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  Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter - Review

Review:
X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter & Balance of Power Expansion

Publisher:
Lucas Arts

Review by:
Richard Knight

Published:
March 14, 1999

 

"Two Short campaigns can't save this title from the Dark Side of the bargain bin."

Gamers were understandably excited when LucasArts and Totally games announced X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter.  The big multi-page spread in PC Gamer showed all sorts of exciting dogfights with textured starships - something they could not do for the previous two games in the series. Unfortunately, the turn towards multiplayer combat was a huge loss for gamers everywhere.

 

Installation

80% - Easy on the Mind

When you dig open the box, you feel both wonder and disappointment.  The CDs are all hiding in plastic sleeves with nary a jewel case to be found.  Even worse still, only the Balance of Power manual is meant to fit in one.

Gamer's who don't have CD-Audio capabilities will be especially frustrated.   LucasArts seems to have taken for granted that users with CD-ROM drives will have CD-Audio setups.  A simple addition to the minimum system requirements would have been welcome.    

Installing X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter is pretty painless.  I encountered no bugs or problems during installation, and once it was done hording hard drive space (around 150MB), the procedure was quickly finished.

Danger strikes when I discover a single piece of green paper in the box.   "Please install Balance of Power to enable 3Dfx support."  Yikes.   Want to play on the Gaming Zone or use 3D acceleration?  Install the expansion.  Any brownie points they earn through the pamphlet is immediately lost because they didn't write this into the installation file already.

Balance of Power is a much more quiet installation, but still just as greedy.  It uses a different executable and files than XvT, so your hard drive is sacked for space right off the start.

 

Graphics

55% - Outdated and Ugly

Unlike X-Wing Alliance, Totally Games has basically just brought over the models from TIE fighter and applied textures.  Without a pretty hefty 3D accelerator, all you end up seeing is gray blurs and poor geometry.

Explosions are almost unforgivable - even the Super Star Destroyer Vengeance merely rolls around with tiny explosion pictures.  Compared to Descent: Freespace, this could have been a lot better.  Even the cockpits are still miserable low-resolution 2D graphics!

 

Sound & Music

80% - Good or Great?

Sound wise, XvT is still a carbon copy of TIE Fighter.  Occasionally you hear the hum of a TIE engine, and you certainly hear your own buzzing one, but otherwise it is remarkably sparse.  Every laser still makes the same sound, leaving you with a feeling of deja vu.

The music is a hot center for debate.  The CDs contain several tracks (1 particular track is a 21 minute compilation) of music from the Star Wars Trilogy.   The heart-pumping score from John Williams is exciting, and does a great deal to make you feel like a part of the universe.

On the other side of the fence, the classic TIE Fighter style dynamic midi music has been removed.  Because it is Redbook audio, nothing is synchronized to the game action.  You could hear the intense moments from the end of Star Wars: A New Hope while there is not a single imperial ship in space.

In the end, the stirring score is a far deal easier to listen to than LucasArt's midi only (no hardware wavetable worked with TF) tracks. 

 

AI / Difficulty

49% - Cheating Bastards

Whoopee!  Another TIE squadron dies while leaving the hangar.  If you have the difficulty set to the right level, you will end up with enough kills to enter the Rebel hall of fame.  If you set that difficulty meter too high, you will spend all day avoiding the 16 missiles every fighter sends your way. 

Harder doesn't necessarily means smarter,  and it shows.

 

Game Play

65% - The Glass is half Empty

For the most part, this is the classic TIE-Fighter style action.  Commands are easily set, and flying is generally the same. 

However (how many times have you heard that during this review!), in order to create a fair multiplayer environment, two new concepts needed to be added - countermeasures and turning changes.

The former is a welcome addition.  Chaff provides great defense against rear-missiles and tractor beams, while Flares provide you with homing anti-torpedoes, making those missile-heavy confrontations easier to deal with.

The latter can be appreciated in time, but it will no doubt irritate fans of X-Wing and TIE Fighter.  In order to reach maximum turning potential, your ship has to be at 1/3rd speed.  Not 0, and not full.  The days of turning TIE fighters are gone.

The real disappointment, though, is the sheer lack of storyline.  XvT integrates a few vague campaigns, leaving gamers wondering if LucasArts/Totally Games have completely left the campaign / cut scene idea.  Balance of Power adds two campaigns (one rebel, one imperial) dealing with the SSD Vengeance, but the cut scenes are both primitive and few and far between.

 

Final Analysis

55% - All Music, little Game

I felt extremely disappointed in X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter and Balance of Power a short time after I bought it.  The price is great, but the actual game play will leave you with an empty feeling that X-Wing Collectors Series would have been a better choice.  

At least the titles in that package are proven classics.

X-Wing VS. TIE Fighter with Balance of Power Expansion Set

Totally Games

LucasArts

MSRP: $39.95 US / $59.95 CAN

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Recommended Specs

Windows 95/98/NT 4.0
Pentium II - 300
64mb RAM
Voodoo2 or comparable 3D accelerator
4-Button Joystick
8x speed CD-ROM
300MB Hard Disk Space

 


Another ugly explosion.  It might be convincing in the first split second, but not for the duration of the blast.
   

Oh Goody, its the SSD Vengeance.   Its pretty big, but even I expected more than a dozen polygons.


One of the more impressive screenshots shows a lot of color, as well as those horrible explosions and poor 2D cockpit.
  


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