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A short time ago, at an E3

not so far away, I got a chance to visit with the Jedi of LucasArts for a look

at the next exciting installment of the Rogue

Squadron
series. Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike for the GameCube

takes us back to the classical age of the Star Wars saga when X-wings roamed the

skies, Danish

hair buns
were are all the rage and a poor young moisture farmer could become

the most powerful being in the galaxy.

Most

gamers are quite familiar with Rogue Squadron‘s legacy of terrific space-based

combat, but the Factor 5 team is prepared to do something a little different

this time around. Naturally, we’ll still see plenty of action in X-wings, B-wings

and other things with wings, but how does a little planetside combat sound?

Take the controls of an AT-ST and pound the forest floor of Endor or hop on

a speeder bike (finally!) and race through the flora at breakneck speeds. Even

those smelly Tauntauns make an appearance on that chunk of ice called Hoth –

just don’t slice them open until you’ve gotten where you need to go. You’ll

even run missions afoot as Luke, Han and Wedge similar to what we saw in SW:

Clone Wars
, LucasArts’ Prequel title. With a wide variety gameplay challenges

in and out of classic Star Wars vehicles, it looks like the Rogue series

has a new lease on life.

As with the other Rogue Squadron games, one of the best features is

being able to play through some your favorite events from the movies. In addition

to the ever-popular Death Star trench run with tons of TIEs flying everywhere,

I got a sneak peek at the groundside Battle of Endor. Manning the controls of

an AT-ST, I not only had the power to blast other Walkers, but I was also able

to set off rolling log traps and those nifty Walker head-smashing traps that

the Ewoks are so fond of. I know everyone has it out for the furry little muppets,

but you have to admit those forest traps were kind of sweet.

Another highlight of the Rogue Squadron series is its great presentation.

The two previous games helped defined the power of their respective machines

(Rogue Squadron on the N64, Rogue

Leader
on the GC), and I’m happy to say that Rebel Strike features

graphics that will make gamers drool like a Gamorrean in an all-you-can-eat

buffet line. Running on a new engine, Rebel Strike does justice to its

predecessors with a blazing framerate and top-notch effects, and at times manages

to look even better with some very impressive flame and particle effects. The

game can handle many, many onscreen enemies at once, upping the ante of even

its forbear. Hardcore geeks will also appreciate the HDTV Progressive Scan support

and superior 5-channel Dolby sound.

The multi-player game has also gotten a facelift. Besides the advertised Endurance,

Capture the Base and Dogfight options, you’ll be able to co-op the entire campaign

of Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader! If that doesn’t say Star Wars love,

I don’t know what does.

So whether you’re a Star Wars nerd trying to

build your own stormtrooper armor
or just an average Joe looking for a great

action fix, set your sights on Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, coming

this Fall to the GameCube.