On a very basic level, Wing Commander is a 3D space shoot ’em up. At its highest peak, it’s a computer generated space opera, with every bell and whistle possible. The story goes something like this. An evil race of aliens, that go under the name of the Kilrathi, are trying to take over the galaxy that your squadron is based in. You, as pilot of a pretty sleek combat spacecraft, have been called upon to go out there and force the scum back where they came from. That’s the overall aim, yours is just to stay alive to fight tomorrow.
Everything in the game, visually and aurally, adapts as the story unfolds, giving you the impression that every mission you fly, that every screen and menu you enter, plays a small role in the grand scale of things, rather than just a set of missions going under the banner of a campaign. Before you can do anything though, it helps to have a drink in the bar and meet some of the people you’ll be flying with. Each mission puts you out in the action with two wingmen, and while these might not always be the people you chat with before the mission, you’ll still learn a lot to your advantage. It seems like everyone has been flying a lot longer than you, as they impart all manner of advice and knowledge including known flight patterns and strategies of different enemy craft, right down to the best directions to attack from.
When you enter the briefing room for details on the next mission. Usually, this will entail flying from Tiger’s Claw (your home base) to a specified area of space and taking out an invading threat. The missions themselves vary between reconnaissance, plain old offensive, and defensive jobs. The latter involve escorting huge transporters to designated jump points, while offensive runs sometimes give the player the chance to strike right into the heart of the Kilrathi empire, and go up against the might of a huge enemy warship. Wingmen are available for some missions, with orders sent via intercom – which can also be used to taunt the Kilrathi during battle. The game itself is still as paper-thin as ever, of course. Strategy and depth are as absent as ever were. But if delicious 3D shoot-em-ups are your bag, then Wing Commander awaits.