I just played WiH Part 1. I know I'm a latecomer, but my original plan was to wait until VA had been done. But I decided to treat myself yesterday. Determined to finish it all in one sitting (as I had with AoA), I went to bed at 5AM, lol. Here's my review:
Overall, the mood was a lot darker and grittier than AoA's, which I felt was fitting. It was really made clear that the war had taken it's toll on everyone involved. Noemi Laporte's character was no exception to this, which added a great deal of immersion. It made me see the hostiles as actual pilots as opposed to objects in FRED. No campaign has been able to tear me away from the FREDified thinking for a long time, so for that I applaud you.
As always, character development was excellent. Whilst I didn't get as "attached" to Noemi as to Samuel Bei (meaning I could more easily place myself in Bei's shoes and pretend I was Bei), my curiosity about her thoughts and mindset was piqued right throughout the campaign. The psych evaluation mission in particular had me on the edge of my seat. The F.E.A.R.-esque sounds and flashes really got my adrenaline pumping. I can't wait to hear that mission with voice acting.
However, I'm not only talking about the player character here. Characters like Kassim and Simms were also well fleshed out, and in the case of Admiral Steele, whilst we only encounter him once in-game, his reputation is cemented in Command Briefings and the like as the BP equivalent of Chuck Norris, which I think is awesome. I look forward to his demise.
I think the character development and immersion in general will be greatly enhanced by VA when it comes along.
I have to complement extremely the use of audio. From the subtle change of the commit sound to the new music tracks, it all helped to make me feel a lot more... in the future, I guess. The music IMO is a highlight of this campaign. It greatly contributed to establishing the mood for each mission. I did notice a little pause as the game switched tracks, but that's the game's fault.
The intro cutscene was awesome. Enough said.
The gameplay remained true to the classic FS style, but the new ships and weapons, whilst being limited in their selection, served to freshen the gameplay and also add immersion. I especially liked the tactic of having GTVA weapons available after the capture of the Agincourt, but not compatible with UEF fighters. Brilliant way to highlight the differences between GTVA and UEF technology. It's little details like this that make me really enjoy campaigns as I know the designers have been very thorough and have applied thought to more than just their missions and briefings.
Some of the gameplay ideas implemented here are amazing. Things like checkpoints, calling in the strike package, the amazingly multi-pronged conversation with Lorna Simms, and of course The Blade Itself really got my attention not only as a player, but as a FREDder. I'm definitely going to check out these missions in FRED to see how you guys did these things. Can't wait to learn from your expertise.
Now, when downloading, I had qualms about whether or not to download the advanced visuals. I had read on the forums that ships like the Karuna had raped people's computers. In the end, I decided to go for it and test it out. I was not disappointed. Not only did my computer handle everything perfectly, these ships are beautiful. They contain enough new stuff to make a flashy and surprising ally to escort or enemy to fight, but they hearken back to the FS core that we all know and love. And don't even get me started on the backgrounds. The lunar city... I will definitely be checking that mission out to find out how it works. Amazing. The Saturn background in particular... WOW. When I saw it, I completely ignored the battle and the dialogue for the first few minutes just to stare at it. And let's not forget the falling-into-the-sun background. Whilst I felt that it could have been improved (ie not been mostly just a white circle), it served as a great immersion tool and added to the holy****we'regonnadie factor.
Now, I have to say that I liked AoA's story better (I like fighting aliens), and that AoA got me more immersed and hyped up in general while playing, but I attribute a lot of that immersion to voice acting, so I will not render final judgment onto this campaign until VA is done. Here's hoping for Vishnans in Part 2 or future releases as well.
All in all, a very, very well-crafted campaign. I can see why so many people love it (I do too). However it ranks slightly below AoA in my book, because the deciding factor in my view that differentiates the good from the great is how emotionally involved it gets me. Whilst WiH tried a lot harder to expand on the player character's feelings, this had the opposite effect in terms of how attached I felt to that character. I felt a bit like my feelings were being forced. Not that the PC's feeling expansion was bad, it just detracted from my ability to relate to the character and put myself in her shoes (probably also not helped by the fact I'm male), which I was able to do without much problem with Samuel Bei, as I was given freedom to assign my own feelings to him. Once again, this is not a criticism of the campaign in itself. It simply has a different approach to treatment and expansion of the PC compared to AoA.
As a concluding statement let me say that regardless of what I've said above, I loved playing WiH Part 1. Can't wait for Part 2, and the best of luck to the BP team. You've done a brilliant job so far. I know you won't disappoint in the future.