The predecessor to this game, Tie Fighter is arguably one of the greatest games ever made. Certainly, the greatest space flight sim of all time. So why is its flawed sequel, X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, on my list instead of its illustrious predecessor? The simple reason is that I just couldn't stop playing it!
As a Star Wars nut, I was a huge fan of the first two games in the series, X-Wing and TIE Fighter, and I remember being very excited when the third instalment came out. The first two games immersed your senses in the sights and sounds of the films combined with an engrossing storyline. XvT, released in 1997 was designed to take advantage of the big change that had occurred since the original games - the Internet. Now you could test your flying mettle against real people in online combat.
Oh yes, the joys of multiplayer gaming over a modem! To get into a game you had to use Microsoft's Gaming Zone and sit in a virtual pre-launch lobby until enough people joined. It was clunky, slow and the game experience depended heavily on how good the pings of the others in the match were. In those days of slow, unreliable connections, people tended to disappear without warning, meaning that attacking fighters often vanished mid-game as if they'd fallen into a black hole. The game was also rightly criticised for not having any real storyline, the solo missions were really only practice for playing online, an emphasis that certainly hurt sales. This was partially addressed by the release of an expansion pack called Balance of Power, which even let you play the solo games in co-operative mode. With this, for me, the gameâ€™s evolution into the ultimate space-sim perfection was complete. However, the next game in the series, the excellent X-Wing Alliance, returned the series to its single player routes.
What was so great about XvT for me was that you always wanted to get to the next rank - you started off as a cadet but got promoted as you defeated enemies of greater rank. I made it all the way to Jedi, but never to the very top Jedi Master level. The real skill depended on fine joystick control and how well you could balance your ships power output between shields and the engines. Many criticised the dog-fights for descending into a tail chase as you circled each other on one third power, the most manoeuvrable power setting. However, if you took a risk to try and break the deadlock it was very satisfying when you blasted the enemy out of the sky.
The reasoning behind this goes to show that sometimes it is our flaws that make us unique and stand out from the rest - at least that's what Captain Kirk would say, if I'm permitted to cross Sci-Fi universes for a second. X-Wing and TIE Fighter were two of the greatest games ever made but XvT was my game, and I still miss it.