I'll admit it: I love Star Wars. Something about the incredible speed, intense action, and classic tale of good vs. evil has always drawn me in. Ever since I saw the first video of ROGUE LEADER, it has been at the top of my "most wanted games" list. Thankfully, it lives up to the hype.
What better way to toss gamers into the action than to start you off on the attack on the first Death Star? You could, of course, take a training run in a T-16 Skyhopper, but what's the fun in that? Actually, the trial run isn't really necessary; the controls are top-notch. Lasers are set to your "A" button and the secondary weapon is "B." The C-stick controls camera angles and the X and Y shift into targeting computer and cockpit views, respectively. The Z trigger executes a roll and the triggers are used for braking and acceleration. Finally, you can use the D-Pad to issue orders to your wingmates. This quickly becomes second nature and soon you'll be pestering TIE fighters like a pro. My one complaint is that the D-Pad sometimes will trigger the wrong response. On a couple occasions I told my wingmen to flee the battle by accident. Other than that minor frustration, I found the controls to be excellent.
Things get rolling and you quickly find yourself in one of the most visually impressive videogames ever created. Your X-Wing screams across the surface of the Death Star and the planet Yavin hangs over the scene. The game plays out like the movie, with Luke running interference over the Death Star and eventually flying down the trench. There's no slowdown, tons of fighters on screen, and an incredible sense of speed.
Ok, enough about the Death Star. There's a lot more to Rogue Leader. Throughout the game you'll find yourself bombing Imperial installations, escorting Rebel convoys, fighting in the Battle of Hoth, and stealing the shuttle Tydirium. At the end, you'll participate in the Battle of Endor. In this epic battle, hundreds of TIE fighters fill the screen and I spent more time avoiding collisions with enemy TIEs than actually shooting at them. If a TIE just happened to wander into my crosshairs, I'd pull the trigger; otherwise, it was just a matter of trying to stay alive. Remarkably, there was no slowdown.
The mission objectives are all well put together, and gamers who have played ROGUE SQUADRON will feel right at home with the game. One interesting note is that the missions are split up into seamless sub-missions. I'd imagine this is to prevent loading times and allow for more fighters on screen at the same time. Cinemas split up these different subsections and they all flow together very effortlessly.
With only 11 missions, some might be inclined to think that ROGUE LEADER is quickly over. This, however, is not the case. As in the original ROGUE SQUADRON, earning medals by having superior performances in missions expands the life of the game greatly. Each medal is worth a point value, and you can spend those points to unlock brand new missions. Earning these medals has never been easy and ROGUE LEADER doesn't break the trend. Some involve actually not using your targeting computer, which is something that is sometimes relied upon. The rewards are well worth the effort though.
While ROGUE LEADER excels in the gameplay department, the graphics are just as equally impressive. Factor 5 has managed to faithfully recreate the movies. They've provided hundreds of TIEs on screen with no slowdown, lighting effects to the maximum, and some visuals that are so reminiscent of the films that you'll do a double take. Even after you get past the movies playing in the presentation screens you still have the isometric fog. ROGUE LEADER is a sensory barrage.
Besides killer gameplay and graphics, what else can you expect from a Star Wars game? Killer music and sound effects. Supporting Dolby Pro Logic II and sporting a John Williams soundtrack, you know it'll be good. All the typical blaster sounds, ion engine whines and explosions that you are used to hearing have been included. ROGUE LEADER sounds great.
There are a couple of DVD-style extras too. Besides a documentary on the game, there is also a developer commentary that you can run during the levels. This is an awesome addition and will hopefully be put into more games in the future (could be rough with many Japanese developed games, yes, but how about translations?!).
ROGUE LEADER is a fabulous game. The way it submerges you in George Lucas' universe and takes you on a wild ride is unmatched. The Star Wars fanboys must own this game, and for everybody else, it's a solid buy.
ESBR Rating: Teen
Developer: Factor 5
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Fun Factor: A+
Reviewer's Wild Card: A+