Game Over Online ~ Star Wars Starfighter

GameOver Game Reviews - Star Wars Starfighter (c) LucasArts, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Star Wars Starfighter (c) LucasArts
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II-350, 64MB RAM, 550MB HDD, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 68%
Date Published Thursday, March 21st, 2002 at 04:50 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Starfighter is an arcade title adapted from the PS2 and Xbox. Its premise rests on you taking the persona of three pilots: one Royal Naboo cadet (Rhys Davies), one female mercenary (Vana Sage) and one male mercenary (Nym). They make an unlikely alliance pact to help the Naboo repel the Trade Federation. Like many of the games that are based on the Phantom Menace prequel setting, some the game's events revolve around what you see in the film; albeit from a slightly different vantage point. Make no mistake about it, this is not a successor to the critically acclaimed X-Wing Alliance. This is another arcade title developed by Secret Level for LucasArts. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the Battle for Naboo except the fact that Battle for Naboo was adapted from the N64 for the PC. I had heard that Starfighter was destined for the PC all along but this edition appears to be a straight port, and in some cases a more inferior port than the PS2 or Xbox versions.

Some of the chief problems that plague a console to PC port continue to linger. Most PC users know that configuring video modes and other performance features is the first thing to do when setting up a PC game. Starfighter's configuration looks like it was grafted onto the console port. You configure keys and video modes outside of the game itself. Furthermore, it appears only accessible through a nested feature within the autorun menus. Another tell-tale sign of a console port is the menu interface itself. For a game that supports the mouse, the menu screen forces you to use a gamepad/joystick or keyboard to navigate.

Luckily, Starfighter supports a variety of display modes in both 16-bit and 32-bit color. Even dated machines can run 1024x768x32 modes with ease. What looked fairly well on television though, does not fare so well on the monitor. Many of the simplified textures that appeared in the console editions are exacerbated by the precision of computer monitors. It becomes apparent that no matter how high a resolution you run, Starfighter will only look so much better than its console counterparts. That's not to say it is as bad as Battle for Naboo but it certainly is not stellar. The gargantuan objects like the Trade Federation Droid Control ships look great from afar, but as you close in, the textures are bland and the whole ship looks to be devoid of any features; unlike the cinematic portrayal.

My conjecture as to why this happens is due to the level design. If the Trade Federation fighters looked downright dumb in film, they suffer from some form of dementia during the course of this game. Often you'll come up against a swarm of fifty Federation fighters only to find out that your makeshift mercenary group (of 1/10 the size of the enemy) can pull away unscathed, only to face down another swarm of them. One of the characters succinctly points out, "We may be outnumbered but we're not outgunned!" My response is, “Of course we're not outgunned, most of the Federation craft appear unable to shoot.” On the more positive side, keeping a low detail on the 3D objects within the game lets designers throw some of these swarms at you. And indeed, it definitely persuaded me to recollect some of the experiences faced by the various characters in the film.

Throughout the course of the narrative, you'll be assigned to an assortment of missions and all of them will involve some form of combat. The different vantage points the narrative uses is an excuse to put you into various spacecrafts. Although their armament is different, all of the crafts perform roughly the same; that is to say in an arcade fashion. You can powerslide very easily, even with a lumbering bomber craft. The game is playable with a mouse and keyboard combo. If you are playing this title for any length of time, a joystick and gamepad is, as quoted by the readme, "HIGHLY recommended." I think LucasArts took a cue from the rabid complaints about the initial release of X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, when a gamepad or joystick was a fixed prerequisite.

Generally, you'll be involved in disarming freighters, suicide attacks on whole convoys, ground assaults and defense missions. I found the most entertaining missions to be at the tail-end of the narrative where you fend off the massive Trade Federation armies. Unrealistic as it may sound, it's actually quite fun to rack up dozens of kills. Combined with the excellent sound effects, you really get a sense of why George Lucas' creation has connotations to WWII style warfare. Starfighter is not an overly deep title. Many of the missions you are tasked to do involve very little finesse. Unlike X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter or X-Wing Alliance, there are no specific goals like drain this ship's shields to 25% or damage these sections of a certain capital ship. Those looking for a complex space simulation will be disappointed. Starfighter manages to retain the bonus missions introduced in the Xbox version (albeit some of them). But what irks me most is the lack of multiplayer altogether. Split-screen play, I believe, is a compromise on consoles for the lack of true multiplayer. The PC version, I would expect, is where multiplayer should come naturally. Yet in spite of the PC's strengths in multiplayer features, Starfighter for the PC is a solo experience through and through.

I admit, my expectations for Starfighter may have been overstretched, but it has been quite some time since a serious space simulation came out. These titles sell great since they are easy to pick up and accessible on most PCs. If you already own a console copy of this game, there really is no need to get this title. It adds nothing except the ability to apply some brute force PC power in churning out higher resolution (but not necessarily better looking) graphics. If you have the Xbox version, you might as well stick with that one as the SE features there are more appreciable on television. The disparity, however, between this title and the great classics that LucasArts used to create is too great of a void to disregard. As such, I can only recommend this as a title that may tide you over until the next official LucasArts PC Star Wars product. Since the PC lost out on Obi-Wan, that might be some time for most of us, until we get our paws on Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.


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