domingo, 8 de junho de 2014

Star Wars: Dark Forces [1995, PC-DOS] Review - It's a Pixel THING

I’ve watched the movies over and over again, from their releases on VHS to the latest Blu-ray discs, and played almost every game there is based in this great universe.

The game I bring you today is my favourite first person shooter of all time: Star Wars: Dark Forces.

After the unprecedented success of id Software's Doom, the PC gaming market shifted towards production of three-dimensional first person shooters. LucasArts contributed to this trend with the 1995 release of Star Wars: Dark Forces, a first-person-shooter that successfully transplanted the Doom formula to a Star Wars setting.

The game was well received and spawned a new franchise: the Jedi Knight games. This began with the sequel to Dark Forces, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II released in 1997; this game reflected the changing face of PC gaming, being one of the first games to appreciably benefit when used in conjunction with a dedicated 3D graphics card like 3dfx's Voodoo range.

Star Wars: Dark Forces was released in 1995 for Microsoft DOS and Apple Macintosh, and in 1996 for the PlayStation.

The storyline is set in the Star Wars fictional universe and follows the character Kyle Katarn, a mercenary working on behalf of the Rebel Alliance. He discovers the Empire's "Dark Trooper Project", which involves the development of a series of powerful new battle droids and power-armored stormtroopers.

Dark Forces uses the Jedi game engine, which was developed specifically for the game. It was commonly called a "Doom clone", but this brand new engine adds gameplay features to the first-person shooter genre which were uncommon at the time of release, including level designs with multiple floors and the abilities to look up and down, duck, jump, and swim. The Jedi game engine can also create gameplay and graphical elements such as fully 3D objects, atmospheric effects such as fog and haze, animated textures and shading.

The game has a unique "active environment" and special features were included: ships come and go at the flight decks, rivers sweep along, platforms and conveyor belts move and much of the machinery functions. It was a major breakthrough.

The Dark Forces soundtrack uses the iMUSE system to create interactive music using the Star Wars soundtrack composed by the great John Williams. What it does is that it simply synchronizes music with the visual action in the game, and transitions from one musical theme to another. iMUSE sounds like something that came out of the creative mind of Steve Jobs. But no, it was developed in the early 1990s by composers Michael Land and Peter McConnell while working at LucasArts and is patented by LucasArts. The first game to use iMUSE was Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and it has been used in all LucasArts adventure games since.

Critics gave very favourable reviews to the DOS and Macintosh versions of Star Wars: Dark Forces, but not to the PlayStation version. The DOS and Macintosh versions were praised for the level design and technological advances. The PlayStation version was criticized for having poor graphics and slow frame rates, reducing playability.

Doom and Doom II are considered to be classics and even the newer players have heard of them, but I believe that Star Wars: Dark Forces is a far superior title for all those reasons I’ve mentioned before. The Dark Forces Strategy guide even claims that development was well underway before the original Doom was released and that the game was pushed back so that it could be polished.

Now a fun fact: the game was banned from Germany because they saw it as a Doom clone. How stupid is that?.. More stupid is that, when I captured some footage from Dark Forces using NVIDIA’s brand new ShadowPlay software, it created a folder on my computer called “wolfenstein 3d”! Even today, Dark Forces continues to be seen as a Doom clone! How sad is that?...

Star Wars: Dark Forces will forever be one of my favourite games of all time. Besides being this phenomenal game, it was the first one that I bought with my own money and holds a special place in my collection.

Thank you, LucasArts. I’ll forever remember you ;)

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