Starlancer is the fulfillment of a
childhood dream and, as with the realization of most childhood dreams, its fulfillment is
laced with a hint of melancholy. When I was a kid I would put on my dads work
goggles, a hockey helmet and a catchers vest and then I would mould myself into my
bean bag chair. I didnt even have to close my eyes to see myself as a hotshot star
pilot. My imagination was fueled by things like Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. When I
saw The Last Starfighter for the first time I knew that it wasnt that good of a
movie, but I couldnt keep the grin off my face from start to finish. To think that
someday all of my pretending could pay off in saving the universe was just too good to be
true. Although I know that Im not really saving the universe with Starlancer,
its probably as close to the real thing as Ill ever get. Starlancer on the
Dreamcast is what I always imagined space combat to be. Why the melancholy then? Well,
Starlancer is so good that theres a little bit of loss in the imagination
department. You dont need to pretend youre in the cockpit anymore because
youre actually there.
Starlancer borrows all of the best elements of Wing Commander and
Tie Fighter and removes any hint of Mark Hamill. It is simply the best space combat
simulator that Ive ever played on a console or PC. I have to admit that I
havent played the PC version. (It came out between computer upgrades and I never got
a chance to test its waters.) But if the Dreamcast version is any indication I would have
loved it on PC, too. I have to imagine that the task of translating all of the keystrokes
to the DC controller was a little daunting, but Crave has done an incredible job reducing
game control to the handful of Sega buttons and triggers. Every button (and combination
thereof) is used in a surprisingly intuitive fashion.
single player mode is huge. The missions are vast and the outcome of each mission can
influence the way the game plays out. I really appreciated how the goals going into a
mission were often altered based on the events that transpired. You really didnt
know what to expect and there were some great surprises. There is a real cinematic feel to
the plot and how the missions play out. Sure, its filled with every cliché
imaginable, but its so well done that you actually want to embrace the cliché.
Ironically the only downside to these missions is their vastness. This wouldnt be
much of a problem if they had a mid-game save. If youre a perfectionist at heart,
its going to take a lot of time to replay some of these missions in order to get
everything just right. Restarting missions did get a little tedious at time, but I feel
like Im complaining that Baskin Robbins has too many flavors. Besides the lengthy
missions, theres an instant action section that will satisfy your need to blow
things up. I would have like to have been able to customize some of my opponents and
environments, but it still services that basic need for destruction. Some training
missions might have been a nice addition to this game, most of the training is done on the
graphics on this game wont stun anyone. Theyre far short of what the Dreamcast
can do, but the game is so quick that you wont even notice. They are more than
serviceable. The explosions are nicely rendered and theres no slowdown in gameplay.
The test of a good game rarely depends on how good it looks but rather how it plays. This
is why in ten years people will still be playing solitaire, but will have little
recollection of the PS2. Starlancer feels right. Theres no other way I can put it.
Sure, space combat games are going to look better and they will probably have even larger
environments, but Ill be really surprised if they create a game that feels any
better than Starlancer. The ships are all nicely designed and each one has a distinct feel
in its performance. Theres something here for everyone from the light and quick to
the heavy missile laden types.
selling point of this game is the multi-player capability. Hooking into a game is so easy
that online play is smooth and fast. I highly recommend a keyboard for venting
frustration. There are a variety of shoot-em-up games to play, but youll find most
people playing in the asteroid fields. Hiding in the crevice of one of the asteroids made
me feel like I was the Last Starfighter. There are up to six players online and you
shouldnt have any difficulty finding a couple of games going at any hour. As I was
playing against Starfighters all across the country I was simply giddy. The last time I
got this excited about video games was when I woke up Christmas morning to find the
original NES under the tree complete with light-gun.
mentioned before that I think there is a balance between having to know too much about a
games controls and having to know too little. When you have to work really hard it
becomes too much like a job and when there isnt enough work youre robbed of
any sense of accomplishment. Starlancer walks that fine line perfectly.
game to recommend the Dreamcast over another unnamed next generation console. I was so
desperate for a good space shooter that I almost went over to the PS2 camp (I thought I
wasnt going to name it) to play Lucass upcoming Starfighter. Now, Im
glad to say, that temptation no longer exists. Ill be too busy with Starlancer to
bother with tired franchises and overrated consoles.