Al Pacino said it best in The
Godfather III: "Just when you think youre out they pull you back in."
Pacino was of course talking about the Mafia, but he could have just as easily been
talking about George Lucas and the Star Wars Universe. A few months back, after reviewing
three Star Wars games almost back to back, I washed my hands of the franchise. It seemed
that the folks at Lucasarts were taking a quantity rather than quality approach to their
video games and it was adversely affecting my fondness for all things Star Wars. I
didnt like the idea of having something that I held so dear be corrupted by a greed
that would equal the evil trade federation. So, I said goodbye to Star Wars stuff and
hoped that I would be able to get excited about Episode II. Unfortunately I wasnt
able to keep my resolve due to the paltry selection of quality games on the PS2. I needed
to play something other than SSX, and Starfighter was the only title that even marginally
interested me. Obviously I didnt go into the game with high expectations. I hoped
for a passable space shooter with nice graphics. What I got was a fantastic space shooter
with amazing graphics. With Starfighter LucasArts has effectively doubled the number of
must play games available for the PS2 (SSX being the only other game worth spending time
plot deals with your basic sordid bunch of characters who band together to become the most
unlikely of heroes. Not the most original thing youll ever see, but you never go to
a Star Wars movie for originality (to quote Rick: "How many times can you blow up the
Death Star?"). The game takes place as a kind of side story to the events of Episode
I and it will satisfy most fans.
graphics are really impressive. The modeling looks good and the textures are pretty
impressive, but where the game really shines is in the shear amount of things that are
going on on the screen at one time. Some of the dogfights in space are so packed with
enemy fighters that no matter where you turn you always have something to shoot at. The
game puts you in the thick of massive space melees and just doesnt let up. The
ground levels are also pretty impressive. I would have liked a higher ceiling, but the
levels are so spread out that you dont even really notice. The snowspeeder levels on
Shadows of the Empire feel like elementary school playgrounds compared to the stadium
football-sized fields of Starfighter. I particularly love the textures of the canyon walls
on one of the levels. There is a level of detail that wasnt necessary but really
helped to heighten the effect. The sound is also first rate. However, Im still
waiting for a PS2 game to take advantage of 5.1 sound. I really feel that they missed a
great opportunity to incorporate Dolby Digital into the game. I have a very nice stereo
with an optical connection and I want someone to exploit that.
find lots of faults with Episode I, the moviewooden performances, cliched plot,
lackluster dialoguebut you cannot fault the film when it comes to its sense of style
and design. Everything from Amidalas wardrobe to the cityscapes of Coruscant had an
awe-inspiring effect on me as a viewer. I remember the first time I saw the Naboo fighter
in the trailer and how struck I was by its gracefulness. There were no hard edges and its
sheen was pristine. I knew that I wanted to fly one from the moment I saw it. I loved
being able to get in the cockpit in Starfighter and give it a try.
the biggest omissions in Episode I was the lack of variety with starships. Essentially you
had the droid fighters and the Naboo fighters. Not a lot to choose from when shopping for
toys. The game makes up for this by introducing a couple of other starships to pilot
through the missions. The design work on them is actually quite nice. Instead of using the
same ship throughout all of the mission, you get to play as one of three characters: Ryhs
Dallows, a rookie pilot out to prove his worth; Vana Sage, a mercenary for hire whose
decency cant be bought; and Nym, the space pirate with a heart of gold. Each of the
ships has their own characteristics which adds to the variety of the gameplay. I really
enjoyed Nyms bomber on the surface missions, and a great thing about Vanas
ship was its ability to hover in one place and pick off ships from a distance, which
really puts the sniper zoom to good use.
controls for the game took a little getting used to, but once you play a couple of levels
nothing could feel more natural. It must be really difficult for game developers to find a
good use for the right analog stick. Starfighter uses the left stick to steer the nose of
your ship and the right stick to control roll and pressing down on the right stick will
automatically level you. The other buttons are fairly standard. This is an arcade shooter,
so you dont have to worry about fuel levels or ammunition (there is a limit to the
missiles on the Naboo fighter, but everything else in unlimited). Space shooters are
mainly about aiming and pressing the fire button as quickly as possible. On this level
Starfighter satisfies immensely.
are fourteen missions in all and you will probably play through the game fairly quickly.
But just because youve finished the game doesnt mean that youll be done
with it. On top of the primary goals for each level, you have a number of bonus goals that
will garner you medals. Earn the right medals and you can unlock a host of missions, ships
and other features. You will be playing this game for weeks trying to get every little
thing out of it that you can. There are also some cool two player modes that only open up
after youve played through it and gotten the right medals.
This is a
game that really shines in its details. The graphics and level design are so impressive
because so much care has been taken. I found a lot of little joys in this game, like when
I was getting the hang of the controls on an early level I would accidentally hit the
royal starship. After a few hits I got a warning from one of my wingmen, which I
disregarded. I continued to fire with abandon and after hitting my comrades a few more
times, I heard "We have a traitor. Take him out." Then they hunted me down and
blew me out of the game. Its the little things like that that make it all worth it.
an incredibly entertaining game. I know its a good game when my wife has to hide my
controllers to keep me from playing all hours of the day. Starfighter did more than
provide a few hours of pleasant entertainment. It reminded me why Star Wars held such a
special place in my life. Starfighter restored my faith in a fallen franchise and for that
I thank the folks at LucasArts. If LucasArts can maintain this level of quality there
might be hope for Super Bombad racing even if it does have a big-headed Jar Jar.