Anyone who found themselves nonplussed by the wealth of commands to learn in genre companion Freespace 2, and its ilk, might be happy to note that Team 17 has opted for a simpler model that doesn't require you to lean a brick on the keyboard just to change weapons. Indeed, Phoenix comes across as more arcade-like than its predecessors - the shield adjustments and wingmen orders have been dispensed with to make way for the basics of flying and firing. It's probably fitting, then, that having half as many keys should mean it's only half as good.
Although your path through the game can change depending on the outcome of certain missions, don't expect any shocking deviations from the standard escort, transport defending, etc, of other titles. Enemy ships take an age to destroy while, in contrast, your own shield lasts just a few seconds in the face of enemy fire. Taking on more than one ship in a dogfight is sure to lead to a quick death in harder missions. Even worse, in the thick of things your companions constantly radio for help, but because you can't target them or switch to an external view, it's tricky to see who needs you and where. Graphics are nothing to write home about either and the game lacks the atmosphere it sorely strives for.
Special mention must also be made of the plot, which describes itself as 'reminiscent of 1940s film noir' and not as the hackneyed, cliche-ridden, sci-fi claptrap it so obviously is. Any pretensions it may have had are drowned in a mixture of bad acting and cheesy dialogue, making it more a case of The Last Starfighter than The Maltese Falcon.
For what it's worth, Phoenix does its job as a simple shooter. However, the game's aspirations and overall lack of quality let it down in the end.
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