PopLurker Plays: DOS FX – Wing Commander

By Aaron Russell

 

 

Hi. DOS Effects here. It’s good to see you.

Sorry I’ve been away for a while. I was too wrapped up in my featured game. Who knew a classic from 1990 would take up a month of my free time? When I sat down to get my screen shots for this review, I had played it three times through. It is perhaps my favorite old school game.

Let me reintroduce you to…

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I have not met a 3-D space combat simulator that is its equal, unless you count its sequel. Wing Commander borrows from all the great sci-fi classics, plus Top Gun, and melds them into one.

The plot consists of an ongoing war between humans and a Klingonesque feline race, called the Kilrathi. We play the part of the hot shot rookie 2nd Lt., just transferred to the space battleship, The TCS Tiger’s Claw. And, we’re out to make a name for ourselves.

Let’s take a flight down memory lane, shall we?

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We start our adventure in a fight simulator, located in the Tiger’s Claw lounge/bar. We are prompted to enter our last name and callsign. I used to use “Deez-Nutz” when I was 14 for my last name, but I’m older and wiser now, so I’m going with “Testicles”. I keep my callsign lower case for future grammatically funny situations.

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Here is the lovely lounge where you can hang out whenever you’re in between missions. You can sit and listen to the gripes of the other crewmen, play the simulator, or check out the scoreboard. Let’s take a gander at the standings.

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I’m a big, fat 0. Looks like I need to get out there and skin some cats. But first, let’s meet the indelible crew of the TCS Tiger’s Claw. We have all the stereotypes you could possibly want…

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Drunk Irishman:

Sláinte! Seriously, check out how many glasses are around this guy in that shot of the lounge above.

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The Romantic French:

Dessine-moi comme une de tes filles françaises. Angel soothes you like a glass of merlot. Plus, you totally get to shack up with her in the sequel while she’s your commanding officer.

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Samurai Warrior:

Atataka ni oshikko shimasu! (Spoiler) She actually kamikazes into an enemy space station that her fiancé is being held captive on, blowing it up, and killing them both. Apparently, this is the only Japanese trait game creator Chris Roberts knows.

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Rowdy Aussie:

Drop your guts! His name’s Ian, but he’ll always be Bruce to me. He’s super friendly, but his eyes say, “If worse comes to worse, mate…I’m gonna have to eat ya.”

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Cold Canadian Killing Machine:

Eh? I’m not sure if it’s an actual stereotype, but this is the future. Anything’s possible.

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Only Black Character/Always First To Get Killed:

Word. I’m not saying Chris Roberts is racist, but this guy is the most inept wingman ever. As soon as you get into battle, he needs bailed out. Wait. Knight/Night. Night=Dark. Yeah, he’s racist.

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Crazy White Bread:

Aw Geez. This guy’s meth habit is so transparent, I’m surprised they even let him on board. Plus, he never follows orders, which is fine. I want this mofo as far away from me in battle as possible.

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2nd Asian:

I think his rendering is bordering on Latino, which would have made a nice rounded crew, but Chris has him written down as hailing from Taiwan. Whatever.

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Michael Ironside:

It wouldn’t be the 90s without a little Ironside. Was it irony that a pilot with the callsign “Shotglass” became the ship’s bartender or was it just bad writing?

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Old White Guy Leader:

We never see Colonel Peter Halcyon out of his NASCAR uniform. He always wants to see me in his office after I’ve had a shower.

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Moving along, we enter the only other room you can go to on the ship. It’s the crew’s sleeping quarters. The beds are save-game spots. If you save your game on one of the empty beds, a sleeping naked person appears there. And check out that co-ed. Aw yeah.

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From this room you can access the lockers on the back wall to see all the accolades you’ve amassed. And when you’re bored doing all that, you can go to the briefing room to the right to begin your new mission.

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Colonel Halcyon briefs you on your task. The missions are all variations on three standard themes. There are patrol missions, guarding missions, and destroying the objective missions. I really hate the guarding missions. Thankfully, they’re only a third of the game.

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After the briefing, we’re treated to a “get to the hanger and into your ship” montage. After the twentieth time, it gets old. Thankfully the ESC button will get you straight to your mission.

