If EA’s Squadrons wasn’t quite to the scale you were hoping for from your Star Wars flight game, never mind: you can always replay 1994 classic TIE Fighter, which now has vastly-improved visuals and some other modern tweaks instead.
What you’re looking at here is TIE Fighter: Total Conversion, which isn’t actually the original TIE Fighter. Instead, it’s a mod for its sequel, 1999's X-Wing Alliance, porting the original game’s menus and missions into a more robust engine, then using more mods on top of that (the X-Wing Alliance Upgrade Project) to make everything look nicer.
Having been in development for years, the project was finally and fully released over the weekend, and is so much more than just “TIE Fighter with better lighting.” Because this had to be rebuilt in a whole other game, the developers decided to take the opportunity to mess with the original, and have designed a “reimagined” campaign that goes for 37 missions and adds “more ships, bigger battles [and] in some cases completely new missions.”
The soundtrack has also been remastered, proper widescreen resolutions are available, and there’s VR support as well. Though it’s important to note that both those reimagined missions and the soundtrack are optional improvements; you can still play the original campaign and listen to the old MIDI soundtrack if you want.
I love TIE Fighter so much I went back recently and reviewed it, so if you’d like a recap on why it’s one of the best PC games ever made, you can check that out here:
It’s amazing how well this game holds up. Yes, the visuals can seem basic in this post-Squadrons world (the 1994 edition’s polygons are muddy and the 1998 edition has some icky menus), but in terms of how it handles, how the missions play out, it doesn’t feel - in the way 90s PC games often do - that you’re playing something sluggish, overly-complicated, obtuse or confusing.
You get dropped into a huge space battle, you fly around with smooth-as-butter controls, you make use of a dynamic but incredibly simple energy mechanic, you shoot some stuff, you move on. It is, for what the genre requires, almost everything it needed to be. It gave you enough systems to blow stuff up, not enough to confuse you, and then made the combat as fast and exciting as it needed to be.
I think that’s the reason, above all others (even the decline of the joystick), that the space combat genre went away. Why Wing Commander focused on presentation, not gameplay. Why Tie Fighter’s sequel, X-Wing Alliance, is never mentioned in the same breath. Why even Squadrons, with all its backing and hindsight, is more of an arena shooter than a true space sim.
Because Tie Fighter was pretty much perfect. It was everything a space shooter ever needed to be. And still is.
If you want to try it out, you’ll need a copy of both X-Wing Alliance and the X-Wing Alliance Upgrade Project mod before you get started.