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Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Factor 5
Publisher:  LucasArts
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Flight/Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  12-16-01

In the original Star Wars Rogue Squadron, Factor 5 created an impressive flying game that took the N64 to new heights in the genre. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a perfect game as critics took it to task for some rather repetitive mission objectives, average music (due to the N64 format), and lack of dedicated space missions. The semi-sequel Battle for Naboo fixed some of these problems, but fell short in most critics’ eyes of the original’s greatness. Finally the true sequel to Rogue Squadron has arrived, and it represents the next evolution in Factor 5’s excellent series. The result is a spectacular gaming experience and the best Star Wars game ever.

If you’ve ever played a Star Wars flying game on a console before, you know what to expect here. You take on the role of either Luke Skywalker or Wedge Antilles (you’ll use both over the course of the game), and lead your Rogue Squadron through various missions that aid the cause of the Rebel forces. Each mission has several objectives that need to be accomplished, and only by accomplishing these objectives will you be able to clear the mission and move on to the next one. There are 11 total missions, with several more hidden waiting to be unlocked.

Each mission is unique, and will require a variety of tactics to complete successfully. For example, one mission requires you to guard a transport with an X-Wing until the transport lands successfully, then switch to a snowspeeder and take out some approaching AT-ATs with your tow cable, then switch again to a Y-Wing and bomb the hull of a downed Imperial ship. Not all missions are as varied as this (others have you piloting only one vehicle or fighting only air-based opponents), but there’s enough variety in each mission to keep Rogue Leader fresh and fun.

Several missions closely recreate actual events in the original trilogy (although all are set in that time period), and for most diehard Star Wars fans that will prove to be the real draw of the game. For years Star Wars fans have wanted to recreate scenes from the movies, and finally gaming console technology has reached the point where that’s genuinely possible. For any self-respecting Star Wars fan, flying through a stunningly-realistic recreation of the Death Star trench run (complete with voiceovers from the actual movie) is one of those rare "goosebumps" moments in gaming that will be remembered for years to come.

In addition to having a wide variety of mission objectives, the vehicles you’re given all work differently and as you’d expect them to. X-Wings, Y-Wings, A-Wings and more…they’re all here and are all best suited for different tasks. If you’re reading this review you probably already understand the differences between each ship, and as such I won’t bore you with a long explanation about each ship’s different properties. If you aren’t familiar with them, then just take my word for it that controlling each feels wholly unique, and that you’ll have to master them all in order to complete the game. Of course, there are several secret ships you can unlock as well…

Rogue Leader controls like a dream. The GameCube controller is perfect for a game like this, as it’s large "A" button and deep and responsive shoulder buttons feel completely intuitive. "A" fires your primary weapon (tapping allows for stronger shots than just holding it down), "B" fires your secondary weapon(s), and "X" controls your targeting computer (which includes nifty infrared-like interface), and "Y" allows you to switch the camera view either into the cockpit or to the chase camera. The shoulder buttons control acceleration and braking (the harder they’re pressed, the more you accelerate/brake), while the "Z" button allows you to perform a barrel roll.

Perhaps the best addition to the controls is that the d-pad has been added to the mix, and it allows you to give various orders to your wingmen. These orders include things like getting into formation and attacking specific enemies, and really give the player a sense that they’re actually leading a team of rogues. How you manipulate your wingmen is often critical to victory, as telling them to attack a lesser threat at the wrong time could spell doom for the mission.

As good as all of this is, the gameplay still isn’t perfect. First, while controlling the Y-Wing I often found myself not being able to chase enemy TIEs. As I would loop around to try to target and attack them, the camera would suddenly try to reorient itself behind me and cause me to lose the target. Personally this only happened to me on one mission, but it happened fairly frequently during that mission and was annoying to say the least. Secondly, the radar definitely needs work. While it’s ultimately serviceable, most of the time it’s confusing and cluttered. A good radar will allow you to quickly glance at it and assess the situation, and this one just doesn’t do that. Third, due to the size of the d-pad I had trouble giving appropriate orders to my wingmen. This isn’t a huge problem (you can immediately give the correct order) and it’s certainly not the developer’s fault, but it’s still an annoying little blip in an otherwise excellent setup.

Most importantly, the game itself is pretty short. Factor 5 attempted to supplement the relatively short length of the main game with a number of things to unlock (extra missions, ships, etc.), and of course the medal system returns to give gamers something to strive for after completing the game. Basically, the medal system awards the player with a bronze, silver, or gold medal at the end of each mission. The medal awarded depends on a number of factors, such as Hit % and the time of the mission. However, replaying the same missions over and over to get extra medals does lose it’s appeal over time, and the things you’re able to unlock probably won’t be worth it to a lot of gamers (although it definitely will be to hardcore Star Wars fans).

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