TIE Fighter was first released in 1994 and is the sequel to the smash hit space combat game, X-Wing, which are both of course based on spacecraft from the Star Wars universe. This time, though, you get to fight on the side of The Empire, who are widely seen as the ‘bad guys’ in the Star Wars series, so in this game you are blasting Rebels and their collaborators out of space, and not the other way around.
Just like in X-Wing, in TIE Fighter there is a single-player campaign of progressively more complex missions. You begin by creating a pilot profile (you can have multiple), then start your career as an evil Empire TIE Fighter pilot. From the main concourse you can access training simulations to practise learning how to fly TIE Fighters (there are a variety for you to fly), or to select a mission from those available. Once you chosen a mission you then move on to an optional mission briefing (witch nice animated icons), and any questions to the flight officer. If you’re flying a TIE Bomber there’ll also be a bomb loadout screen before takeoff.
Early missions (in fact: most of the earlier missions) require that you target, approach and scan unidentified vessels that are flying through your sector. Just doing this supposedly menial task is fraught with risk because identifying a ship as carrying something illegal will ratchet-up the tension a few notches and usually also trigger a response from hostile Rebels. So you have to move carefully at all times, and if a firefight does break out you have to command your wing men to help you out.
The original release of TIE Fighter was in VGA resolution (320×200), installable from floppy disk, but a later CD-ROM release upped the dogfight resolution to SVGA (640×480) and also had extra cut scenes and more voice samples in the game.
TIE Fighter does look similar to X-Wing and basically uses the same 3D engine (all rendered in software by the way – no 3D acceleration here), but it does have Gouraud shading, which X-Wing didn’t have. TIE Fighter does have a fairly useful (and advanced for the time) sequence recorder that can record portions of the game and play them back in full 3D from a special in-game player.
The TIE Fighter CD version of the game – that can run at 640×480 resolution – is definitely worth playing if you can find it and get it to work. I had to mount an image of the CD version of the game and install it from within DOSBox, but it worked perfectly. The space dogfights seem smoother and faster in SVGA mode than they do in VGA mode, which I don’t quite understand, but the SVGA version has a unique look and feel to it that is worth experiencing.
There’s no doubting that TIE Fighter is a brilliant game that is still worth playing today, but it won’t appeal to everyone. The game has a surprisingly high number of important key-presses to learn (particularly related to targeting, which can get very confusing when there are a lot of spaceships around), so it’s a game that requires some serious learning to figure out how to play it properly. You can’t just ‘dip in and out’ of it for casual kicks – TIE Fighter is a relatively hardcore sim, at least when compared to more mainstream blasters. If you want a more ‘mainstream’ Star Wars cockpit shooter that requires much less effort to play, try Rebel Assault or Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike.
A sequel to TIE Fighter – called X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter – was released by LucasArts in 1997 and was the first game in the X-Wing series to bring multiplayer combat into play (TIE Fighter is distinctly single-player only).
Note: The shots here show both the VGA and SVGA versions of TIE Fighter. The VGA (320×200) versions first, with the SVGA (640×480) versions at the end. At the very end are examples of some of the extra cut scenes from the enhanced CD version of the game.
More: TIE Fighter on Wikipedia
Steam: Star Wars: TIE Fighter Special Edition on Steam
GOG: TIE Fighter on GOG.com