Wing Commander

Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

Wing Commander was, in almost every respect, the computer game version of Star Wars. Its setting was a cross between that movie and Top Gun (though the bad guys were played by Kzin-clones called "Kilrathi"); the hero even appeared to be a cross between Tom Cruise and Mark Hamill (Hamill himself played the hero in Wing Commanders III and IV). Even the soundtrack seemed derivative of that trilogy of movies.

The storyline of Wing Commander was simple: man and Kilrathi were at war. The player flies "missions" as a pilot in the Confederation's navy; his or her success or failure determines what path the plot will take. Wing Commander's storyline branched, so that by the time the player reached the end (assuming he or she survived that far - another ending was an elaborate funeral sequence for the hero) there were several ways the story could end.

The actual "missions" were fairly good (though I have reservations about endorsing any space simulator that sets a top speed for ships and slows them automatically when the engine's turned off), but what set Wing Commander apart from other games were the "cut scenes" between missions. Set in the carrier's bar or in the briefing room, these scenes presented the hero and his co-pilots as believable characters with distinct personalities, and gave the game a distinctly "cinematic" feel. If any game can be credited for starting the "Siliwood revolution", Wing Commander could.

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