And welcome nods to the license do exist. The 18 available ships are based and named after Terran and Kilrathi models from the older games. Even better - they've kept their distinctive talents. For example, the ever-guerrilla Kilrathi ships can cloak themselves while the scrappy Terran ships can use flares to distract incoming fire.
Finally, Arena can be played in several different ways. Modes include 16-player free-for-alls, 8-on-8 teams and single player practice runs. A "Capital Ships" mode has teams attempting to take down the other side's carrier and all its turret guns. A unique "King of the Hill" mode puts one player in a "bear pit' and has him defend against one challenger after another. While the other 14 players wait their turn outside the pit, they can fight each other and collect power-ups that carry over into the central battle.
Wing Commander Arena may be an extremely downsized version of the epic 3D space shooters it took its name from... but it's an extremely upgraded version of the retro shooters we usually see on Xbox Live Arcade. The 16-player combat and wealth of options might win over even the most disgruntled of original Wing Commander fans. We'll find out this summer, when the game is scheduled to go online.