William Shatner’s Tekwar lives again… for some reason


William Shatner’s Tekwar, released way back in 1995, was exactly the sort of game you’d expect to see from a meeting of minds as brilliant as Ol’ Bill Shatner (baffler of evil computers, aspiring writer of words) and Capstone Software, the studio behind such classics as Surf Ninjas and Terminator 2: Chess Wars. It combined stilted FMV Shatner monologues, incoherent level design and more bugs than you can shake a cyber-stick at.

It stands to reason, naturally, that there’s a mostly-complete engine port, allowing the game to be enjoyed at modern widescreen resolutions on whatever cutting-edge machine you use for your modern-day manshoots. A pleasant(?) side-effect of Blood’s revival on modern machines thanks to the efforts of Russian modder and coder Alexander ‘M210’ Makarov.

In all fairness, Tekwar was not a game without ambition. Breaking from FPS tradition, it was highly non-linear. You’re tasked with assassinating seven high-tech drug lords, each one holed up in a hideout somewhere in a massive city, its multiple districts connected by a subway system. While this sounds interesting on paper, the result is one of the most confusing and directionless shooters of its era, with each map being a sprawling mess of buildings filled with oft-identical FMV-sampled goons, turrets, androids and holograms, with little sense of where you should be going. Imagine Duke Nukem 3D’s very worst keycard hunts on a massive scale and you’re halfway there.

Owing to both the open-plan nature of the game and the wonky Build engine’s handling of moving environment objects, first-time players will likely lose many hours of pointless wandering and dying to Tekwar, with roaming buses honesty being a greater threat than any gun-toting minion. Public transport waits for no man in the grim future-world of Shatner’s imagination. The game also implores you avoid murdering civilians, despite most of them trying to gun you down too if given half a chance.

Thankfully, speedrunners have managed to trim the experience down to a slightly more palatable 10 minutes, 34 seconds, the entire latter-half of dedicated to the even more baffling and nonsensical Cyberspace level that makes up Tekwar’s finale. Sadly this also involves skipping the Shatner-tastic FMV sequences of him standing in front of a vaguely cyber-esque looking backdrop while paraphrasing excerpts from his tacky (and ghostwritten) series of sci-fi detective novels.

If this sounds like the retro experience you need in your life, my condolences. But if you must experience Tekwar on modern machines thanks to the wonder that is TekwarGDX, you’ll first need a copy of the original game. Unfortunately, nobody has seen fit to re-release the game since its original debut back in 1995 (most likely due to it being a production of three long-defunct companies; Capstone, Intracorp and US Gold) so you’ll have to source it yourself. Luckily, it’s not hard to track down either through common abandonware circles or on eBay, where original CDs tends to hover under the $10 mark.

There’s also a third GDX-series port in the works, looking to make Capstone’s FPS/RPG hybrid Witchaven more palatable for modern machines. While not quite as incoherent as Tekwar, I’d still struggle to describe it as a good game. Still, it’s good to see these things preserved and made functional again, even if they serve only as object lessons in how not to design a shooter.


    • stringerdell says:

      This is all I know about Tekwar

      • DThor says:

        If you read this article, it’s far, far more than you need to know for a healthy, happy life.

  1. ThePeon26 says:

    Hehe lucky me then I found a copy at work for 1 dollar and bought it just for the hell of it I mean it may not be a triple A title but man no many people today can say they own William Shatner’s Tekwar and heck 1 dollar is nothing.

  2. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    I’m glad to live in a world that hasn’t yet forgotten about TekWar.

  3. Risingson says:

    I called them “Crapstone” for a reason.

    Though there are some interesting games in their catalog. Corridor 7 was released a bit before Tekwar and being a game with the Wolfenstein 3D engine it was quite fun.

  4. malkav11 says:

    I did enjoy the books well enough, though I don’t think they were particularly innovative. I probably don’t need an FPS version, though.

  5. Ross Turner says:

    I owned Terminator 2 Chess Wars! As a 9 year old my memories of it are of this amazing chess game with incredible animations for taking pieces, so now I’m intensely curious as to the utterly abysmal review scores it seems to have earned (which I’m only just finding out about for the first time now)

  6. Henke says:

    “baffler of evil computers, aspiring writer of words”

    Hey now, don’t leave out the man’s amazing music career.

  7. Sui42 says:

    is it just me or does this game look A M A Z I N G

    I love the cuboid busses and all the FMV people sprites lol

  8. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    If we can appreciate some bad movies, surely we can appreciate some bad games? I know I do.