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PC Preview - 'Echelon: Wind Warriors'

by Chris "Fozz" Breci on Feb. 5, 2003 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Echelon: Wind Warriors is the next evolution in futuristic flight combat that delivers the latest technical and gameplay innovations demanded by today's experienced game playing audience without sacrificing accessibility for newcomers. Players fly a variety of futuristic aircraft through a number of new missions set on a spectacular continent that takes seven hours of real-time flying to cross. Echelon: Wind Warriors is expanding the futuristic universe of Echelon - the "first-rate flight-combat title that set some lofty new standards for a joystick-controlled game." Publisher Buka Entertainment was so kind to send us a beta version, so we took to the skies!

Genre: Action/Simulator
Publisher: Buka Entertainment
Developer: MADia
Release Date: Soon

Echelon: Wind Warriors is the sequel to the acclaimed Echelon: Storm, which broke through many barriers in the advanced world of flight simulation gaming. With some of the most advanced graphics and flight controls around Wind Warriors is going to come out as one of the most advanced and technical flyer fighters of all time. Set during the year 2351, this is, as the first one, a futuristic setting with many mechanical robo-looking buildings. You take control of the top galactic fighter pilot in his area of expertise, Major Wolf Scott in alien environments that cover vast areas of intricately mapped landscaping. Boasting hundreds of new models such as new vehicles, numerous amounts of new objects, more friendly and enemy crafts, and of course more campaign missions to toss into the mix.

When the game boots up you will almost instantly find the main difference between Wind Warriors and Storm is that Wind Warriors brings an entirely new graphical engine. This is a 3D proprietary graphical engine that allows for some of the various effects like dust and particle effects that let your video card operate at its optimum performance. Once you launch out of the docking bay you are subjected to the beautiful cities that Buka decided to put the extra attention to, realizing that cities are a bit more important than that of the forests. The planes were very diversified and I was glad to see that not all of the planes looked exactly the same with the classical “two wings and jet engine” look. Most of the planes were rather abstract in design, which is cool to see some different types of ships to commandeer and to look at. At this point the only thing I can complain that doesn’t look good is the bullets and weapons that are fired. Being the early demo state that it is in, I found that most of the weapons were pretty cheesy when I broke it down, on the other hand the explosions that are caused from the bullets look golden. Not only does the explosion look pretty good, but the object that blows doesn’t just disappear, yet it explodes and individual parts will blow off realistically.

The controls are the first downfall I saw in this game, with 92 different buttons to master and remember, this high flyer might not be a giant hit among those gamers who want instant actions as far as picking up the controls in a snap. As for the gamers who are into the flyer fighters enough to where they like to control even the smallest details, this one is right for you. I found several issues with controlling your ship in battle, while it is rather difficult to switch around on all of the keys this sim would be better played and enjoyed to its fullest extent with a joystick specifically for this type of game. It would be a lot easier to do a loop while flying upside down, rolling, and taking shots at an estranged alien drop-ship on a joystick as opposed to just mashing a bunch of buttons on the keyboard to hold the loop fire and roll. My second major problem lies in the fact that the missions are too slow paced until you get to a fight. For instance in the second level you are asked to escort a group of tanks around the level, while my personal enjoyment was blowing up the caravan as apposed to flying over them in a straight line for 45 minutes. If you do, for some weird reason, want to spend the time to follow the tanks you can turn autopilot on and it will follow your objective. One of the cooler features to this game is a wicked level editor, an option that has been passed over time and time again when it comes to flight sims. The map editor lets you control every last bit of the level from the incoming messages and what radio says all the way to where enemy ships and buildings are placed. The kick-ass map editor is a real booster for this title

The other major reason for the slow moving nature of the game was that the person in HQ talking to you over the radio speaks in some foreign language. If you can read at the speed of light the text will display in English at the top of your screen as she is saying it. These two things can leave you rather lost during a mission because usually that voice tells you where to go and what to do. The rest of the sounds are rather bland, but for a flying game there are not many noises to implement. The engine sounds decent and the explosions are up to par, but nothing to really crank the bass up for or run out and buy a new speaker system.

With a graphical engine that can drop jaws this game could be a top seller, however it might be a top seller for joysticks as well, being that its very rough to navigate with they keyboard. If the developers can fix the voice-overs into English and maybe slow down the text in case you miss what HQ ordered, then this title might be as great addition to all you flight sim junkies’ collections.

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