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Here’s where the fun begins. From inside the cockpit, you have all the attention to detail you could ever want. Weapons, damage, shields, speed, target status, radar, fuel. That shit is all at your command. The 3D combat rocks, and the difficulty is nice and gradual. I even love the flying debris coming off the ships as they take hits.

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Hey! Look who didn’t make it back this time. Big surprise. I can only keep his ass alive half the time anyway. Why is “Major” all in caps? I guess Knight REALLY couldn’t handle it.

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You even get to attend to the poor sod’s funeral. You get to say thought provoking stuff like, “Don’t worry, Knight. I’ll finish the job you couldn’t.” But if you’re feeling bad for Knight, don’t stress. He’s back in the sequel. They even add another black character! His name is…Downtown? Seriously? He dies too?! Fucking Chris Roberts.

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When you go back to the scoreboard, it reflects your fallen comrades. If you enjoy your privacy, you can actually kill your own wingman if you like, and you don’t get punished. By the end though, the board is a lot of KIAs. It gets kind of lonely and does make the game a little tougher. Even if the wingmen and wingwomen don’t carry their weight, they still distract one or two of the fighters for you.On a side note, Chris Roberts must have realized how troubled 14yr olds like me might play the game. Because in Wing Commander 2, your comrades start returning fire if you shoot at them. You become the enemy and they hunt you down like a stuck pig. Serves me right, you gaming sociopath.

And wow. After only twelve missions, I’m the top dog on the scoreboard. They must be calling me “wunderkind” or something. I do seem to get a promotion every other mission, whereas everybody else doesn’t seem to get shit. Poor Maniac, who stays a lowly 2nd Lt. throughout the whole game. He’s probably crying under his bunk while he chiefs his meth.

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Remember earlier when I said using a smutty callsign could lead to entertainment? I guess I just like my sci-fi, fighting for human existence sagas to have equal parts drama and comedy. Take this exchange in one of the briefings for example…

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There’s plenty more where that came from, but taking these screen shots from a game you can’t pause during the dialog scenes is laborious. You’re just going to have to get the game and callsign yourself “a masturbating hobbit” or something. Anyway, back to the action.

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Check it out. I’ve lost two guns, a missile, most of the armor plating on the aft and port sides. I’m only going 40kps. You know why? I just rammed an enemy ship into Kitty Valhalla. Did I mention you can take out the enemy, when worse comes to worse, by ramming them? Well, I should have. I have flown missions before where, after multiple engagements, I’m down to no guns, no missiles, no afterburner fuel and minimal armor and have taken out the last guy by ramming them. It’s one of those rare video game moments that causes you to jump up and yell, “Did anybody else just see that shit!!?” and cause your cats to run in place for five seconds until their claws finally catch and bolt out of the room.

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Another added bonus is seeing what your ship looks like after that kind of sortie. When you pull into the hanger, Old “Three Sayings” Johnson will tell you that he’s glad you made it back alive. His other two remarks are about getting away clean if your ship isn’t damaged, or that it looks like it got a little hot out there because of moderate damage. Even though he’s glad I got back alive, I bet he’s a little pissed off about what I did to his ship. “Did you really have to ram them, dickhole?”I could use a rest after a mission like that…

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Looks like the crew quarters is filling up fast. I see Chris Roberts decided to go with the classic “bucket catching the leak”. Bravo, futuristic basement apartment. And I’m not positive, but I think five of them are flatlining.

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Stick with missionary or cowgirl, MAJOR.

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After a hard fight with an enemy escort, there’s nothing like taking out a defenseless transport with over 1,000 unarmed dignitaries on board. We take no prisoners in this game. There’s not much else I can say about Wing Commander. The sequel is just as good. I recommend to harken back to a simpler time and sit down with this treasure for a campaign or three. You won’t be disappointed.Let’s check in on our sleeping crew one more time to say our good-byes…

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Never mind. They’re pretty busy right now. After all that, how could I not give this awesome space sandwich a score of 11 Gold-Pressed Latinum Bars out of 10 Gold-Pressed Latinum Bars?

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There’s just no way.

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Get Commanded with Aaron on Twitter. He also has a website devoted to his Photoshop hilarity.

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