Gamestyle Archive Intro: another early PS2 review dating from February 2001. The N64 had some great Star Wars themed titles and Lucas Arts was determined to expand the universe with a new trilogy and make lots of cash. Writer JJ.
Lets be honest, we’ve all played some terrible Star Wars games recently and here comes the debut PS2 offering from Lucas Arts. Before you moan and groan with the memories of past experiences fresh in your mind please take note because as of now we have finally have a decent Episode One The Phantom Menace release.
In Star Wars Starfighter you engage in various missions while trying to save the planet Naboo from the nasty Trade Federation. Is it a return to the classic PC Star Wars games? The story follows three pilots each with their own agenda and background. You have the rookie and know-it-all (Rhys Dallows), the experienced and mercenary (Vana Sage) and finally the alien pirate (Nym). Each character has their own ship: Rhys flying the Naboo N-1 (easily recognisable) is a quick fighter carrying several types of weaponry. Vana is a Naboo expatriate offering her services to the highest bidder and her ship (the Guardian) is more suited to seek and destroy missions. Finally the pirate Nym, his ship the Havoc is built to dish out and receive heavy punishment.
By employing this mission structure it allows Lucas Arts to offer a wide range of locations and situations throughout the game and expand on what was seen during Episode One. In total you will explore 14 different environments and fight over 50 vehicles which includes Trade Federation craft and Naboo weaponry. For all you Star Wars fans the game gives debuts to three never seen before craft known as the Dagger, Scarab and Protector. The stories of the characters are given throughout the game mostly in the form of some excellent FMV and pre-mission briefings, the latter using the game engine to good effect. Shadows of the Empire on the N64 sold well but the only redeeming qualities were the flying levels and Rogue Squadron soon followed raising the stakes higher.
No doubt gauged on feedback Lucas Arts planned Starfighter but in fact Starfighter started life as a PC title several years ago. It comes as no surprise therefore that the game, while offering nothing new, is very enjoyable although quite straightforward. To add more of a challenge for us experienced Starfighter pilots out there, they have included a medal system. In order to progress you do need to complete the mission objectives however three bonus medals are available on each level if you achieve certain goals i.e. finishing the level in a certain time. This brings you back to a previously completed level as medals open up the various extra secrets that are hidden in the game. A good job too, as otherwise this game would offer little challenge or durability. The training level will allow you to come to terms with the control system, which uses both analogue sticks. The ravines and valleys are a perfect place to learn what your ship can do – you prefer flying upside down? Not a problem in Starwars Fighter.
While the control system is excellent I cannot help but feel that the differences between the three craft on offer mean nothing as they all handle exactly the same. This adds to the ease of each level when really subtle little differences should have been included. The game offers two different views points (first and third person) however you’ll be forced to use the former as the third person viewpoint renders the game unplayable. Your field of vision is very restricted as the camera is just too close to your ship. Also available is the option to zoom onto your intended target and it does have its uses mainly for surface targeting. This is a welcome addition and is useful during the enjoyable dogfights thereby ensuring quick kills and little sustained damage.
The graphics on show are certainly bright and vibrant with wonderful laser fire and explosions all around you however they are not as wonderful as other reviews have stated. Perhaps I’ve made the mistake of playing a couple of space titles on the Dreamcast (Bang Gunship Elite & Starlancer) which not only look better but are also smoother – that problem of PS2 jaggy edges yet again. Still what we have on show here is eye catching and the sheer amount of vessels that are involved in the dogfights is very impressive. Space is not very hard to render in a game, the true test of the graphics engine is on the surface levels where draw distance is shown to be limited. A similar problem was obvious on ZOE however on both games it does not hamper the enjoyment. The frame rate throughout is fairly constant even when the action is at its peak but I did notice slight lapses when using the third person viewpoint.
My first impression of Starfighter was the actual speed of game, as it seemed far too slow however by using the boost button constantly this improves the situation. I do have to mention that this is one of the better loading games on the system so far and is fairly quick compared to other titles such as Timesplitters. As you would expect the sounds of the film are faithfully replicated in Star Wars Starfighter. The music, sound effects and dialogue all combine to bring the experience of Episode One to your console. The plot is based around events that happened in the film but is more of a side-story and although predictable helps the game. I admit I’m not much of a Star Wars fan but without the story, the game would have been reduced to a series of shooting levels rapidly becoming very boring. The dogfights are the attraction here however by level 8 you crave something new. Missions that perhaps involved rescuing personnel, stealing an enemy craft or obtaining intelligence would have broken up the constant fighting and destruction of targets. Such moments as flying out of the hanger on level 7 then immediately having to pull up to zoom out of the crater aren’t that bad.
Until the harder level settings you won’t find any challenge with the enemy fighters, such is the poor AI on offer. Another consideration is that of your allies who can be given orders via the d-pad yet they do posses one annoying flaw. I am no American fighter pilot who fires indiscriminately but allies have the tendency to cross your line of fire. This can lead to problems as once they have received a certain amount of hits, they announce that you have become a traitor and turn on you. Never since Goldeneye have I cursed a character so much who is actually on my side. I won’t spoil any of the surprises that you will experience or the bonus items and missions that you will acquire. Some of these are very good yet the two player mode is once again very much of an afterthought and surely if Iron Aces can provide such a solid option then Starfighter can do the same. I don’t really want a 2 player mini game or competition, rather the option to tool up, take off and blow them to kingdom come or Naboo – whichever is furthest away.
The action is stunning but with no option to sit back and enjoy a replay, you are missing out on so much. Something as simple as the number of kills on a level or in total displayed on a leader board would have added more some much needed replay factor. Star Wars Starfighter is a good game that succeeds in putting you into the Star Wars universe. If you are a fan of the series then you will lap this up and love it till the very end. For those who are more into games than Jedi you’ll enjoy it until the story concludes and then wish you’d borrowed or hired it from someone. It is a great improvement over the previous Star Wars console games and hopefully signals the beginning of a trend. Super Bombad Racing is the next up so we’ll soon know if that is the case.
Gamestyle Score: 6/10