Battlestar Galactica PC Review
Yes! It's a real Battlestar Galactica game! Well, wait a minute. The first BSG game was released on the Xbox a few years back and it had gamers playing as young William "Husker" Adama in his first flights in the war against the evil Cylon forces. So this many years later and with the huge success of the Sci-Fi/Universal TV show, we obviously would be getting something even more epic with the great music and maybe some of those great characters playing a big role. Right?
Wrong. On all counts. What we're getting is a $10 Xbox Live Arcade title, ported unceremoniously to the PC with an inflated $20 price tag, that tries to follow some of the big battles of the show but simply falls flat. Much like the recent Wing Commander Arena, also for Xbox Live Arcade, Battlestar Galactica is rendered in 3D but is played on a two-dimensional plane. With tiny areas to fight in and repetitive gameplay that tries to mimic but never even begins to take advantage of the emotionally charged battles from the show, you'll find yourself cursing the developers of this game far more than those frakking toasters.
You'll also be cursing whoever decided to turn a potentially excellent idea for a game into this - whatever this is. The combat is dull, with your Vipers firing out their signature guns (with accurate firing sounds - one of the few effects recognizable from the show) at Cylon ships endlessly. You'll also get missiles, a departure from the show, and a few cute little moves that are useful once in a while. Throw in just a tad of realistic Newtonian physics on the ships - well, as realistic as you can get considering you're on a 2D plane in space - as well as a couple of special abilities here and there as well as the chance to play as the Cylons, and you'll start to think before long that the game has promise.
It's about 20 minutes afterwards that you'll realize that no, even with major publisher Vivendi behind it, this game actually has very few redeeming qualities. Sure, there are a few interesting moves and some multiplayer action, but the moves pale in comparison to the ability in most space sims to actually fly around in three dimensions. And there's no point in having multiplayer in your game if the game's not actually, well, fun. Maybe if you combine this version of BSG with some alcohol and yell about how Starbuck is taking all of your kills (which she won't be, as the star pilots from the show aren't really here in any decent capacity at all) or Helo is shacking up with a toaster or something, it might be almost halfway decent. Actually, scratch that. Nothing can save this game, not even for the diehard fans.
Let's come up with an example. Partway through the first season, there's an episode where the Galactica's best pilots, Lee and Kara, come up with a plan to raid a Cylon refinery on an asteroid. In the show, Lee's plan is a little too by-the-book and his father, Commander Adama, sees quickly that it's not going to be enough to get the job done. Kara comes up with a much riskier attack plan that is truly innovative and they decide to do it. During the attack, Lee does his part and then is forced to improvise and do something very risky, and it pays off. Lee learns that he needs to loosen up and take more chances if he wants to survive. The battle here is full of twists and turns, from the perspectives of both the ships' maneuvers as well as the weaving of the plot. What does the game have you do in the mission that coincides with this episode? Shoot Cylon Raider ships in an open black area while a timer counts down. Are you playing as Lee Adama? Nope, you're just some random Viper pilot that's buying Lee time while he does the fun stuff. You don't even get to see him do the fun stuff, as the asteroid is just some brown rock in the distance. This happens pretty much entirely throughout the game; anything really exciting that happens is way off in the background, and you only rarely get to actually participate in anything beyond randomly killing Cylon fighters.
It's unfortunate, because this was the only good shot at a real Battlestar game, one that could have been timed to release at the height of the TV show's popularity. Vivendi certainly has the resources; they could have spent more money and time, introduced a 3D flight model, brought in some of the show's actors for some voice work, dropped in some of the great music from the soundtrack, and put this game out on store shelves for something closer to full price - and then time its release to coincide with the end of the show which is coming up in about six months. But instead we got this hunk of scrap, and it's too late now to see what Vivendi could have done if they had bothered. Now that the show is going to be over soon, it's doubtful that we'll see any other BSG games ever again.
Whether you pick this one up for the PC or for Xbox Live Arcade, you can be assured that you're getting a mediocre game that's only loosely tied to the events of the show. With almost no character or charm and none of the elements that make the show's space battles so exciting, this sad effort will do nothing but alienate and anger fans. And if you're not a fan, then this will be another budget game that isn't even worth half its retail price. Just pass, whether or not you're a fan of the show. If you're really itching for something a little more authentic, then take a look at Beyond the Red Line, a free, fan-made game that's based on the show. Even the demo is better than the full version of this game.