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Sunday, 29 September 2013

STAR WARS - ROGUE SQUADRON II

GAMECUBE TRENCH RUN





















In 2002 LucasArts approached Factor 5 in order to attempt a modern re-imaging of the arcade classic, Star Wars, from Atari. Developed on the GameCube, this was officially the sequel to Rogue Squadron, which was originally released for the N64 and PC. I loved the original Rogue Squadron; this was probably the first Star Wars game outside of the arcade to put me in the movie.

Let's face it, the original Rogue Squadron on the N64 is a massively overlooked blaster; it pulled all sorts of clever stops out of the N64's hardware. The light and shadow effects alone helped it to stand out from the crowd. It is no accident that it is one of the best looking games on the N64. Factor 5 were a talented bunch, and the game not only looked incredible but was highly detailed and interactive.

Rogue Squadron II was developed in just under a year and considered by many to be the launch title to really
show off the true potential of the GameCube. The sequel totally nailed the little details missing from the original, i.e. the massive space battles and the all important trench run.  Despite a few shortcomings of which I'll go into later, Rogue Squadron II sucked me in from beginning to end. This was the Star Wars game I'd always longed for, the game where you got to suit up and fly out as the leader of the elite group, 'Rogue Squadron'. The game spans across the Star Wars Universe and through the heart of the Imperial stranglehold. You come up against Star Destroyers, Tie fighters and an all-important showdown with the Death Star before the game even gets going. 

A cockpit mode was also included and quickly became my default view, with a targeting computer helping to quickly identify any incoming Tie Fighters. The C-Stick can be used to pan around the cockpit, this is great as I could see different attack commands played out before my very eyes. For example, Issuing 'Form on my wing' shows the other X-Wing pilots fly over and around you and tuck nicely into position. You can even control ground troops within the land based missions. Great fun in the heat of a dogfight. 

In Rogue Squadron II, watch your back! Tie Fighters can come from any angle. Weapons are decent throughout, but nowhere near powerful enough to just rush in. In Rogue Squadron, the calmest of situations can quickly turn into the most dangerous. Luckily enough, but not in all scenarios, you're equipped with an R2 unit to help scrape through in the heat of battle. There're all sorts of hardware available; in Rogue we have X-Wings, B-Wings, Y-Wings, Snow-speeders, the Millennium Falcon, a Naboo fighter, and the amazing, wait for it, Tie fighters! You can even play the game at different times in the day. This is locked into the GameCube's internal clock and the only way to go about unlocking some of the games well-hidden secrets.

The graphics are basically the movie and set out across the vastness of the trilogy. The Battle of Endor was the most spectacular, especially the graphics; until the Xbox 360, I hadn't seen anything to rival them. The 'hangar bay' and 'mission select experience' is really well done. Once you've selected your mission, which needs to be completed sequentially, you get to leg it around the hangar and select the ship you want to fly for that mission. Before selecting it, you can walk right up to a ship and enter a first person view - this enables you to observe every little detail of the craft. Each ship really does have different strengths and weaknesses, some missions were much easier to complete with one ship when compared with another.

It is a game with many secrets, and by completing bonus objectives you slowly open up a treasure chest, eleven missions with an extensive set of bonus missions to unlock and the occasional surprise thrown in for good measure. Completing a mission is one thing, but completing it in style, and earning a gold bonus medal, is something else. Remember, points make prizes. Win 15 gold medals to unleash 'Ace mode'. There's also a documentary for players to unlock if you manage to collect 10 bronze medals. I won't spoil it for anyone but rest assured there's more to this game than meets the eye, and unless you cheat, it's a massive challenge to unlock everything.

I really do love Rogue Squadron, and although I'll probably come across as picky, I do have a few gripes. Whilst Rogue Squadron II is graphically accomplished, apart from a few new twists and turns on the shoot-em-up theme, it still feels pretty old hat. Also, after the first level, the difficulty ramps up viscously, and the gameplay can become a tad frustrating. Later levels also render the cockpit view completely useless, and it becomes increasingly unrealistic and difficult to fight off imperial fighters, as they stick to your tail like glue. The targeting computer, although ingenious - gets in the way. I needed to use it throughout the game, in order to pick off enemy fighters as they approached - without it, I really struggled to see the enemy Tie Fighters advancing towards me, and quite often flew straight past them without noticing until the last second. I dunno, maybe I just need an eye test.           

Despite the above, Factor 5 have basically accomplished, in real time, what fans have been starved of for years; a chance to PLAY the movie! If that's not enough, the game also features voice-overs from Dennis Lawson - the chap who played Wedge Antilles and there's also a half decent voice over from Bob Bergen, for Luke Skywalker. This is a vast improvement over the N64 original and my personal favourite from the Gamecube's small library. It's just a shame a PS2 version never arrived; I'm sure it would have been more than capable of pulling it off? 

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