The scene opens to an interruption in your normally scheduled broadcast for a Special News Report. The news caster reports that unexpected meteor showers have disrupted communications world-wide. All of a sudden, wham, the news studio is hit by an explosion and confusion...
Scene changes to an orbital command ship where the action is intensifying but still in a state of confusion and chaos. Sensors are tracking thousands of inbound UFO's. Communications with ground stations has been disrupted.
Available pilot portfolios are examined to put together an attack squadron. No picture is available for the rookie out of Mirimar, an ace on the sim- ulator, but no combat experience. It may be a mistake, but you are being sent in with the first squadron. Your first mission ... prevent an alien takeover of the middle east.
You have an on-board computer called ICE (Intelligent Combat Engine). This is done in a pleasing female voice. You see a sound waveform when video messages come in or when ICE is communicating with you. The video messages from the command ship or from pilots in your squadron replace the radar screen. This video is excellent! You can switch off the video if you need the radar by hitting the STOP button.
You are given a wide flight path that clips pretty far behind you. You can fly around in this area, but if you stray off course you are given a visual an auditory warning "OFF-PATH" after which if you continue you start taking hits from "friendly-fire". Every game has a limited world and I think this works pretty well. I would like this flight area to be a bit larger though. You do have complete 360 degree freedom of navigation within this area and you can (and must) go back and shoot enemies behind you. The horizon clip- ping is well done with distant objects becoming difficult to see, like looking through a fog.
I was not at all impressed with the terrain after flying the first mission. I thought this was no big deal since the game is a blast to play. As I got to the subsequent missions I was surprised to see that it is MUCH better. It is great to fly close to the ground through the mountains in Peru. The cities, however, look pretty dumb, like a drawing of a city on a quilt. They also have office buildings that do look good. Also the enemy ships are fully texture-mapped polygons and look great no matter how close you get.
I measured the frame rate of Shockwave with a VCR. The FMV is MUCH better looking than any software compression video I have seen. They must be using that new Cinepak algorithm. The frame rate of the cinemas is 15 fps. The game rocks along at 20 fps until you are engaged in combat and then is about 15 fps. It is not noticable when the frame rate changes (there is no slow- down).
This game is difficult on the default setting of WINGMAN. There is an easier one, CADET, and a harder one, ACE. You get better pretty fast. I thought the first level was hard the first couple of times, but after the second day I had it, I pretty much just breezed right through it. It gets even harder on the subsequent missions. There are 10 missions total, each of which takes 15-20 minutes. I've almost gotten all the way through mission #2.
Flying the ship was easy. It is not a true flight simulator, but it is fun and much faster paced than a flight simulator. The altitude controls are extremely limited. You are not allowed to go very high and (thankfully) you are not allowed to crash into the ground. This also means, though, that you cannot fly over tall objects (such as the pyramids). This is annoying. You can do barrel rolls by holding the Left-Shift and using the joypad (this is not documented).
On the upside, the cockpit of your ship looks great with several displays most of which are actually functional. The windshield uses 3DO's trans- parency to give it the look of three panels (front and two angled sides). The displays show the status of your shields, lasers, fuel, and missiles. There is an odometer (haven't figured out why yet) and an altimeter (as if you really needed that). The terrain in missions after the first one looks fairly realistic (much better than Total Eclipse). I was particularly impressed with the ocean shore and the mountains.
The best part of this game (as everyone will tell you) is the FMV clips. When you die you wake up in the hospital with a doctor and nurse with masks on staring down at you as the picture clears from a fog. This is followed by a scene of the controller requesting your status from the doctor and arguing that you must be sent back out if you can fly. There are a few of these "after crash" scenes given randomly. After playing this game for some time I still want to watch these scenes because of the variety provided.
There is a bug that occurred once after I purposely crashed into a building where the display was no longer facing forward. I could still turn, but sometimes I was looking out the back of the ship watching the terrain fall away from me. Perhaps this was intentional to simulate a wierd kind of damage, but I don't think so.
The packaging of this game is the typical 3DO style (no jewel case). In other words, not what I would prefer. My preference is for the packaging in Super Wing Commander.