That’s who you’ll be taking your orders from in Star Wars: TIE Fighter. There are no heroes here, no medal ceremonies for plucky young rebels after thwarting an imperial attack. You’re a villain, flying the best fighters the Emperor ever commissioned, against those same plucky young heroes that hope to win medals for their imperial-thwarting.
But you won’t let that happen, will you? Your allegiance lies squarely with the Empire, and that’s exactly what will get you noticed.
This is exactly the kind of mentality you’ll find yourself adopting during your time with TIE Fighter. It starts off slow, easing you in with some run-of-the-mill scanning runs on unidentified cargo ships as you search for escaping rebels, but it soon ramps up the tension and excitement as you’re repelling attacks on your home station while waiting for your fleet to arrive.
The great thing about all this is that you’re never pulled out of the experience by ageing visuals, as they carry the same quality design as the original Star Wars trilogy’s models and art direction. Even at the low resolution expected from a game originally released in 1994, the game looks exactly how you remember if you were lucky enough to have played it back then.
Even the FMV and distinctly LucasArts design of the hub menus, have aged with dignity. Sure, some of it looks more pixelated than you may remember, but it still carries the same charm as it ever did. And when you hit the briefing room, the low resolution, animated maps coming to life as that commanding British accent gives you your orders, you’ll soon be donning your imaginary helmet and flying out to meet the rebel scum head-on.
Of course, it isn’t all nostalgia and aged beauty. There are problems, most of which will be encountered by new players rather than those returning to a childhood classic. It’s not an easy game by any means, sometimes giving you vague orders and expecting you to adapt on-the-fly, and that can sometimes be difficult when you’re not entirely sure who the enemy is or from where they’ll strike.
The control scheme is pretty complex, too. Despite full controller support, even for the trusty Xbox 360 controller surprisingly enough, you will be required to remember countless keyboard shortcuts for weapons configurations, shields, targeting systems and engine output, among other things. It can feel overwhelming even for a returning player, and when you don’t have the luxury of a fold-out keyboard map like with many of the old PC flight simulators, it can be a bit confusing during a heated battle. It can also be fatal for your poor little TIE Fighter.
There is a comprehensive tutorial and training simulator within the main hub, however. This teaches you everything, from the basics of firing your weapons, scanning vessels, and general flight, to more advanced combat techniques and the importance of weapon loadouts. It does mean that getting into the meat of the game may have to be delayed, but it is worth it and can result in the most enjoyable space dogfighting you’re likely to experience in a game.
The problems aren’t all going to be experienced purely by the uninitiated, or those affected by the curse of increasing age and unable to adapt to complex control systems. This new addition to GOG.com’s library also suffers from some quite major visual glitches during some FMV sequences and hub menus – a glitch that seemingly inverts colours, making the scenes look like they were shot with a thermal imaging camera. Yellows, greens, blues and reds blanket what should be black and white, and it seems to be a random occurrence. It is entirely possible that this may be fixed by the time you read this, otherwise it can be quite immersion-breaking.
Luckily this isn’t a widespread thing, and sessions can go by without seeing a hint of a bug or glitch. This is the mark of a quality studio around the peak of its development output, producing a title that truly captures the old magic of the original Star Wars before the prequels arrived and sullied the memories. Whether you’re in a heated dogfight with an X-Wing, scanning cargo freighters, or even flying alongside Lord Vader himself, it remains fun and varied throughout. Each mission has separate primary and secondary objectives, some of which are given to you by a shady representative of the Emperor, some of which may even be given by Vader as you rise through the imperial pilot ranks. You will have to decide if the risk of failing your mission is worth the reward of gaining the Empire’s favour.
Star Wars: TIE Fighter is a rare, early 3D game that hasn’t aged terribly in its visuals. Its gameplay, while overly complex and sometimes unforgiving, is undeniably rewarding and every mission failure will result in knowledge gained, to be used in mission reruns and future battles. The sound design is pure nostalgia, from the British villainy to the almost legendary sounds of original trilogy space battles, underscored by the classic Star Wars music – in all its Midi glory.
TIE Fighter should definitely be a game on your radar, whether you’ve played it before or not.
TIE Fighter is available now at GoG.com for £6.19.
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