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Wars Starfighter Special Edition
Score: 8.0 / 10
Any game based in the Star Wars universe is
usually rated two ways: how it compares with games in the specific genre
and how it compares with other Star Wars games.
I’ll get the Star Wars comparison out of the way. Starfighter Special
Edition (SSE) is above average, but falls just short of the hour-sapping
abilities of Rogue Leader, Tie Fighter, or Dark Forces II. It’s highly
playable, has some challenging missions, good graphics, a story that
fits into the Episode I timeline, and some good sound. However, some
missions are mind boggling frustrating, the flight “bubbles” serve to
annoy on some missions, and your wingmen
have shallow vocabularies.
SSE details the exploits of Ryhs Dallows, Vana Sage, and Nym (all with
their own reasons to hate the Trade Federation) leading up to the Battle
of Naboo. There’s a definite story propelling the action and the
missions are constructed around it. Mission design is solid – the
objectives all make sense for any given
situation (disable a freighter, fly escort,
etc.) – and for the most part the environments are “realistic.” (There
are also optional secondary objectives, but if you want to unlock some
of the extra missions it’s required.) One of the later missions on Naboo,
tasks you with holding back the ground forces of the Trade Federation
and looks great. The fog that some have just accepted as a given to any
game that shows wide-open vistas, is pushed to the far reaches and not
that noticeable. (You really have to look for it.) There are ground and
space battles and at the end you’ll take a foray into a Trade Federation
control ship while battling/avoiding a vile mercenary.
The ground missions are most guilty of having small flight bubbles. When
flying through a canyon on Naboo, you can’t pull out to get a better
look at the situation since there’s an invisible ceiling keeping you
penned in. I can accept flight bubbles but when you hit the edge then
bounce off in a jarring way that is likely to disorient the player,
that’s just wrong. Missions in space are freer and open for creative
problem solving. Difficulty is good – most missions will take more than
a few fly-throughs to finish. There's the occasional mission that's
frustrating. The finale is probably the toughest to finish, the list of
objectives is hard to fulfill and one or two mistakes and you’re dead.
Plus, once you’ve figured out the best way to complete the first part of
the mission it becomes mind numbing. To help out you have wingmen
(usually the characters you aren’t currently using) to order around.
They have this annoying tendency to line up in a row in front of you if
you ask them to attack your target thereby blocking your line of fire.
(Just tell them to attack a target then find another one for yourself.)
They also don’t have much of a vocabulary. The same acknowledgements,
the same phrases are repeated ad nauseam. For the most part though, they
behave and will actually destroy targets – sometimes without orders from
you. Thankfully, none of the challenge is owed to the controls.
Each ship you fly has the same basic control, although their bombs or
missiles differ. For example, while Nym’s ship is slower but it seems to
be able to take more damage and dish out punishment with his bombs, the
same mechanics from Sage's and Dallows's ships carry over so you don’t
have to re-learn how to fly every time the game switches characters. The
control scheme is laid out well on the controller. After about the
fourth mission (there are 12 in the basic campaign), performing sliding
moves, zooming in and blasting a target from long range while avoiding
fire from droid fighters, becomes second nature (although it doesn’t
mean you’ll walk through the missions).
Graphically I’d have to say SSE looks great. Playing in the 3rd Person
view from behind the ship is more difficult than playing from the
first-person perspective, for the reason that the ship blocks your view
of some of the screen. Everything moves smoothly and the animation is
great. Fire and debris explode out from vanquished targets. Bits of rock
shatter off with laser fire. However, the cutscenes, or lack thereof,
seem a little more subdued. After the first few missions, the cutscenes
are limited to shots of your ship flying and audio of the pilots
talking. On the audio side of things, John William’s is all over the
music and the sound effects are direct from the Star Wars archives.
Apart from the repetitive wingmen responses, the voice acting is first
rate – what we’ve all come to expect from anything LucasArts puts its
Multiplayer offers some variety. Whether dog fighting or playing capture
the flag, there’s some fun to be had and it’s good to see it included.
But if the single-player aspect is your thing, SSE has a good number of
hours to keep you occupied.
As the Trade Federation blockade crumbles, Starfighter Special Edition
is a solid game. The mechanics make it accessible for new players,
graphics are colorful and smooth, the mission variety is wide, and there
are unlockables for the truly Jedi-like. It may not be as addicting as
other Star Wars games but it does offer some fun.