She's breaking up! She's breaking up!
Being the resident GR Star Wars geek ain't easy. Between levitating Ben up to fetch the frisbee on the roof, teaching Shawn how to use Jedi Mind Tricks to get an extra round of beer at the local pub and practicing my lightsaber technique in the state-of-the-art GR training facilities with the zombies, I rarely have time for anything non-Star Wars related. And somehow, I've still got to find time to write Star Wars reviews while standing on one hand with Duke yelling at me to use the Force in his best Yoda voice. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
As much as I love that galaxy far, far away, I must admit that even Master Lucas has his bad days. Just look at Boba Fett's unfortunate "demise," the entire Gungan race, and the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special with special guest stars Bea Arthur, Dianne Carol and Jefferson Starship. If that ain't bad mojo, I don't know what is.
Likewise, Factor 5, creators of the critically acclaimed Rogue Squadron series, is allowed to have a few off days. Too bad for us gamers, since these off days led to Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike. It's not bantha fodder, but you won't see this trooper getting any Hero of the Rebellion awards from Princess Leia. I don't know about you, but I definitely have a bad feeling about this.
The game begins innocently enough, allowing you to play as either Luke or Wedge Antilles through two separate missions sets which eventually meet up. Either way, you'll start with the now familiar Tatooine training missions that have appeared in every game in the series. Just jump into your Incom T-16 Skyhopper and fly off to hit those spinning rebel insignias and complete the training. You'll also find a speeder or two parked outside the Lars' home that you can use to explore the landscape. No problem so far, right?
For your next mission, you'll return to the cockpit of your X-wing to take on the Imperial invasion force on Yavin IV. Rogue Squadron veterans will slip back into their second skin and start blasting away at a ton of eyeballs and squints in no time. The sky is thick with enemy targets (even more so than in Rogue Leader), the framerate blazes and the visuals are as bright and crisp as ever. While flying around rabidly dogfighting, Rebel Strike is as fast and pretty as anything you'll find on the Gamecube.
Then Jabba drops the game into the rancor pit as you exit the craft and run around on foot.
If you've played Star Wars: The Clone Wars, you'll have an idea of what it is like to run around on foot in Rebel Strike. Just make the control clunkier, the gameplay lamer and the camera COMPLETELY RETARDED to get the perfect picture of the on-foot missions.
For example, one mission is to run through the old temple filled with stormtroopers to rescue a Rebel general. To do this, you're equipped with a useless roll and kneel move along with a simple blaster, with no real ability to aim other than facing the general direction of enemies. So off you go, with the camera trailing behind you doing whatever it damn well feels like. Run past an enemy and you'll have a tough time finding him again, so just look at the radar and guess! But even that doesn't matter much, since you could just run right into a crowd of enemies and pop them all one at a time without taking much damage at all. I won't even get into the frustration of all the jumping bits that you'll find in the Dagobah training mission.
If these on-foot missions were just a small part of the game, there wouldn't be too much of a problem since the game's flight portions are top-notch. But like a Hutt at an all-you-can-eat buffet, it keeps coming back for more. Who gave the thumbs-up to turning a dogfighting game into a crummy third-person platform mess?
In between these moments of foot and flight, Rebel Strike introduces a few new vehicles. There's a quick outing on a Tauntaun (no, you can't take a nap in this one), a single speeder-bike mission through Endor and an awkwardly controlled romp in an AT-ST as Chewbacca. They're all decent little diversions, but none are long enough to really warrant much praise.
And for that matter, neither is Rebel Strike. Taking the most direct route from start to finish, I logged about three hours with the single-player element of Rebel Strike. Sure, there are a bunch of bonus missions and you could spend hours trying to get a gold medal on all of the missions, but if you just want to pass the game, you could do it in a virtual heartbeat.
Before you take a flying leap into the Sarlacc Pit out of disappointment, make sure you check out the multiplayer games. In addition to classic deathmatch style dogfighting, Rebel Strike includes the ability to Co-op through just about the entire Rogue Leader game. As in, the game that made such a buzz when it helped launch the Gamecube, but now with slightly updated graphics thanks to the new tweaks made for Rebel Strike. This is a really great multiplayer plan and extends the life of the product immeasurably.
And like always, there's plenty to unlock here. You'll open up tons of side missions, film clips and, coolest of all, some classic Star Wars arcade games that are actually playable.
However, Rebel Strike takes a rough shot to its power core with the terrible on-foot segments and short single-player campaign. The delivery and dogfighting is still top-notch, but they really should have just stuck with what worked instead of trying to add in unnecessary gameplay styles. After a long battle, this X-Wing is grounded.