Unlike the previous titles in the series, X-Wing and Tie Fighter, this title's single-player campaign consists of a series of missions not tied together by a story. Instead it plays as a series of scenarios intended for multiplayer, that are also playable with only one player - in which case the other players are A.I.-controlled.
This entry in the series saw a minor improvement in graphical quality, with the game adding more detailed textures (the previous games used goraud-shading and virtually no texturing) and SVGA resolution. The soundtrack consists of selections from John Williams's Star Wars trilogy scores, in contrast with the dynamic MIDI soundtrack of the previous two games.
The game box included 2 discs: one with the complete game and a second disc which allowed only multiplayer, allow buyers to play with a friend by purchasing just one copy of the game. Both discs carried also the game soundtrack, consisting of 8 tracks.
X-wing vs. TIE Fighter was also one of the first wave of PC games that allowed true online multiplayer rather than being limited to direct or LAN connections. Online multiplayer was achieved through the MSN Gaming Zone and players could "level up" their competitive rank much like existing games today.
An expansion of the game was successively released, Balance of Power.
Although the game did not feature the previous titles' single player story-driven campaign, it was possible to play different game modes, for a total of 60 missions, all also available for multiplayer with up to 7 other people. The scores obtained in all missions contributed to player statistics and ranking.
Exercise missions teach the basics of flying, shooting, power management and team work. They usually start with some simple tasks for beginners, but if played for their entire length they can become tough challenges.
Melee was the most classic mode for competitive multiplayer: teams of pilots can fight in straightforward deathmatches or try to achieve the most points destroying special targets.
A series of 3 or 5 melee matches are played, choosing a specific side (Rebel Alliance or Empire). The winner is the faction that wins most of them.
Combat mode includes complex missions, playable on the same side ore competitively, with different situations and objectives, like defending a rebel convoy or attacking an imperial platform. These missions require good dogfighting skills but also attention to ship choice, squadron roles and organization.
3, 5 or 7 missions are played, from the Combat mode, choosing one faction for all of them. Playing the whole 7 missions on one side can be thought as the substitute of the classic campaign.
- TIE Fighter: quite fast and maneuverable fighter, lacking shields and armed with only two laser cannons.
- TIE Interceptor: faster and a bit more resistant than the TIE fighter, armed with 4 cannons, but still lacking shields.
- TIE Advanced: an upgraded version of the TIE Interceptor, with shields and 4 cannons but less mneuverability.
- TIE Bomber: a heavy ship (although lacking shields) that can carry many warheads. It's large and slow, and it has only 2 cannons.
- Assault Gunboat: armed with 2 laser cannons and 2 ion cannons (used to disable other ships), the Assault Gunboat is hard to destroy (thanks to the shields and tough hull) and powerful, but it's slow and less maneuverable than the other imperial ships.
- X-Wing: the standard rebel fighter is armed with 4 cannons and has average performances in speed, resilience and maneuverability.
- A-Wing: the fastest of rebel ships, it has low fire power (2 cannons) and light shields, and it is a great incursion fighter.
- Z-95 Headhunter: Z-95 is the precursor of X-Wing, having worse performances than its upgrade (2 cannons and lighter shields) but a little more maneuverability.
- Y-Wing: a heavy bomber, armed with 2 laser and 2 ion cannons. It has strong shields and hull, and is used for attacks to great starships.
- Windows 95
- Intel Pentium 90
- 16 MB RAM
- PCI graphic card
- DirectX 5
- 16 bit sound card
- 2X Speed CD-ROM drive required. 4X or better recommended
- Joystick required