If publisher Vivendi Universal was hoping to capitalize on the revival of this (in)famous franchise, it may be counting on it too much. The
Battlestar Galactica show itself is not drumming up any momentum for related media properties to prosper. A Sci-Fi channel sponsored mini-series remake came out during the past holiday season but whether a proper television series will come out of this remains in question. Luckily, the developers of this game aren't relying on cross-selling and marketing blitzes. A quality game lurks underneath.
As a budding Adama, you'll help lead a fleet of humans in their war for survival against the Cylons. The Cylons, exiled for revolting against their human masters, have returned to wipe out their former adversaries. While the humans won the first war to drive them to exile, the second encounter with the Cylons have driven those humans remaining to the stars.
To judge this title, you have to consider that console machines are not known for space action games, although one of the best, Factor 5's Rogue Squadron, came out on the GameCube. Since the release of that game (a launch title for the GameCube), few titles have managed to steal the crown; even the game's own follow-up. On the other hand, the PC platform, which used to be the ubiquitous king of this genre (X-wing vs. Tie Fighter, Freespace 2, Wing Commander), has had little activity save for the quiet release of Freelancer last year. Tired is the best word to describe this category as a whole. Freelancer was a great game but it just took the basic principles of what was done before and polished it.
The look and feel of Battlestar Galactica is polished but the visuals are not anything to write home about. We've seen it done before, Xbox or PlayStation 2. Considering the franchise, though, and what it looked like on television, the graphics shouldn't disappoint fans of the show. Actually, if I remember the show correctly, anything today would make the show look good.
For a storyline that revolves around humans being lost in space with no home and their backs against the wall, the potential for riveting drama is there. Nowhere in the missions, the dialogue or cinematic sequences do we really get a profound attachment to the last remnants of an entire race. It's unlike Homeworld, where the one ship is the last remnant of an entire civilization. It's unlike Freespace 2, when the human lot is faced with annihilation from a technologically and numerically superior foe. It's unlike Wing Commander, the Galactica never really feels like a sacred Tiger's Claw home that you'll swear won't ever end up in enemy hands.
There are some varieties to the missions, including assault and escort missions that involve multiple spacecraft, friend and foe alike. Veterans of this type of gameplay will know the drill. Everything is about timing, precision and targeting the right structure at the right time. You almost end up in a trance-like state dispatching one enemy after another. Successful space simulators often try to spice up the rather prosaic outings with plot twists and changing mission objectives. Not many of those can be found here as the expository part of the game is kept to a minimum.
The focus is on the action with an aggressive artificial intelligence. As expected, you will be outgunned as well and replacements on your side are scarce. But given the performance of your allies, I found myself wanting to trade my human wingmen away for some Cylon mates. The game is tough. A tutorial sequence begins by training you on the use of your spacecraft. Afterwards, the difficulty rockets to levels not seen before and definitely not expected.
Most of these games never have a save feature. The best might let you save at every waypoint but the mission outings can be quite long. This makes it frustrating when you let your guard down a minute before the end of the mission only to find out that the craft you're protecting succumbed to an attack by a lone Cylon that got lost in the targeting mess in front of you. Battlestar Galactica is that type of game.
The following comment will give you a hint as to my age. I'm one of those people (some may call fortunate, some may call unfortunate depending on your disposition to the television show) who never had the chance to witness the Battlestar Galactica phenomenon. Like most 1970s franchises, it was short-lived but reruns probably made it a cult icon. I didn't even know what the show was about, the humans and the Cylons, until very late. It gave a new meaning to visiting Starbucks Coffee.
But a good quality product does not need external references to succeed. For the most part, Battlestar Galactica is testament to that. The audio effects are disappointing but everything else is up to par. Unfortunately, it fails to become really meaningful and memorable, thus making it a good space action title but not one that will be talked about years later.