A rushed game which could have been so much more.
One more young pilot takes a change of career and a huge pay cut in order to help take down the Empire. Oh, and you get to fly the Millennium Falcon (What XWA review is complete without mentioning that?)
This most recent installment of Lucas Arts' highly popular X-Wing series was eagerly awaited by many fans of the previous games, not least among the online X-Wing VS TIE Fighter (XvT) community. However, if fans were expecting an online experience to remember, they were to be sadly disappointed by the adequate, but ultimately flawed XWA.
If looked at from a purely non-gameplay point of view, the games certainly seems very impressive, with several long FMV cutscenes and a full cast of characters providing in-game story telling. However, what truly makes a game is the gameplay (of course) and it is my opinion that XWA falls down badly in this regard.
Even in single player the flight engine seems less ''realistic'' (strange choice of word considering it's a Star Wars game..) than XvT's. The controls range from the very basic ''move stick to turn, push button to fly'' to using almost every button on the keyboard, depending on how you choose to play the game. You would find it very difficult (perhaps impossible) to get through the game without using many of the keyboard functions, but there are also many which are completely unnecessary, and only serve to confuse the gamer. An example of this is the open/close s-foils button when flying craft such as the X-Wing. Although this adds a little more ''realism'' (there's that word again) to the game, it is ultimately useless and having your s-foils closed will only cost you valuable seconds if you are attacked. Small things such as that overcomplicate the controls a little, and can take away from the enjoyment of the game if you find such things frustrating.
The multiplayer gameplay is unfortunate to say the very least. The game is heavily ''lag dependant'' which basically means if you have a cable connection to the internet and you play someone on a standard 56k phoneline, it's very unlikely that they are going to score a victory. To the person with the 56k, you will seem to be able to move and turn much quicker than they can, while their movements will seem sluggish to you, giving you every chance to blow them from the sky before they know what's happening. In a time when internet gaming is so popular, this terrible attempt at a multiplayer came as a shock to many games, who expected a follow up to XvT, which was designed with multiplayer in mind.
On the other hand, XWA is very impressive graphically, sporting good ship design and some very cool explosions. The dynamic lighting from explosions and lasers adds more realism and helps you to get more of a feeling that you are really there. The FMV cutscenes tell the story very well, and really add to the game. At a few points in the game, the cutscenes recreate scenes from the Star Wars films very well, which also helps immerse you in the Star Wars universe.
The sound effects in the game as about as good as I can imagine them being for this sort of game. The say in space no one can hear you scream, but that has never stopped dying Alliance pilots giving it a go in the X-Wing games anyway. The distinctive TIE Fighter sound is reproduced as ever, and the sound effects in the game are really not much improved from XvT, but they didn't need to be, so that's not a problem. The in game dialogue, however, is very good, adding to the story and giving you a much better look at how pilots react to each other than in previous games. From family bickering to Luke Skywalker telling off Dash Rendar, this game has all the talking you could want and more. This contrasts sharply to XvT which has barely any speach, and this wingman chatter gives XWA a better feeling of belonging to a group.
The background music is, as ever, based on the original Star Wars score and therefore it goes without saying that it is excellent at setting the mood for each mission.
One of the most noticeable differences between XWA and its predecessor XvT it that XWA has returned to the classic story format for missions, instead of just giving you a list of missions and skirmishes to choose. The story builds around a shipping family, most specifically the youngest son of the company's owner, as he serves his family's business and later the Alliance. You will grow to relate to his family, and probably to hate his brother, as the story progresses and we see everything slowly fall apart for the group as a whole.
In conclusion, XWA is a good single-player game that should have been a great single- and multi-game. On the surface it looks fantastic, but with serious internet connection issues and an inferior flight engine to it's precessor XvT, the game proves to be a little disappointing.