Preview by Dennis Sloutsky
Echelon: Wind Warriors is the sequel to a really good game called Echelon that was released back in year 2000. Echelon essentially was an action combat flight sim - you took control over various aircrafts and fought against an alien invasion. The game managed to sell a good amount of copies, but it was initially released with a fair amount of bugs, that made the multiplayer part of it almost function less, for which the game's USA publisher Bethesda was largely to blame. As I recall it now, there were hundreds and hundreds of players begging, demanding and yelling for a patch that would allow a normal multiplayer experience on Bethesda's forums. Unfortunately the patch took way too long to arrive because of Bethesda's unwillingness to pay Buka the debts they had to them (whichever were the reasons behind that still remain unknown), and by the time it was finally out, the game has received some bad press and a lot of negative comments from the gaming community - for which Buka and MADia were in no way to blame - and Echelon didn't get the fame it really deserved, even though the game could've been called groundbreaking by those days' standards.
Now, a year and a half later, Echelon is back - bigtime. The graphics have been improved, the interfaces remade completely, and a lot of cool new features and vehicles were added. The result is Echelon: Wind Warriors, that follows a completely different storyline and offers more missions than the original one. You take the role of Major Jason "Wolf" Scott, one of the best military pilots ever in the past, and a training instructor. The year is 2351. One day, while holding a flight test for new trainees, all hell breaks lose. The planet is under attack by aliens... The war has began - finding you in the air, trying to protect your inexperienced trainees against the assault of experienced enemy fighters...
Echelon: Wind Warriors managed to combine both arcade-action and realistic flight simulation all in one title. The crafts are usually fairly easy to control, but there are lots of control options present, that some real flight sims can envy. The crafts are varied and all have their own characteristics, and accordingly you'll have to master control of all of them if you want to finish the game. You could also either use a joystick, but the game features an enhanced mouse handling model as well. However, there is usually a relative freedom of choice as well, as you may select from a few different aircraft types before each mission. Furthermore, you'll be equipping your aircraft with different weapons yourself as well, unless of course you would like to use the default configuration.
The game maps are really huge, often ranging in a few hundred kilometers. Quite a lot of detail is given to the terrain, buildings and other stuff on the ground. Also the game features some really cool weather and lens flare effects, not speaking about the explosions. Like in any self-respecting flight sim you're given the option to switch different views, so you could see the aircraft from inside the cockpit and with many various views outside of it. A lot of detail is also given to the aircrafts themselves.
Finally, the game features some very hilarious (as usual with Buka's titles) dialogues, and adrenaline-pumping music. The game intro is a treat in itself to watch, because of its unique combination of humor and action - just like the rest of the game. The sound generally is very well done as well, but once again it's always like that with Buka's titles :) .
This game should really be a treat for anyone who enjoys realistic flight sims, action-oriented flight combat games, as well it will probably appeal to a lot of space sim fans. Overall it's a very unique and enjoyable experience, with a lot of varied missions that will keep you glued to your PC, as well as some unique multiplayer modes. Watch out for this one as it ships to stores in Q1 2003... And don't forget to read our interview with the game's lead designer.