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Game Over Online ~ Star Wars Starfighter SE

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

Game & Publisher Star Wars Starfighter SE (c) LucasArts
System Requirements Xbox
Overall Rating 70%
Date Published Friday, January 18th, 2002 at 12:55 AM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Starfighter SE comes hot on the heels of another round of Star Wars hype as a new film is gearing up for release. The Xbox version purportedly carries extra bonus missions and multiplayer features that are lacking in the PS2 edition. However, all three will trace the story of four characters (of which only three are playable) from a time before the Phantom Menace era; a prequel to a prequel so to speak. Spreading the story amongst three of the four characters is a practical decision. It easily lets you experience a variety of spacecraft from the Naboo royal military pilot to a notorious pirate raider. The last big jump in arcade action titles would probably have dated from the Rebel Assault franchise, which was mostly an FMV 'rail shooter', to the famed Shadows of the Empire. People quickly noted that there was a big market for arcade type Star Wars shooters, especially the intense levels involving spaceships in Shadows. Starfighter SE does not deviate much from this formula. It pits semi-heroic characters, completely fictional to the existing film licenses, against the hordes of the Trade Federation.

The onset of the story has you jumping between three characters fairly abruptly. I had trouble following the story until I got into a good quarter of the game altogether. After that, things began to smooth out and it is a pity because the first part is much weaker than the last few levels. I haven't played the PS2 version so I don't know which levels were added but suffice to say, the later levels where you fight off Trade Federation droid armies and the Federation blockade are easily the most exciting of the lot. The intensity of the voiceovers and in-game movies help make them better than the initial segments. Unfortunately, these levels are locked at the beginning, as are much of the rest of the game. Starfighter SE also includes a multiplayer mode where you can compete against another person in some tried and true motifs like Capture the Flag or Deathmatch (dogfight). None of them are too innovative and some of the best forms of multiplayer fun are actually found in the bonus missions. For example, there is one level where you must chase and capture droids periodically released from a factory in a hostile environment. There are several drab game types like various races. The most interesting is a co-operative level where you must fend off waves of bombers to protect Naboo freighters together. Why there couldn't be any more of these levels or some way for more people to play in this game is beyond my understanding, especially when this is one of the most entertaining multiplayer levels. Yet, it is initially locked as well which is beyond my comprehension.

My Star Wars experience on the PC has always been carried with a trusty joystick. The adaptation to the gamepad took some getting used to. If you want a comparison, the learning curve is slightly steeper than for Halo, especially because the first level puts you in the midst of a series of narrow canyons. The missions that take place in space are much more entertaining and you feel less boxed in. This is a feeling universal to these types of arcade titles. In almost all LucasArts titles, you cannot complain about the sound. They have access to some of the best databases of sound effects as well as usage of the John Williams score. I understand that parts of the Phantom Menace’s score are played so much that it has become clichéd. Yet the score, especially in the epic battles in the latter half of the title, enhance the feeling of the title so much that it almost saves some of the visual pitfalls. My first exposure to the Xbox was with Halo. People have said Halo is probably one of the best looking titles currently out, next to Dead or Alive 3 or Max Payne. The visuals in Starfighter SE are certainly adequate but the detail of the textures could be better. For example, the Trade Federation control ship is horribly bland and from afar looks like a simple gray coloured ring. Luckily, some great 5.1 surround, mostly aptly demonstrated in a head-on rush of Trade Federation fighters (not unlike Anakin's experience in the actual film itself), dives in to save the visuals.

Starfighter SE is also quite a short title. A few days of regular playing can get you through the main plot. Perhaps that is why LucasArts decided to add the bonus missions and extended multiplayer. Perhaps that is also why there are so many features that are locked, including some of the best multiplayer levels of the entire game. There's also little depth to the title. The controls to piloting a nimble Naboo fighter and heavy bomber are remarkably similar. This probably reflects the arcade or action quality of this title. I found some of the best levels to be the ones set in space or vast open areas. In those places, the epic feel of the film can truly be felt but the lone ground assaults through narrow passages are equivalent to the first person shooter levels of Shadows of the Empire; they drag down the overall quality of the game. Were the developers more consistent in level design, it would have been a much stronger product. A skirmish multiplayer mode or, even better, some more co-operative levels would have extended the longevity of this title. Attention to the physics of the various ships would be more useful than the outlandish coloured HUDs. Ultimately, I left Starfighter SE with mixed feelings like one of the characters at the end of the game. He has done his share of the fighting and would simply want to walk off the stage. The scene, with him stacking crates and the lone female character wondering why he could not just stay with the Naboo, is uncannily like the confrontation between Leia and Hans Solo. After finishing Starfighter SE, I could repeat what Julius Caesar said after the battle of Zela: I came, I saw, I conquered. I found myself feeling satisfied enough to walk away from the title altogether.


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