LucasArts Strikes Back!
Let’s face it, Star Wars games have not always been…how do you say…the cream
of the moisture crop. Sure, games like the X-wing
series ruled eight ways to Endor, but it’s pretty hard to forget mediocre
games like Demolition
and Jedi Power Battles. And I won’t even begin to rant about how I actually
spent money on the bantha slobber that was Force
Commander and Rebellion. Those games actually make me shudder when
I think about them. Every time a new Star Wars game comes out, all I can do is
hope that it’s not as bad as those are. It really feels like Episodes since a
good game has come out.
But like 3XR-259.7 (all of you Star Wars geeks must watch George
Lucas in Love), things can get better. Welcome to the next level of
gaming, Star Wars fans. Let me introduce you to a little GameCube exclusive
called Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II.
Back in May, we were treated to an awesome presentation that showcased the
stirrings that would become Rogue Leader. It had style, it had class,
and most importantly there weren’t any stupid Gungans hanging around. With less
than a year of development (!), Rogue Leader certainly proves that developers
can make a kick ass game in a short amount of time. So how good is it? Let’s
just say this.
Rogue Leader starts off at the tail end of Episode IV with the Rebel
attack on the first Death Star. Players will take control of either Luke Skywalker
or Wedge Antilles (depending on the point in the story) and fly through 11+
missions leading up to the destruction of the second Death Star. There’s even
an unlockable mission where you fly as Vader! More on that later…
Naturally, you’ll take to the air in classic Star Wars starships including
the famous Incom T-65 X-wing and the Slayn & Korpil B-wing, among other famous
craft. With both third and first person views, you’ll never have a problem getting
into the action.
Unless you’ve been condemned to the mines on Kessel for the past year, you
know that the graphics are simply amazing. I shouldn’t need to tell you that
the visuals in Rogue Leader kick all kinds of ass, but I will, because
it’s fun. The detail of the ships, the massive amount of laser fire, the insane
amount of on screen happenings at once all contribute to the visual spectacle
of this awesome game. There are even some very cool explosions thrown in for
good measure. It’s funny how people start acting like a Jawa in a junkyard when
they see what’s going on.
Augmenting the graphics is a very solid framerate. For the most part, you
can have several TIE wings, a few large capital ships and a gazillion laser
bolts on screen with no slowdown at all. There was only an occasion or two where
the framerate dipped noticeably.
Sound also gets a gold star with 5 channel Dolby surround technology. I knew
all of those speakers would come in handy some day. Laser blasts come alive
and the music we all know and love sound great. We’re even treated to the genuine
Wedge Antilles – Denis Lawson. The people that play the other pivotal voice
roles are good enough, but any Star Wars aficionado will really notice the difference.
Gameplay is exactly what you’d expect from an X-wing game. You fly, you shoot
and you save the day. Controlling the different ships is very intuitive and
you can even issue orders to your two wingmen. The targeting computer is also
a nice touch as it allows you to see enemies in areas of limited visibility.
Rogue Leader just combines the best of classic Star Wars with classic
As an added bonus, there are hidden tech upgrades throughout the game that
will power up different ship systems. Some apply to all craft, like the Advanced
Lasers upgrade, while others are specific, like the Seeker Concussion Missile
upgrade for the A-wings. Find these, and your quest for gold will become much
Like the original
Rogue Squadron, a medal system is implemented to evaluate your performance.
Taking a long time, missing a lot of shots, or earning too few kills will result
in no awards, but if you’re able to become one with the Force (which seems damn
near impossible), you’ll earn the gold. Each award will give you a certain amount
of points that can be used to unlock other bonus levels. One of the levels has
you controlling a laser turret in the Millennium Falcon, another involves the
Falcon’s escape into an asteroid field, and the last turns the tables by allowing
you to fly as Lord Vader during the Battle of Yavin. Sometimes, it’s good to
Levels aren’t the only things you can unlock, though. Rogue Leader
carries with it some DVD quality extras. Pass the game and you’ll be treated
to a nice little documentary that goes over how Rogue Leader came to
be. There’s also an audio commentary toggle that will let you hear the Lucas
folk discuss the level you’re playing. Of course that’s not all, but I wouldn’t
want to give it all away.
The major problem with Rogue Leader is its length. It shouldn’t take
you much more than a single evening of play to pass the entire game. Getting
all the golds and unlocking everything will definitely take a lot longer, but
it’s really disappointing when a game ends just as you begin to warm up. Even
though I’m amazed that such a good game came together in such a short amount
of time, I would have preferred to have waited for a few more levels.
It’s really a bummer, too, because the game is so much fun. But after we’ve
played a game like Colony Wars, it’s
a little hard going back to such a short, linear experience. While in show business
you should always leave ’em wanting more, this doesn’t work so well when it
comes to game design.
Also missing is any kind of multiplayer game. Though it wasn’t very deep, Star
Wars Starfighter included a small multiplayer that turned out to be pretty
fun. It would have been extremely cool to split-screen in such an awesome looking
game – and with X-Wings, no less! But instead, Rogue Leader leaves us
all by our lonesome.
Even though the experience is a short one, Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue
Squadron II still ranks among the top Star Wars games I’ve played. It’s
got great space and planet based missions, all the classic Star Wars elements
we love, and graphics that never cease to amaze me.