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January 24, 2002
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 Overall Score: *92*ESRB Rating: Teen (T)

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader [Nintendo Game Cube] 

by LucasArts  Reviewed by: Rob Madison  


ScreenshotOverview

The date: May, 2001. The location: Los Angeles. The event: The 2001 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The booth: LucasArts. The result: I MUST buy a GameCube.

Gamezilla’s “game of the show” from the 2001 E3 expo has finally arrived, and none too soon. I fell in love with this game at first sight and have been counting down the minutes until launch ever since. I was blown away by the incredible graphics, gameplay, sound, atmosphere and, most of all, the fact that the game was going to be a GameCube launch title. That being said, this game had a lot to live up to in my eyes. It was kind of like your first kiss; the more time that passed, the more I built the game up in my mind. Sometimes this can be dangerous because it leaves a lot of room for disappointment, but somehow I knew this game would not disappoint.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Rogue Leader is the premiere launch title for the Nintendo GameCube. You will have the opportunity to play as Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles and recreate a number of memorable scenes from the Star Wars trilogy along with other random missions. All your favorite ships are in the game, and now the Rebel Alliance is counting on you to fight off the evil that has infected the galaxy and to show that you have what it takes to be the hero of the Rebellion.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Over the years, there have been a number of different Star Wars-based games released. Everything from fighting to a first person shooter has been done, but the titles that have received the most praise are the flying/space combat games. The most recent example of this is Starfighter for PlayStation 2. There were also a couple of space combat games for the N64 that were widely regarded as being among the better games on the system. What this means is that LucasArts has had a lot of practice in honing their skills before creating Rogue Leader. You can really see bits and pieces of the previous games and how they have evolved into the masterpiece you will be playing on your GameCube.

Much like the previous titles, Rogue Leader is a mission-based game. You will receive objectives on the fly throughout the mission. Upon completion of one objective, you will receive a radio transmission, often accompanied by a cutscene explaining your next objective. Once the objective is explained, you resume control of your craft and you are off to try to complete the mission. Some of the missions are a reenactment of famous scenes from the movies and others are missions designed specifically for the game. An example of a reenactment is the first mission you undertake (aside from the training mission). You set out to destroy the Death Star. Your first objective is to destroy all the laser towers that are providing surface-to-air fire. Once this is accomplished, waves of TIE fighters attack you. Finally, once you have cleared the TIEs, you make the trench run completed by dropping a proton torpedo down the exhaust shaft and blowing up the Death Star. And this is just the first mission!

ScreenshotBeing mission-based like its predecessors, Rogue Leader also follows the same reward system. Upon successful completion of each mission, you are presented with a scoring summary screen that displays your mission time, enemies destroyed, shot accuracy, friendlies lost, lives lost and your targeting computer efficiency. Based off your scores in these categories, you are awarded medals. The medals give you points toward unlocking secrets in the game. One nice touch is the fact that you can complete a mission, not score a medal and still move on to the next mission. The game gets pretty darn difficult and just making it to the end can be a chore, so it was nice to be able to continue with the game and come back later to complete the medals.

One of my biggest complaints with Starfighter was the lack of radar. Not a problem here. You have fully functional radar which will help you position your craft and locate enemy targets. Often things are moving so fast you really don’t have time even to look at your radar but it is nice when you are trying to locate a single enemy. I had a bit of a problem reading depth -- it is easy enough to find the red dot, but since this is space, the enemy could either be below you or above you so you have to be alive from all angles.

There are a couple of new features introduced in Rogue Leader as well. This is the first game I can remember that gives you a targeting computer. The targeting computer is an overlay that comes over the entire screen and shows enemies in an infrared-type view. Some of the missions have you enshrouded in a heavy fog so your visibility is limited. The only way you can see the approaching enemy ships is through your targeting computer. I loved the concept but the execution left me frustrated. The biggest issue I had with it was that you had to hold down the Y button to keep the computer up. If you released the button, the computer would retract and you would go back to normal view. The problem with this is that the placement of the Y button on the controller in relation to your fire button makes it nearly impossible to press both at the same time without contorting your hand in a way the human hand is not capable of contorting. I really think they could have done a lot more with the targeting computer (maybe an entire mission requiring you to use it) than they did. Too bad, because it is a cool idea.

Graphics & Audio

As I stated in the beginning of this review, one of the big reasons I fell in love with this game was because of the beautiful graphics; they seem only to have gotten better since E3. I review games on a 53” HDTV (still waiting for the component cables to come out) and it looks absolutely breathtaking. Everything, from the snow levels of Hoth to the asteroid fields in space, is in beautiful high-resolution glory. The ships are very detailed and the Star Destroyers will have your jaw dropping. The game does use CG cutscenes to explain the mission objectives or to set the scene and, to be honest, the cutscenes do not look much better than the actual gameplay. It is just a game that must be seen to be appreciated. If these are the type of graphics we can expect out of the GameCube, I may forgive them for the crap that was the N64 after all.

Even the less-than-great Star Wars games in the past have always had decent audio. LucasArts just knows how to make great-sounding games, and this is no exception. My system is running through my home theater and the bass shakes the walls. The laser fire sounds as good as or better than the movies. The explosion rumble with the authority you would expect. The ongoing music is ripped straight from the movies and, as a surprise, the voices sound very much like the actual stars from the movies (the only actor who is mentioned by name was the voice of Wedge).

ScreenshotBottom Line

I could buy a GameCube for this game only and would not be disappointed. If I never play another game on the system, I already feel I got my money's worth. That is how good this game is. I found myself in constant amazement, talking to the TV (you know a game is good when you start talking to it) and just basically grinning from ear to ear every time I played. It is very difficult to score the higher level medals but thankfully you can still make it through the game without getting a gold on everything. So, if you have a GameCube and have not bought this game yet, you are missing the entire reason for owning that system.

Review Posted On 20 November 2001.

 
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