A review in three installments...
So three missions in, and you've already managed to utterly obliterate the original. :D I love how you've completely changed the direction of things right off the bat. There's a real sense of authenticity and vitality to what's going on, maybe even moreso than the original FS1 and FS2 campaigns. The voice acting so far is utterly superb; it's a bit of a fun surprise to hear unfamiliar voices uttering the old wingman persona lines. Tomorrow may be all about family, but I'm going to have at least a small part of my mind completely occupied with wondering just when I'll be able to resume playing. :)
Oh my God...I'm not even halfway done with this, but oh my God...
"He Who Rides the Tiger" was the greatest mission I have ever played, hands-down. I'm still half-shaking from the adrenaline. The transmissions were utterly spine-chilling, and then everything starts going to hell in a handbasket...and then ****ing Shivans start flying through space and latching onto my fighter...unbelievable. Damn things killed me the first time, too. :D Now most people would be content with doing just that, but then you manage to up the ante even more by having a Demon jump right into the fray and start trying to capture the Ratna like crazy. I was scrambling like hell all over the place, trying to figure out what to do; in the Amazon that docked to it was down to a paltry 4% hull when it managed to clear the fray and jump out. Utterly, unbelievably incredible.
And I just know that you'll probably manage to top it before the end. :lol:
(I love what you did with Cloak & Dagger, too; that was easily my favorite mission from the original campaign.)
I just finished after two or three marathon sessions throughout the day. And...wow. :D I can comfortably state that this is decidedly the best user-made campaign ever put together for this game. I'd even go so far to say that it doesn't feel in the least like a fan-made production at all; if it magically replaced the original Silent Threat on my FS1 disk tomorrow, I wouldn't bat an eye. Every single bit of the endless hours of hard work and devotion you guys poured into this comes through in the finished product, and the whole community is far better off for it. You've managed to set new standards for campaign design, storytelling, voiceacting...the whole works. Thank you for sticking with it for all of these years. :)
Now, before I gush any further, let me touch on some specifics:
--As I said earlier, I loved how you started out changing up the retail missions right off the bat. Eliminating the wild goose chase at the beginning of the original campaign and adding in that convoy mission was a great touch, and the handling of the mix-up over the escape pods was superb. I can't help but miss the good old GeeTeeDee a little bit, though...
--Even the retail missions that you kept largely intact were tweaked to make them much more enjoyable and impactful. Field of Destruction felt like it had an actual purpose to it, and the way you worked in the discovery of the Seraphim was great. (I think it was in there; some of the missions are running together in my memory into one big blob of awesome.) Cloak and Dagger had some real punch to it; I know I wound up failing or getting killed at least once, which was just about impossible in the original. Hellfire was another one that you turned into a real challenge (and took me a few replays to get everything offed in time), and The Wait went from being a rather dull exercise to something that felt very natural.
--I think I've already gushed enough about He Who Rides the Tiger. I think it still managed to hold up as my favorite through the end. :)
--Like others have said, I love a few of the cameos and references. All Your Base, the Material Defender, the good ol' LoneWolf, fishes, beer...all fun stuff. Seeing old ships like the Mecross, Repulse, and Orff make appearances was a nice touch, too, though I wish the Hope had managed to pull through. :(
--You picked things up to a ridiculous degree at the midway point. Though short, Return to Ross 128 was infinitely more meaningful than in the original. The attack on the Demon was a fantastic fast-paced mission, especially with that twist ending. (I really liked how you emphasized the final roundup and defeat of the remaining Shivan forces, since the original didn't do much at all with that angle.) You managed to turn that formerly-abysmal Krios destruction mission into something awesome; I actually felt sad at its destruction instead of utterly indifferent. And I amazed myself that I was able to save the entire convoy in Exodus on just the second play-through; it had just the right amount of balance that it wasn't one of those repeat-this-ten-times chores.
--That does bring me to my one biggest nitpick about the campaign: those default EMP missile loadouts. I'd like to strangle whichever one of you threw those in there. :p I found them just about utterly useless 90% of the time, unless you count scrambling my own sensors with them repeatedly and nerfing some of the dialogue. And when the wingmen started flinging them around like crazy, dear lord...
--I think enough's been said about the voice work, so I won't go overboard on the completely-deserved massive helping of praise. :) The choice of music tracks throughout the campaign was great, too, particularly M10, which never got any love in retail. That beta track you used for the main hall was a nice touch of atmosphere. I was a bit disappointed that my personal favorite set, M9, didn't turn up anywhere. (correction: it does appear in mission 9)
--Forced Hand was a great way to set up the final stage of the campaign. Whoever was providing Glaive's voice was utterly superb; I just wish he'd had more lines in other missions. I did manage one interesting restart on this one that could be attributed entirely to those blasted EMPs. Either myself or a wingman fired one at a wing of bombers that were attacking the boarding team, which managed to freeze a bomb not more than twenty meters from me. I then made the brilliant decision to destroy said bomb at that range. :p
--Though it had a great atmosphere, Chasing Shadows was the first mission to really frustrate me with multiple replays. Keeping those convoys out of the node while simultaneously fending off bomber wings and the ever-annoying Lokis was quite a challenge; I even had the bombers manage to destroy one of the Isis medic ships once. And when I finally did beat it, the Hope limped out with all of 1% hull integrity. She really needs to keep herself out of trouble better. :p
--Secrets Reborn was all sorts of epic; the dialogue from the Jotunheim was rather well-done. It also managed to provide me with my favorite death of the campaign. As soon as the Hades jumped in, I turned to gaze at it in wonder...only to get flattened by a chunk of Arcadia right up the backside. :lol: I'll second the amusement over the recommendation text. Yay, the Hades finally does something!
--The final few missions were incredibly intense. The Karnak defense was particularly pulse-pounding...and a bit frustrating, since that massive HTL model made my system chug along something fierce. :p The reactor defense segment was just awesome. I was completely expecting a stealth mission in Abandon Hope, but the reality was something much more action-packed; the Hope's final moments were particularly well-done. And the finale...well, that was something in and of itself. I had a devil of a time taking out enough of those beam cannons to keep the Soyakaze alive, and even then, the Zeus wings managed to dip it below 20%. Love the dialogue in that one in particular, though it was a tiny bit hard to follow while I was running all over the place. Rubber bands need not apply. :p
--Man, you weren't kidding about 162 providing all sorts of hints throughout, were you? :p
--As a final (I promise :p) note, what impressed me most about the entire campaign in retrospect is how you managed to work the theme of the fledgling alliance throughout it; it was that element of unity that was the retail version's most glaring flaw. It made perfect sense that the Hades project would have originated as a final solution against the Vasudans, and equally as much that R&D would be loath to let the whole idea go to waste after investing so much time and effort into it. The theme of having to put basic trust in a former enemy against most general ideas of rational behavior is one that resonates well, and it makes for a good segue into the far more cohesive and developed Terran-Vasudan alliance that we experienced in FS2.
I think I've blabbed for long enough (and I desperately need sleep), but to sum up once again, thank you guys so much for a truly amazing experience. :) I'm as much of a canon stickler as anybody around here, but this is the one time when I'd be glad to make an exception. Part of me wants to go back and play the original campaign now, to see the relative drek that inspired this...the smarter part of me just wants to play this through again. :D