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  StarLancer Review

Installation

75% - Mostly Solid

REVIEW SYSTEM

  • Intel Pentium-II 400MHz
  • 256MB PC-100 SDRAM
  • 3dfx Voodoo3 3000 AGP
  • Creative SoundBlaster Live! X-Gamer
  • MS Windows98 2nd Edition

Installation was quick and simple. The game clocks in at a comfortable 300MB of hard drive space. However, if you decide to do the full install that includes the cinematic cut scenes, you're looking at a whopping 1.2GB install. Then again, 20+GB drives are becoming pretty common nowadays, and if you are lucky enough to have a large drive, do the whopper install and enjoy.

The game performed almost flawlessly on my machine, a testament to the stability of most entertainment titles published by Microsoft. Even with graphics options turned up and Environmental Audio enabled, I only had an occasional burp. I have experienced only one crash in single-player mode. Very solid and efficient software.

The network/multiplayer code, on the other hand, is a sore subject. I have YET to successfully enter a multiplayer game on the Gaming Zone. There are problems up and down, left and right with this feature. If you have a 56K or slower connection, you're likely to be unhappy with the performance. It is VERY frustrating in this day and age for many players who do not have access to high-speed bandwidth. Just about every game hitting the shelves now requires high-speed access for a truly enjoyable multiplayer experience. Bottom line, 56K doesn't cut it anymore.

As with most space combat sims, there are quite a few controls to learn. Have no fear. Between the manual, quick reference chart, the training missions, you should be in the cockpit and ready to fly your first live mission in a jiffy.

 

Graphics

88% - Yummy!

What can I say? Not only are the graphics incredibly detailed and smooth, but you don't need the latest and greatest, hole-in-wallet burning graphics board to enjoy all the eye candy. Everything from the combustion animation's to the warp projectors is simply fabulous. Feast your eyes upon some of our screenshots to see for yourself. Remember, however, that you can't get the full effect until you've seen the game in action.

 

Sound & Music

73% - Adequate

After playing Allegiance, where the sound was so critical and immersive, StarLancer's sound effects just don't seem to stand out. Although the missiles, blasters, and such are very clean, they don't really jump out at you. The effects aren't bad, but they aren't anything special. The voice chatter of other pilots is also mediocre, though they do a nifty job of progressing the storylines.

The soundtrack is like something you'd hear out of a film. Utilizing orchestral melodies that are constantly matching the situations during your missions really adds a feel of drama. Whether a battle hymn just prior to entering the fray, or the sorrowful march played for a comrade lost in action, the tracks are used as another means of fueling the story.

 

Game Play

86% - Just one more mission...

Don't expect anything deeper than what you've seen with Wing Commander. The current formula for space combat sims is tried and true, and StarLancer actually takes the route towards more action than simulation. This is likely in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience than just the hard-core space-sim fans.

There's no doubt that the game is addictive. I don't know how many times I've thought to myself "ok… just one more mission and then I'll hit the sack". StarLancer also appears to have a good replay value, as the success or failure of your missions can lead to different plot lines. However, each plot line is likely to end up at the same concluding battle. Successfully completing certain missions, or certain bonus objectives within those missions, can earn you medals and decorations. In between missions, you can peek into your "locker" and see what all you have earned.

Sometimes the missions seem impossible to accomplish, as you'll receive various unexpected orders and surprises on the fly. You'll end up with very little time to react, and sometimes it gives the impression that you were SUPPOSED to fail.

The interface is fairly standard to most space-sims. Nothing really new, but again, it doesn't need to be. If it aint' broke, don't fix it. Oddly enough, after becoming comfortable with the realistic physics in the Allegiance engine, I was a bit disappointed with those of StarLancer.

 

AI / Difficulty

46% - Are you that dumb?

It is in StarLancers AI/Difficulty that we find its biggest flaw. Enemy fighter planes are simply dimwitted. It almost seems as if they are TRYING to get you to chase them, instead of trying to get behind you for a clean shot. Your wingmen are hardly a vital element, as you'll almost always do a large majority of the work yourself. It's sad but it's true: both enemy and friendly AI simply don't cut it.

Nine out of ten times, you'll restart a mission not because you got blown apart, but because you failed an objective. Where's Steve Polge when you need him?

 

Multiplayer

??% - Inconclusive

StarLancer features two modes of multiplayer. First is the traditional deathmatch. While deathmatch is certainly not much of an innovation these days, Digital Anvil has thrown us a curve. There are both positive AND negative power-ups, and you won't know exactly what you're getting until you actually grab it. You might acquire something useful like a cloaking device, or you could end up picking up a device that reverses all your controls.

You can also play in cooperative mode and complete the same missions from the single-player game, only now with real players as your wingmen.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to actually play on the Internet thanks to the lack of ANY high-speed Internet solutions in my area. Thus, I don't believe it would be fair to rate the actual gameplay of the multiplayer mode. I will, however, say that Digital Anvil needs to seriously tweak their network code.

 

Final Analysis

82% - Good work 45th!

We're quite pleased with the overall entertainment value of StarLancer. The single player mode is solid and many Wing Commander veterans will recognize the work of Chris Roberts and company. Good story, great graphics, and addictive gameplay make this one worthwhile to grab.

It's a shame that, without high-speed access, the multiplayer mode is pretty much un-playable. Still, if you have the high-speed access or you can play on a LAN, it looks promising. Multiplayer misgivings aside, the jump in the seat shootem up style of StarLancer instead of a hard-core SIM style, should appeal to a much larger audience.

Go get 'em Tigers.

Rob "RJCombo" Garrett

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StarLancer Box

 

Review:
StarLancer
Developer:
Digital Anvil
Publisher:
Microsoft
Review by:
Rob "RJCombo" Garret
Published:
May 24, 2000

 


"Blast 'em!"

"The Mission Briefing"

"Here comes the Calvary!"

"Down goes the base!"

"A wingmen falls victim to the Ion Cannon."

"Missiles away!"

"Check out the news between missions."

"Choose and outfit your vessel."

"This means you did good!"

"Preparing for warp."

"Here I come to save the daaaay!"

"It looks even better in motion."
 
"For additional information on StarLancer, be sure to check out the following websites:"
LancerWorld.net
"The unofficial StarLancer and FreeLancer site"
Lancer News
"A friendly guide to an unfriendly universe."
Lancers Reactor
"The hottest place for StarLancer and FreeLancer news, cheats, and demos."
StarLancer Vault
"Member of the IGN Vault Network"

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