This arcade-style combat sim puts players in the cockpit of a fighter ship armed with lasers, missiles, photon torpedoes, and dreaded plasma glob launchers, challenging them with missions of escort, rescue, and all-out assault in enemy space.
Space Interceptor is an arcade-style space combat game that features fast and frenzied action, multiple mission types, and a lot of really cool eye-candy. It's by no means flawless, but I gotta tell ya, it's a good old-fashioned blast 'em into smithereens "twitch" game, with more depth than just "line it up and shoot."
Initially set up for mouse-controlled flight, Space Interceptor easily converts to your favorite flightstick or gamepad. In my case, the great Saitek X45 Flightstick/Throttle combo more than lived up to the task of precision shooting, and just to quell you naysayers, it is also quite flyable by using mouse control. As a lifelong "I hate mouse-based flight" kind of guy, I had no problems strapping in and beginning my career as space ace. Even at high graphics settings, the "dampness" of response is nowhere to be found here.
The alien land- and spacescapes are lovingly rendered in high-resolution 3D, and the framerate is astonishingly high and smooth. Lighting effects are not thrown in just for a "gee-whiz" factor, but are well-placed and well thought out. Solar flares can create a blinding glare in your cockpit, making it more important to pay attention to your instruments as well as your eyes.
The cockpit is nicely laid out, with all necessary data right in front of you. I would have preferred at least a single radar map to make a little more sense of enemy formations, but using arrows that scroll around the periphery of the screen, it's not too hard to find the next poor schlep to be in your gunsights. Another improvement here would have been the ability to lock on to targets that weren't right in front of your nose. Sometimes, finding the slimy dude who's been peppering your tail with laser fire is more of a guessing game. The main reason for this is, Space Interceptor loves to throw lots of enemies at you at one time, making it more of a chore pinpointing the one out of 20 who has a vendetta against you.
The sound effects are crisp, and the only real criticism I have is in the redundancy of comments your "wingmen" make. To be frank, I got really tired of being called a "new" ace after blasting away literally hundreds of bad guys. The music is also a bit of a repetitive techno-house sort of riff, with the occasional change in timbre and tone just before or after a major conflict. A little more creativity in the audio department could have lifted this game onto higher ground.
The learning curve is pretty standard, complete with the mandatory training modes. Once you begin the actual meat of the game, the first few missions are considerably easier than those to follow. The computer AI routines are pretty good, but after an hour or so of playing, you get a feel for their attack patterns, and can usually drop down on them from a high five o'clock position before they seem to be aware of your threatening presence. If you noticed, I used quotes around the word "wingmen" in the last paragraph. Let me just say that, if I am ever lost 600 light years from home, I hope to have a much deadlier group watching my thrusters. These guys (who are not controllable through any sort of command structure) will tell you to just concentrate on taking out a building, and the next thing you know, you have multiple bogeys on your six, and your comrades seem to be nowhere in sight. Trust me; a good tactic in any of the land-based missions is to try to take out any enemy fighters first, then the ground-based weapons, then finally, your target objectives. Don't trust anyone that's not you to take out your threats.
Your ship is upgradeable in a rudimentary way. Before each mission, you can control which of three areas (attack, defense, or speed) you wish to research next. As you progress through missions, you access new weapons, hull materials, shields and engine types. The enemy ships are many and varied, from small one-man fighters to massive Battle Cruisers and Corvettes. The alien ships you encounter later in the game move much swifter, and have deadlier weapons than their terrestrial counterparts.
Your weapons are what you'd expect. You have your standard-issue rapid-fire laser, air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles (both of these guided after establishing a lock), as well as a plasma weapon and heavy rockets (both unguided, and best used against large, stationary targets).
The missions themselves are, again, pretty much what you'd come to expect from a game of this genre. Your tasks will include protecting cargo transports, escorting dignitaries, navigating asteroid fields and meteor showers, scouting uncharted territory, and of course, my favorite, "If'n-it-ain't-you-SHOOT-it!"
The game is a bit too linear for my taste, the missions themselves linked by a non-branching storyline, which is truly incidental. I could go into a summary of the narrative, but it wouldn't make you change your mind about whether or not to buy this title. It's not that the cut scenes and all that aren't pretty, but they just don't do anything to drive you forward. However, the sheer fun of flying this game will keep you saying "One more mission before I go to bed," or "I know why I died last time, let me try it this way..."
Another omission is the integration of online play, which is simply a shame because this game just screams to be played head(s)-to-head(s). It made me all misty-eyed for the days when there were thousands of people out there in the ether flying around, blasting each other into space dust. The replay value would be much higher with this implementation, or at least a mission editor, so you could set up your own little arenas against the computer AI.
The other little problem I have with Space Interceptor is its length. With only 21 missions in all, I was more than halfway finished the game in my first sitting. I'm estimating a total of probably 7-10 hours' completion time, but this is still a bargain, especially in this day and age when X-Wings and TIE Fighters don't seem to exist outside of RTS games.
In the final analysis, Space Interceptor is a flawed gem. It's a lot of fun to play, it looks and feels great, but a number of omissions (most notably multiplayer capability) give it a short lifespan with very limited replayability.
People who downloaded Space Interceptor have also downloaded:
Space Rangers, Star Wars: Starfighter, Starlancer, Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance, Star Wars TIE Fighter (Collector's CD-ROM), Wing Commander: Privateer - Gemini Gold, Star Trek: Bridge Commander, Star Trek: Starfleet Command 2 - Empires at War
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