about life and death... WC4 has some of the best writing I've seen in a game, and one of the plot twists in the middle will shock you...

The acting in WC4 is good, as good as WC3 if not better. As advertised, most of the big names returned in this game: Mark Hamill John Rhys-Davis, Malcolm MacDowell, etc. There are some in-flight movies and they now flip faster between space flight and movie, which is great. On a 16 meg machine you should not need to wait more than 1 minute for a mission to start, often far less.

Background material

There is a background booklet which is essentially the WC4 intro in a novelette form. I found it much more satisfying to watch the intro instead. The ship reference does not exist, and the weapon reference is scattered among the background booklet pages. On the other hand the install instructions are clear and concise, while the command reference card is easy to follow, a definite plus.

The Verdict

Origin is truly the master of "interactive movie", which is not a title to be used lightly. Origin has managed to find the perfect balance between action, plot, and interactivity.

Review By GamesDomain

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