There were a few years shortly after the CD-ROM revolution where a lot of publishers seemed to assume that the more CDs used, the better. As such, we ended up with titles that were often heavy on the full-motion video and light on the gameplay.

Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger -- also one of the first games to boast a multi-million dollar budget -- bucked this trend by offering an excellent 3D space combat experience as well as over 3 hours of star-studded video-based storytelling. Proponents of LucasArts' excellent X-Wing series often thumbed their noses at Wing Commander's space combat, but EA's games had their own fans who were just as passionate about their favorite franchise.

This was at least in part due to the cast assembled for the video sequences which told the story between combat missions. With Mark Hamill playing the player character Colonel Christopher Blair supported by, among others, John Rhys Davies as veteran pilot "Paladin," Malcolm McDowell as the pleasingly sinister Admiral Tolwyn and, bizarrely, adult movie star Ginger Lynn Allen as an on-board mechanic, the use of professional actors gave the game's story scenes a feeling of movie-like authenticity. This was taken to the next level in Wing Commander 4: The Price of Freedom, where the green-screen computer generated sets of Heart of the Tiger were replaced with real scenery.

Wing Commander 3 is available from Good Old Games today for just $5.99, which is an absolute bargain. It also comes with a wide variety of digital extras, including wallpaper, official guides, behind the scenes movies, scripts and reference material provided by Wing Commander News.

If you're not sure why older gamers seem to hold the space combat sim genre in such high esteem, you owe it to yourself to give Wing Commander 3 a shot, no pun intended. While the game may be showing its age a bit with pre-3D accelerated technology and blurry video, you'll experience a well-told, memorable, thrilling story coupled with fun space combat mechanics. You'll also find yourself wishing that Malcolm McDowell was in more games.

This article originally appeared on as CD-ROM Classic Wing Commander 3 Hits Good Old Games