Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter is the third installment of the X-Wing computer game series, although it is not a regular part of the series.
Technically superior to its two predecessors, XvT runs on Windows, requires a joystick (the others could be played with a mouse), features a CD audio soundtrack, supports high resolution graphics, brings texture mapping to the ship models of the in-flight game engine, includes robust multiplayer options for up to eight players in free-for-all, team-based, and cooperative play modes, and has a sophisticated pilot and mission selection system that tracks the player's points and awards. The player also has the ability to choose for each mission which squadron he or she wants to fly in (e.g. either the Y-wings that disable a ship for capture or the X-wings that support them), his or her specific ship type, and the ship's armaments.
Response to the game was mixed. It is the only part of the series designed almost exclusively for multiplayer and/or personal practice only; it lacks a storyline and numerous cutscenes. While the gameplay was universally praised as an exceptional experience (especially for multiplayer), the lack of a story was strongly criticized by many fans. Totally Games realized from this that strong storylines were a major reason for the earlier games' success. They then released an expansion called Balance of Power which added a storyline that included the best cutscenes the series had yet seen.
An expansion was released in order to fix what much of the fanbase considered missing: apart from new battles and missions, Balance of Power features a Rebel and an Imperial campaign of 15 missions each, along with cutscenes that advance the story. Unique for the time, and rarely matched since, the campaigns supported 8-player cooperative play. Both campaigns revolve around the same series of events, but with alternate endings.
- "Spreading the Rebellion" — Features the evacuation of a base, an attack against the Empire, and the capture of an Imperial Interdictor Cruiser. The campaign ends with an assault on the Super Star Destroyer Vengeance.
- "Imperial Task Force Vengeance" — The player flies as a member of the elite Avenger squadron under the leadership of Admiral Senn. The missions are similar to those from the Rebel's campaign. The campaign ends with the destruction of a Rebel factory.
The pack also adds B-wings as a pilotable craft, along with other vessels that are lacking from the original game.
The Collector Edition
A cut-down limited version of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter called Flight School was re-released as part of the X-Wing Collector Series compilation, which also contained special editions of the first two Star Wars space fighter games. In this edition, X-Wing and TIE Fighter were retrofitted with the X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter graphics engine, which uses texture mapping instead of Gouraud shading.
Though it was released almost two years after TIE Fighter: Collector's CD-ROM, XvT was actually developed under an attenuated schedule of approximately 14 months. This was because the development team had spent several months working on a "Millennium Falcon" game that ended up being cancelled when it was recognized that the team simply didn't have the resources in time and personnel to meet the exceptionally high expectations such a title was sure to generate. Much time was devoted to creating a hybrid game engine to handle first-person "run & gun" gameplay along with the familiar flight combat, and a complex interwoven storyline featuring both a Han Solo-esque "smuggler" and a Boba Fett-inspired "bounty hunter."
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