By the time this review is up, the Sci Fi channel will be debuting their "re-imaging" of the Battlestar Galactica franchise. Fans of the original 1978 series are already screaming "foul" with some of the changes, most notably the decision to make Starbuck a female. Everyone remembers Starbuck as a cigar-chomping, womanizing hot shot pilot, but from what I have seen in the previews, BG 2003 looks like it deserves a chance. Even the "new" Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) is saying "deal with it."
While the backlash from the fanboys might be rapid they should keep in mind that it could be worse. After all, remember Galactica 1980 (though I would rather do anything to forget it ever happened) a second season travesty whose only saving grace is the "Return of Starbuck" episode. We’ll have to see how it turns out, but in the meantime VU Interactive’s BG title for the PS2 and Xbox is helping bring back fond memories of the original series.
However, while it might be based on the original, the game actually takes place 40 yahren (Galactican for years) before the series takes place. Commander William Adama is now just a simple ensign, and both Apollo and Starbuck are nonexistent. The Trojan horse attack that destroyed the Twelve Colonies has not happened yet, but humans are still at war with the Cylons they originally created. Adama is in charge of a group of Vipers ordered to hold off the Cylon menace.
The majority of the game is space combat taking place inside a Viper, but some missions will require Adama to man Galactica’s gun turrets, or pilot a heavy bomber, or even a captured Cylon Raider on a reconnaissance mission. We’ve seen space combat die off the last few years and it’s good to see the genre come back.
However there are some concerns I had with the game. For starters, the game is very hard as attacks come from all angles, and at the strangest moments one of your wingmen will be attacked. If they die, then it’s game over and you will need to restart. Another problem is that some mission objectives can be vague and only a matter of trial and error can explain them. One mission in particular requires two heavy tankers to be bombarded with only the fuselage able to take damage. The problem is, where is the fuselage on a space tanker? Does anyone know? I don’t. Even with several bombing runs, the tankers were left unscathed while all my wingmen were gunned down.
Speaking of wingmen, as missions are completed, up to three bonus wingmen can be awarded and will be upgraded with each successful mission. The only problem is they seem to die way too easy and when they are dead, you can’t get any more. What’s the use of having wingmen if they aren’t going to last more than just one mission?
However, when dealing with standard space combat, the game is a blast. The Vipers are definitely more advanced than they were be on the old television series (which didn’t even have lock on missiles). Visually it is also impressive. For a series that overused stock footage of Raiders being blasted, the new look of space is stunning and runs extremely fast (too fast at times).
Audio is a mixed bag though. While the laser sounds of both the Vipers and Raiders are genuine and the Cylons sound as they should, and the legendary BG theme is heard occasionally, the Colonials voice acting is a concern. I would like to know if Adama had a late case of puberty, as he sounds like a whiny kid (Raiden, anyone?). Whatever happened to the deep tone that Lorne Greene had? I will even take Edward James Olmos’ version of Adama over this whiner.
Battlestar Galactica may have its shortcomings, but still it is good to see a decent space combat shooter, and considering the developer (Warthog) and their track record (Starlancer), they didn’t lose their touch. The tough difficulty and confusing objectives do lower the gameplay score to 3 + Gems, but for a title based on the BG series, it is far better than Galactica 1980. Then again, what isn’t better than BG:80?