The Glory Days of FMV: Wing Commander III on GOG.COM

Good Old Games has previously re-released the Tex Murphy noir thrillers Under a Killing Moon and Pandora Directive as well as Roberta Williams' campy Phantasmagoria horror adventures, and now at long last the turn has come to what's arguably the best and most historically important entry in the subgenre of FMV gaming; Chris Roberts' ground-breaking and incredibly expensive space sim/interactive movie Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger (1994). With a genuinely star-studded cast, hours of lavishly produced live-action sequences including revolutionary use of CGI and nicely polygonal in-game graphics this was more than just a nerdy space sim with some pretty cutscenes thrown in for good measure - it was an early, daring statement about video games as big budget entertainment which could one day rival regular films and TV productions in sheer mass market appeal.

The concepts of FMV and interactive movies may have since fallen out of fashion, but going back to the game now it's clear that both the acting, writing and directing in WC3 is a cut above the rest in the genre (which admittedly isn't saying much). It's all still more than a little bit cheesy, of course, but for once that comes more from various sci-fi genre conventions than from the FMVs themselves, and cast members such as Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, John Rhys Davies, Jason Bernard and Thomas Wilson all put in nice, memorable performances.

Buy WC3 here;

http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/wing_commander_3_heart_of_the_tiger

6 Comments
7 Comments
Posted by Egge

Good Old Games has previously re-released the Tex Murphy noir thrillers Under a Killing Moon and Pandora Directive as well as Roberta Williams' campy Phantasmagoria horror adventures, and now at long last the turn has come to what's arguably the best and most historically important entry in the subgenre of FMV gaming; Chris Roberts' ground-breaking and incredibly expensive space sim/interactive movie Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger (1994). With a genuinely star-studded cast, hours of lavishly produced live-action sequences including revolutionary use of CGI and nicely polygonal in-game graphics this was more than just a nerdy space sim with some pretty cutscenes thrown in for good measure - it was an early, daring statement about video games as big budget entertainment which could one day rival regular films and TV productions in sheer mass market appeal.

The concepts of FMV and interactive movies may have since fallen out of fashion, but going back to the game now it's clear that both the acting, writing and directing in WC3 is a cut above the rest in the genre (which admittedly isn't saying much). It's all still more than a little bit cheesy, of course, but for once that comes more from various sci-fi genre conventions than from the FMVs themselves, and cast members such as Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, John Rhys Davies, Jason Bernard and Thomas Wilson all put in nice, memorable performances.

Buy WC3 here;

http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/wing_commander_3_heart_of_the_tiger

Edited by ahoodedfigure

I have to admit, I felt the pixel versions of the Kilrathi had more credibility. And while the weird lip-synching of the drawn human characters took some getting used to, it was a lot better than when a single mediocre-to-bad performance tanked an equivalent live-action scene. Once you accept a game on its own terms, as long as it's consistent you'll get a lot out of it.
 
Still, if there's one FMV game that showed the medium could have been more than a fad, it was this...
 
Does the video exist WITHOUT interlacing?

Edited by Egge

@ahoodedfigure: Since WC3 is the only Wing Commander game I have played - I'm only in it for the FMV and don't care for the WC universe as such or space sims as a genre - I have barely ever even seen the pixel versions of the Kilrathi apart from the odd screenshot here and there. Personally I love everything about their "plastic furry" live action appearances, though.

One a side note, you could say that FMVs are back again, sort of. Apart from indie developers like Twisted Pixel (who apparently uses actual FMV in most of their games), recent narratively ambitious AAA titles such as LA Noire and Heavy Rain - while entirely in polygonal 3D - seem to operate on more or less the same basic principles and fundamental assumptions as the old FMV games. What I have in mind is that ambitious but at the same time narrow and literalist interpretation of what realism in interactive entertainment should be which led Team Bondi to assemble a hundred cameras or so and capture every last blemish in a bunch of semi-recognizable actors' faces in order to produce something the developers thought that players could possibly relate to.

Of course, another way to look at it is that they spent untold millions of dollars merely in order to avoid using the by now infamous and supposedly discredited FMV technique in their story-focused, acting-driven adventure game....

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I admit, I lost it when the Cat Puppets started talking. Nonetheless, it is my general understanding that this and the Command and Conquer series were the only games that didn't use FMV to their own detriment, before it started being used ironically by Twisted Pixel. It's an era that I'd like to see come back to games, only if because I was barely alive when the Sega CD came out and seeing individuals like the AVGN and The Spoony One attempt to review the cesspool that came out of that technology always makes me wish we had something that easy to mock in this era.

As for the game itself... Sure? I'll probably get it when it goes on sale. I already have the first two WC games, as well as Privateer and a surprisingly non-shady copy of Tie Fighter that I, in fact, do have the floppy disks for, for some unknown reason.

Posted by Egge

@ArbitraryWater: I still can't believe how anyone could not think the Kilrathi are the coolest things ever, and I can more or less quote every furry-related line in the intro from memory - and feel tremendously badass while doing so. I guess being 12 at the time of the game's release may have something to do with this, though...

But, yes, C&C had nice use of FMV too albeit with a much more limited scope (mission briefings etc.). WC3 was one of the few games which incorporated the complete interactive movie concept and included some passable gameplay inbetween.

Posted by falling_fast

I keep meaning to go on a shopping spree on GoG, but I already have way too much stuff I haven't finished.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Yeah, I picked up on the irony myself. I guess because they ARE polygonal there is a measure of it being realized in a virtual space, so that you could conceivably have the same action shot from different angles, but that's a technical distinction that avoids the plain fact that it's a new form of FMV. Personally I'm fine with it, because I never wrote off FMV just because most of it was embarrassing. I saw the potential there for real actors to emote in ways that bypass our usual defenses.