Wing Commander III Heart of the Tiger - 1994 Origin classic gets a review by Cola Powered Gamer

After the success that was Wing Commander and Wing Commander II, Origin wanted to create something truly epic, spearing no money in the process. Wing Commander 3 also brought change to the industry and even started several trends. Developed once again by Origin Systems and released in December 1994, Wing Commander was a cutting edge game at the time. While the core gameplay stayed more or less the same, Origin set new standards in the industry, at the time. Wing Commander III switched from previously used sprite-based graphics to software rendered texture-mapped polygonal 3D graphics.

The other change that Origin popularised was the FMV cutscenes. While there were games with FMV cutscenes before, Origin decided to use professional actors. Filmed in Hollywood, Origin managed to create a more blockbuster experience. Several well-known actors appear in the game, such as Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, John Rhys-Davies, Jason Bernard, Tom Wilson, and Tim Curry. Wing Commander III is one of the first games, that used Hollywood actors in their game, and it worked perfectly.

The story is more engaging, dramatic and at times funny. Blair is transferred to an old Confederate carrier TCS Victory, where he meets old friends and new faces. The returning characters are Todd “Maniac” Marshall (played by Tom Wilson), and Ralgha nar “Hobbs” Hhallas, and of course James “Paladin” Taggart (played by John Rhys-Davies). The new characters are the captain of TCS Victory, William Eisen (played by Jason Bernard), and Lieutenant Robin “Flint” Peters and Chief Fighter Technician Rachel Coriolis.

The acting was amazing, and the actors managed not to look too hammy. While the FMV scenes are compressed, and in low resolution, Origin managed to make them as clear as possible. You can see the actors, hear the dialog clearly and there aren’t any scanlines over the video, like in similar FMV games. The backgrounds are made using CGI and blue screens, but in 1994 this was top notch. You also for the first time have the option of dialog choices. There are two options, where you can agree or disagree, but these choices will have consequences during the story. The relationships between characters will change, due to the choices that you make, which is interesting since this is a space sim game, but this adds a nice sense of depth in the game.

There are also new ships in the game, and none of the ships from the previous games make a return. The new ships for the Terran Confederation are inspired by real-life airplanes, so-called “airplanes in space”, while Kilrathi ships are completely redesigned. These new ships are created using polygonal graphics, and the result is a lot of blocky looking ships. While this may seem primitive for today’s standards, all of this was calculated by the CPU.

A Pentium processor (then a high-end processor), was recommended for optimal performance. When asked about this Roberts replied: “We’re not afraid to lead hardware sales a little, and believe that Pentium will soon be the standard”. Origin really pushed the envelope here, as Wing Commander III was released several years before the first 3D video cards would appear on the market.

Gameplay, for the most part, is unchanged, and the stuff that worked in the past remained unchanged. There are also several improvements, and you being the Colonel and wing commander, you get to choose which ship to fly, what armaments it will carry and who will be your wingman. The cockpits are all very detailed, and made to look realistic, compared to some ships, from previous games. The game, for the most part, plays like previous games, and space sim fans will feel right at home.

Wing Commander III was a huge success and received both critical and fan acclaim. The game was ported to Playstation, 3DO and Classic Mac OS. There was supposed to be an Atari Jaguar port, but the port was never released due to Jaguar’s commercial and critical failure. Wing Commander III cost around 4 million dollars to make, and the PC version sold around 500,000 copies. It ultimately sold around 700,000 copies, and in the US the game earned around $15,9 million and around 400,000 copies by October 1999.

The game also received a novelisation in 1995 and a collectable card game. Of all of the ports, the Playstation port managed with great success to emulate the original version. Some cuts were made, but the size of standard PS discs allowed for more videos. In September of 2011, a former developer released the source code for the game, which helped the fan community develop patches that made the game compatible with newer systems and hardware. There are several interviews with the devs, and making-of videos, available online.

In conclusion, if you like space sims or old game, give Wing Commander III: Heart of the In conclusion, if you like space sims or old games, give Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, a try. Possibly one of the first AAA games, with a large budget, Hollywood actors and blockbuster action. The game is available on GOG and comes with a bunch of goodies. A true old school, blockbuster space sim that you should definitely try out.

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