Video Game Review – WING COMMANDER Arena Review (Xbox 360)

     August 1, 2007

Reviewed by Dave Murphy

I have been a HUGE fan of the “Wing Commander” series ever since I picked up a copy of the first one for the PC in 1990. For those who don’t know, “Wing Commander” was a “hardware buster” and made most people upgrade their rigs, as it brought most then-mighty 286 and 386 PCs to their knees.

To many, “Wing Commander” brought “Star Wars” type dogfights to life in 3D on their PCs for the first time (the even better X-Wing followed two years later). The fun dogfights were backed up with solid VGA graphics, a top notch soundtrack along with well done sound effects. The “Wing Commander” series is also famous for its solid in-game characters and storylines.

Anyway, I was very excited to hear that EA games had released a new version of “Wing Commander” for the Xbox live arcade on the Xbox 360. I eagerly downloaded the free demo off of the Xbox Live Marketplace. My one word summary of it: HOR-RI-BLE, with a capital H.

The good news is you can play with 16 or so live people across the Internet.

The bad news is they decided to redo the entire play field – it is no longer a first person cockpit game. Now it’s in the 3rd person, and believe it or not, it is played on a 2D playfield. So imagine you are flying in space, but you cannot fly up or down – only left or right. It essentially is a car racing/competition game like Full Auto, but set in space.

Basically they completely ignored why people loved the original and botched a great opportunity to re-introduce the franchise to a new generation of gamers.

Notice in the screenshots there is no cockpit, and no “joystick” that moves along with your movements on the screen. Also the original theme song and characters are nowhere to be found. To make it even more like a console game, there are powerups you can run over which give you enhanced shields and firepower.

To make matters worse, there is no single player story campaign – only trainers and mini games to prepare you for the on-line death match. EA – you have preyed upon innocent “Wing Commander” fans by supposedly resurrecting their beloved franchise, and then deliver something that should never have contained “Wing Commander” in the title.

I am not saying this is not a fun standalone game – for many, it will be. But this is not “Wing Commander.” Not even remotely close. The only saving grace is that the demo is a free download so all can try before they decided to buy – which I highly recommend of course!

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