Midi-chlorians have taken over the Xbox.
It’s back to a galaxy far, far away in LucasArts’ Xbox release of Star Wars:
Starfighter. Dubbed the “Special Edition,” this release of Starfighter
has a slightly improved multiplayer game as well as a few extra bonus missions.
It’s still a solid game, but after about a year since the game’s original
release on the PS2, the Force seems to have weakened a bit in this one.
Star Wars: Starfighter takes place around the time of The Phantom
Menace, with a new group of unlikely comrades joining together to battle
the evil Trade Federation. There’s Rhys Dallows, a rookie pilot in Naboo’s starfighter
core, Vana Sage, a mercenary for hire, and Nym, a Robin Hood pirate captain.
Vaguely reminiscent of the original trio of heroes (Luke, Leia, and Han), our
Starfighter friends are just the beginning of a classic formula that
Each of the Starfighter heroes brings with them a specific type of
fighter craft that will be used to combat the Trade Federation. While flying
as Rhys, you’ll take control of the geeky N-1 Starfighter that was highlighted
in Episode 1. It’s big, it’s yellow, and it’s got some sort of strange tail
sticking out of its rear end.
Fortunately, not all of the ships in the game are as corny as the N-1.
LucasArts actually came up with some fresh designs that look almost as cool
as the classic X-wing and TIE fighters. Vana pilots the Guardian Mantis,
which looks like a cross between a B-wing and an upside down Imperial Shuttle
and Nym flies the Havoc, which seems to be a mating of the Millennium
Falcon and an A-wing. New enemy ships will also be seen, including the Interceptor-like
Handling these babies is a snap thanks to Starfighter‘s simple and
efficient control scheme. One stick controls the direction and the other handles
rolls. The D-pad issues wingman commands when available and one of the triggers
offers a sniping mode for long distance shots. The rest of the buttons are used
for targeting and shooting, rounding out an easy-to-digest set of controls.
Don’t like the way it sounds? Then change it, thanks to the control setup option.
The only difference between this version and the PS2 version is the big Xbox
controller, which might just make your hands hurt after a round of intense dogfighting.
The missions in Starfighter break down exactly like any other space
combat game: attack, defend, and escort. Each of the game’s 14 missions has
multiple objectives along with bonus goals that will eventually unlock an additional
number of extra missions and extra ships.
For the Special Edition, two new bonus missions have been added as
well as a small host of multiplayer ones. This multiplayer game takes a much
bigger step than the original with five types of play, including Dogfight, Capture
the Flag, Tag, Hunter, and Detonator Drop. These additions are fine, though
the fun depends heavily on what map you play. And at any rate, playing with
only two players just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Also new is the ability to unlock the Zoomer and Scarab fighters. Opening up
all of these additional goodies will definitely be a challenge, since there’s
plenty of fast and furious action going around. Players can toggle between a
first and third person perspective to keep up with the madness and there isn’t
much that will slow you down.
Though the missions may boil down to classic objectives, the cool level designs
turn them into something a little more special than your average space shooter.
First off, you’re not always in space. Flying between narrow canyons, through
a waterfall, and along a river blasting Scarab fighters will take all the skills
you can muster. Only one who is strong in the Force will be able to negotiate
One of the game’s downers, though, is the inability to go outside the level’s
invisible boundaries. Even in space, you are confined to a certain area. Attempt
to travel outside these boundaries and you’ll be met with a force barrier that
will “bump” you back into the field of play. This can unfortunately cause some
severe disorientation, sometimes leading to a nosedive during planet-based missions.
Even Wedge Antilles would have a problem getting bumped around like this.
When the original Starfighter was released a year ago, it was one of
the coolest looking games available at the time. But now – especially after
seeing games like Rogue
Leader – the graphics are just okay. Minor details have been added to the
Special Edition, but for the most part it looks the same as the original.
The sound gets a thumbs-up with musical scores and sound effects all ringing
true to the Star Wars universe. The voice acting is also pretty good, giving
more life to our small band of heroes.
One of the only real flaws of Starfighter is its targeting system.
While it is easy to lock on to an enemy that is onscreen without a radar, locating
a specific target offscreen can be a nightmare. Take one of the early missions;
for example: escorting the Queen’s ship. Dogfighting with the mercenaries is
no problem, but if you lose track of the Queen’s ship, it may be difficult to
locate again. It’s even worse on levels where the sheer number of enemies is
staggering. All you can do is mash the targeting button for a while, wasting
many precious seconds trying to locate your intended target.
While Starfighter is without a doubt a solid game, I can’t help but
wish for a more dynamic storyline or level structure. The ability to progress
in the game without complete success would definitely boost the depth by leaps
and bounds. Life after Colony
Wars is tough.
Star Wars Starfighter: Special Edition is a classic example of space
combat fun. The Xbox port is still a solid game with a few extras thrown in
for good measure. Despite its arcade style of play and limited depth, this is
one game that can be enjoyed by most everyone throughout the galaxy. Yub, yub.