The Wing Commander series takes a turn for the dramatic, bringing itself closer and closer to interactive movie status. Nowhere is this more evident than in Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom with its many CDs and overabundance of full motion video (FMV). The game gives you choices of selecting dialogue options that, in theory, could alter the course of events. At one point, you're given a monumentally important decision that could alter the fate of human history. But, you'll quickly find out that all these responses and choices are empty. No matter which dialogue option you choose, you'll still be railroaded down one path. That's quite disappointing, as it makes you feel like a mere bystander in the course of events instead of an active participant.
Origin spent wads of cash in making the game's FMV sequences and it shows. Technically they're of movie quality and gorgeous. The veteran actors, including Mark Hamill, vividly bring their own characters to life in both the ability to deliver dialogue with feeling and overall acting prowess. They also bring the rest of the cast closer to their level in terms of acting ability, making the FMV sequences seem like clips right out of big budget movies. That's not surprising, as the clips did receive a big budget.
In-game visuals are fairly good quality, although the engine is basically an updated version of the Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger engine. Enemy ships scale nicely as they close in from a distance and, conversely, weapon fire scales out nicely, too. When you approach other ships, you can see an incredible amount of detail. If your machine can meet the game's hefty system requirement (c. 1997), the combat engine runs at a beautifully smooth rate with very fluid movement and panning. In-game sounds are quite good with convincingly powerful explosions and varied effects for shooting different types of guns. Voice clips from the lesser cast members are passable but, again, the main casts' voice talents shine through.
Gameplay is fun and challenging and a worthy step forward for the Wing Commander series. Unfortunately, gameplay is also no different than in previous games except in one aspect: you fly through the 3D emptiness of space using your missiles and guns to complete a variety of objectives, most of which invariably end with destroying all enemies. The game controls well with a joystick but is also quite playable using the keyboard. The ability to customize your ship's load out is a great innovation, as you can now enter missions with a ship suited to your battle tactics. At all but the easiest level, the game is quite difficult and gives you the chance to get into intense extended dogfights. And dogfighting in space is what this game is all about.
Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom is a worthy addition to the Wing Commander family. It's eminently playable as a space flight simulation and continues the series' tradition of excellence. However, despite its enormous budget, the FMV sequences do not add as much to the game as they should. After you realize your choices have no consequences, the plot becomes just a little less interesting. If you want an RPG style experience, you won't find it here; what you will find is a lot of space flight fun.
Graphics: Excellent FMV sequences and fairly good in-game flight simulation graphics.
Sound: Convincingly real sound effects plus a great voice cast contributes greatly to the game's sound quality.
Enjoyment: A worthy successor to the solid gameplay of the Wing Commander series.
Replay Value: The dialogue options only give you the illusion of choice, not the reality of it.
Christopher Blair, "Heart of the Tiger" had retired to a farming planet after the war, content with retirement, so he says... In the depths of space, a new menace has surfaced. Some unknown attackers are killing civilian ships. The tension between the Confederation and the Border Worlds is at an all time high, as both sides accuse the other of staging the attacks. Admiral Tolwyn has recalled Blair back to service, where he will make the most difficult choice of all... And contemplate action he had never dared before, in the name of justice...
Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom is a mix of interactive movie and space sim. The game has a dynamic mission tree, which means the player's behaviour will determine the next mission. The videos feature real actors, like Mark Hamill, Tom Wilson, John Rhys-Davies and Malcolm McDowell. Before the start of each mission, the space craft can be equipped with different weapons. Sometimes the mission objectives change during flight, and the player has to make decisions what he wants to do next, e.g. help out his friend or destroy an enemy fighter.
People who downloaded Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom have also downloaded:
Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger, Wing Commander II: Deluxe Edition, Wing Commander: Prophecy - Gold, Wing Commander 1, Wing Commander: Privateer - Gemini Gold, Wing Commander Privateer (CD-ROM), Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga, Wing Commander 2: Vengeance of the Kilrathi
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