Battlestar Galactica Preview

We take the fight to the cylons in this video game version of the classic sci-fi series.

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Remaking old television shows into movies has been the trend for the last few years, and if Battlestar Galactica for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 is any indication, we might be seeing more old shows remade into video games as well. The game is indeed based on the sci-fi TV show of the same name from the late 1970s, though it actually takes place several decades before the events depicted in the series. Based on initial gameplay impressions, Battlestar Galactica is shaping up to be a pretty solid and straightforward space combat sim. And if the reactions of some of our staff members are to be believed, it ought to hold a good bit of nostalgic value for fans of the old TV show as well.

Battlestar Galactica, the game, actually takes place decades before the television series.
Battlestar Galactica, the game, actually takes place decades before the television series.

The story in Battlestar Galactica, the game, actually serves as something of a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, the TV series. You'll take control of Adama, the character played by Lorne Green on the show. The colonial humans in the game's universe command great starships, called battlestars, that serve as the backbone of their military efforts. Though Adama was the commander of the Battlestar Galactica, during the original series' television run, he's only a freshly commissioned fighter pilot in the game. This means that you'll be performing a lot of the frontline grunt work in the war against the cylons, sentient robots dedicated to waging a galactic war on the humans who originally created them. During your missions you'll be joined by a host of other story characters who are unique to the game, and you'll receive transmissions from them that relay new developments in both mission objectives and plot.

The basic flow of the gameplay in Battlestar Galactica will be quite familiar to anyone who's played Wing Commander, TIE Fighter, Colony Wars, or any number of other classic space combat games. Throughout the game, you'll take control of three fighters, the viper, viper MKII, and strike viper (a two-man version). Piloting the viper is a straightforward affair. You can accelerate and decelerate using the trigger buttons, and you've got a primary weapons system (a rapid-fire laser cannon) and a secondary system, a missile, of sorts, that operates in two modes. The first mode simply fires an energy warhead in a straight line that detonates on contact with any surface (hopefully, a cylon vessel). In the second mode, which you activate by holding down the fire button rather than tapping it, your targeting system attempts to lock on to all of the enemy ships in your field of view. Once it locks on, you can release the button to fire homing missiles that will seek out each of the targets you've acquired.

Of course, your fighter has a complete targeting and radar system, which is a staple of all good space combat games. Once you've targeted a particular enemy ship, you'll see an onscreen indicator that lets you track the ship's position relative to your own trajectory. When you've got a targeted ship in view, it'll be conspicuously outlined in red so you can more easily track its movements against the dark backdrop of space. Furthermore, a small lead indicator will appear ahead of the ship, so you'll have a good idea of how much you should lead the ship with your laser fire to hit it. You've also got a variety of other flight and combat techniques at your disposal that come in handy during battle, such as an exaggerated evasive roll maneuver that helps you evade enemy fire and a match-speed option that will, as you might expect, match your speed to that of your target so you can follow its movements more easily.

The game's mission structure and gameplay should be familiar to fans of many other space combat sims.
The game's mission structure and gameplay should be familiar to fans of many other space combat sims.

From what we've seen so far, Battlestar Galactica's mission objectives run the typical space combat gamut. For instance, the first mission has you protecting the Battlestar Galactica from enemy fighters, while in a later mission you'll accompany a wing of fighters into an asteroid field as you attempt to knock out several cylon communications stations. The dogfighting in the game is pretty intense, though it's quite easy to pick up after just a few minutes. The cylons have a number of varied fighter types to throw at you, so you'll have to be on your toes to keep up with all of the action to successfully complete your mission objectives. Though the game isn't final, and may be rebalanced as its release nears, we can say that in its current state, it's certainly no slouch in the difficulty department.

In terms of presentation, Battlestar Galactica ought to be an interesting look back for fans of the original TV series. You'll run into a few familiar faces from the show, like Starbuck and Apollo, who are voiced by their original actors, Dirk Benedict and Richard Hatch, respectively. Another notable member of the cast is Kristanna Loken, who recently portrayed the T-X (or "terminatrix") in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. You'll even receive transmissions from the evil cylons during missions--the permuted vocals of which should inspire some nostalgic warm fuzzies in fans who remember the show. Graphically, the game looks solid, if not incredibly ambitious. All of the ship models and weapon effects in the missions get the job done nicely, and everything runs at a very smooth frame rate.

Battlestar Galactica is currently slated for release toward the end of November, and the build we played seems to be pretty close to completion. We'll bring you more on the game as its release date approaches.

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