It's not the size of the ship, it's how you use it.
In the 22nd century, humans have reached beyond the confines of Earth and expanded into the solar system. Under the democratic rule of the Western Alliance, things were going well: Mars and other planets have been colonized and the people rejoiced. Yay.
Unfortunately, a new force is rising, the Eastern Coalition, and they want what the Alliance has - power. On the eve of a peace treaty between the two forces, the Eastern Coalition launches a surprise attack and millions of people in the Western Alliance are killed. The Alliance fleet is decimated.
This is where you come in as a volunteer pilot of the 45th squadron. Your mission: prove yourself by saving the solar system (a job given to most volunteers on their first day). The game takes off from this fairly standard plot, pitting you against the Coalition in 20+ missions ranging from search and destroy to protecting the impotent flag-ship.
As far as space-combat games go, Starlancer is one of the best ever seen on a console system. The presentation and fluidity are impressive. However, limited control takes this a step down from its PC counterpart.
The cool ship design looks like a mix between Star Wars and Wing Commander; fitting, since Starlancer was originally conceived by Chris Roberts of WC fame. Everything is very detailed and the framerate moves along at a steady 60 FPS except during the most intense battle scenes. A pretty game, surely.
The sound is also done very well. While I wouldn't describe the soundtrack as "epic," it is certainly well done and fits the mood of the game. There is a limited vocabulary available during combat, which basically amount to the two commands "save my butt" and "kick his butt." The enemies are also in desperate need of a thesaurus, screaming "I will be avenged-agghhhhhhh" whenever they're killed. The voice acting may be top notch, but its hard to appreciate when you hear the same thing over and over and over.
These are only minor complaints, however, and are easily overlooked. Where this game comes up less than expected is in the story and depth of control.
Starlancer features the same story that accompanies 90% of sci-fi games: underdog takes on oppressive organization to liberate the people and find his destiny. It's not that the story is bad, but you've played and seen it before. Thankfully, there are some memorable characters on your side and the bad guys in the game are detestable enough to keep you interested.
Although your success and failures influence your subsequent missions, the plot is still fairly linear. In order to break up this monotony, the game designers threw in a lot of plot twists to keep you on your toes. While these provide variety to what would otherwise be standard missions, they become predictable quickly and are often taken from Al's Big Book of Sci-Fi. No matter how hard they try, the game still comes across as the standard out numbered, out gunned, and out classed formula that drives so many games in the space-combat genre.
Another problem is the limitation of the DC controller. The designers did a great job with the tool that they had - the controls are smooth and flying is easy - but without a keyboard a lot had to be left out.
For example, you can't adjust shield strength or balance thrust and shield power. You also don't have very many in-flight commands, nor can you taunt your foe (DIE FURBALL). Locking-on to an enemy is easy, but selecting targets not on the present screen takes a menu-savvy player and detracts from the immersion.
Some players may not miss the options, as it provides a simpler flying experience, but ultimately it means there's less to master and less "goodies" for a player to use to fit their personal flying style.
To up the ante, Starlancer can be played online with up to six other pilots. With a few deathmatches, the online dogfighting is good fun and extends the life of the game. It can be a bit hard finding people to play with, but hopefully that will change.
Starlancer is a great game for anyone who likes space COMBAT: it's fun, fluid, and well done. The problems I've mentioned are valid but are ultimately subordinate to how fun the game really is. It may lack the depth that some of us have come to expect in a space-combat, but it still stands as a solid gaming experience. The fact is that Stalancer is one of the best space-combats on a console and should be praised for its achievements more than bashed for its shortcomings.