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Star Wars Racer Revenge

Score: 7.0 / 10

It’s been eight years since young Anakin Skywalker made his name as the greatest Podracer in the galaxy, a mechanical wunderkind and one of those kids that’s cute but unnervingly annoying. Since then he’s been laying low, doing the usual space teenager thing: bagging groceries at the Bantha Wiggly, saving up for a new Podracer—the slightly used one the Jawas are selling with the rebuilt reactor core and fuzzy dice—and trying to sneak girls into his sand hut.

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But nothing lives forever: not the fame that comes from being a pre-teen Podracing champion, not even the big bucks that come from a starring role in a summer blockbuster. The Podracing tournament is starting again, and Skywalker needs to win in if he wants to keep the girls’ attention—Lord knows that silly rat tail isn’t working.

Star Wars Racer Revenge is the latest racing game from Lucas Arts and nearly a straight sequel to the original Podracing game. I was excited when I saw that the game was developed by Rainbow Studios, the same people that developed ATV Offroad Fury, easily the surprise game (in terms of quality) of the PS2’s launch. Unfortunately, SWRR doesn’t pack the same punch. Technically, the game is fine, just not great. The graphics are sharp—but nothing spectacular. The framerate is crisp—but there are rarely more than a few pods on the screen at one time. The action is fast—but sadly repetitive. Honestly, the biggest drawback of this game is we’ve seen it all before.





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A Podracer is the intergalactic version of your basic souped-up hot rod. If you need a visual picture two giant jet engines tethered with steel cables to a Lazy Boy. They are fast—top speed of around 600 miles per hour according to my magic heads-up speedo—but overheat quickly and are easily damaged. And despite the fact that you are flying around with engines stolen off some star cruiser, Podracers are somehow unable to fly more than about six feet off the ground. Why this suffices for a racing 


vehicle in a time of interstellar travel, giant robot armies and little blue elephants that play in house bands beats the Yoda snot out of me. But that’s the lot Mr. Lucas has given us, and now we have to race it.

Podraces take place on 18 different tracks spread over five different worlds. There’s a good variety of environments here, from the Tatooine desert to water worlds to a giant metropolis. You are racing against seven other competitors, and no matter how good—or bad—you are at this game the AI keeps some podracers near you. If you have played the original you get the gist, the only difference is now a secondary goal is to take other racers out of the action. Every racer has a health meter that shows up when you are near. Knock ‘em around until they blow up and you get a percentage tacked on to your race winnings. This is called "Watto’s Bribe," which is convenient because the only place you can use either your race winnings or the bribes you have earned is in Watto’s Garage.

Watto’s Garage is where you can upgrade your pod. There are several categories, such as top speed, acceleration, resistance to damage, etc., which you can upgrade. The higher up the scale you go, the more "truguts" it will cost you the next time around. This automatically kills any experimentation as the wisest—and most economical—strategy is to raise all the levels together. I would have much preferred an option to purchase specific parts for upgrades. (Next time, George, rip off this idea from the Gran Tourismo series, we won’t tell.)

In the races you had better learn where the shortcuts are. Every track has multiple paths, and some are better than others. The strange thing here is that each track is supposed to cover hundreds of miles. And expect for the occasional craft flying overhead and the crowd in the stands, nothing is happening. No people, animals or much of anything along your path, just landscape whether it’s natural or "man" made. Besides the other races in the game, everything is static.

The main mode in SWRR is Tournament Mode. Place at least third in a race, spend your winnings in Watto’s Garage and move on to the next event. There isn’t much story that works it way through the races except that the evil Sebulba is out to get you. Unfortunately I never was able to distinguish one pod from another during the race, and there wasn’t one that seemed especially aggressive to my character (Anakin Skywalker, of course). There is also a two-player mode which is nice, except again, I found it impossible to distinguish between my human opponent and the AI-controlled vehicles.

Overall, SWRR is a perfectly OK game. Problem is, it doesn’t break any new ground. I don’t care if the heads-up display tells me I’m going 600 mph, the sensation of speed isn’t any greater than in Mario Cart. Really, I wanted to like this game, and there is no one thing to point to as a major fault, but nothing in this game distinguishes itself from any other racing game out there. So if you’ve already learned to speak fluent Wookie, earned your black belt in lightsaber butt-kicking and completed your application to the Princes Leah fan club then go ahead and give Star Wars Racer Revenge a try, but take it from me—rent, don’t buy.

- Jeff Huneycutt

(May 5, 2002)

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