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Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II - Rogue Leader (GameCube)

87
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Anthony Bull (26)
Written on  :  Jul 23, 2003
Rating  :  4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars
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Summary

Astounding graphics and a Star Wars nut's utilmate wet dream!

The Good

This is the Gamecube's killer launch app. Forget what Nintendo put out - this has it all - the best graphics, the best sound, awesome gameplay, DVD-like levels of presentation and extras, and one of the best parts is that its HARD.

The graphical system is breathtaking - it actually looks like you are playing one of the movies - especially when running in progressive scan mode. Words cannot describe how beautiful the experience is - highlights are flying around the bump mapped valleys of Hoth, the beautiful watery island world of Kothlis with hundreds of ties and walkers constrasting the organic beauty, doing a fly-by on a star destroyer for the first time and of course the Battle of Endor which is just WOW.

The actual skill of the guys at Factor 5 (especially Thomas Engel) is completely evident in this game - no other Gamecube developer has yet managed to put together an engine that rivals or is better than Rogue Leader's - this is being written 2 years after it was released also!

The levels are enormous, with millions of polygons everywhere - all the landscapes look brilliantly real, smooth, and curved. Player craft are reportedly made of up between 20,000 and 30,000 polygons. When you fly past an X-Wing, you can see the pilot inside moving! All surfaces in Rogue Leader feature 8 levels of texture maps and a cool real-time shadow and lighting system, which is best seen on Hoth or Kothlis where hundreds of laser streams are crossfiring and reflecting off the ice/water and lighting up every soldier and vehicle they pass.

And there's just so much more to the graphic system - in Tattooine there are heat/mirage waves in the distance causing your view to distort, and a complete day and night cycle where you can watch the twin suns setting. The Ison Corridoor level has volumetric fogging all over the show as well as volumetric clouding in the Bespin level. A brilliant particle system makes blowing apart Tie fighters a pleasure as does the many different ways they can explode - it is just so satisfying to blow a Tie to bits and then fly through the explosion.

The sound, is brilliant also. Factor 5 wrote the sound software for the Gamecube. It sounds just like the movies do - and because its all done in real-time instead of streamed it changes to reflect whats happening in the game. When things quieten down in a level, the music gets softer and when things get frantic it becomes really intense, with all notes and instruments blending seamlessly in the transitions and using all the classic themes from the Star Wars soundtrack.

The sound effects are top notch, with every Star Wars sound you can think of in there some where, all sounding perfect. The detail in the sound is of a similar level to graphics engine. AT-AT's have 6 different motors all with different sounds, when you fly past them it sounds just like it should - whirring motors and clanking feet. The attention to detail is amazing - in the heat of a big battle, anyone walking past your room would think that you were watching a DVD of Star Wars it sounds so good.

There is an absolute load of voice acting in this game too - including Dennis Lawson who was Wedge in the original movies. And the best part is, they all sound exactly like the characters in the movies. Lando, Han, Luke, Leia and all the others sound utterly convincing.

And it all runs in Dolby Pro Logic II for 5.1 surround sound. Factor 5 developed a system that takes the Gamecube's analog signal and filters it so it simulates 5.1. It has clear separation between the rear and front speakers - and on the right system it is unbelievable.

The game play is great - each mission has a set of objectives to carry out, which you follow to complete the game. Most levels are "Blow this Up" or "Protect this transport" or "Steal this". Its pretty simple stuff, but its a lot of fun actually getting there.

Some of the levels in this game are very hard to complete and will take a lot of goes to do so, but that is great - I'm sick of games that are so easy to complete these days. It takes some real skill to beat this game, let alone unlock all the extras. And the lastibility is great - there are 11 main levels, 1 training level, 5 bonus levels to unlock and gold medals to acquire on 16 levels as well as awesome bonus craft to unlock. Millenium Falcon, Slave I, Tie Fighter, Imperial Shuttle, Naboo Fighter and others. And each level has a tech upgrade hidden somewhere on it for you to find which powers up your player craft.

Add to all this, a making-of documentary, interviewing the team, DVD-like Audio Commentary tracks during levels, loads of DVD-quality footage of the original movies in the menu screens and an art gallery containing concept art from the games design stage.

And it all fits into one 8-cm disk. The most amazing part of it all is that they made it and 9 months and it is only a first generation game for the Gamecube. The sequel is already looking like it is running on Gamecube-2 hardware or something!

The Bad

The missions and game are/is based around a linear structure - there is usually only 1 path through everything - this isn't too bad a problem, as there's only one way I would want to blow up the death star, but it could've had a lot more depth if there was multiple routes to the end, like Star Fox 64 had.

Admiral Ackbar doesn't sound quite right - there's nothing else wrong with this game (from my perspective). The only real problem is that it is so amazing that you play the hell out of it and complete it really fast (2 weeks or so).

The Bottom Line

The best Star Wars experience to be had yet. A breathtaking game that makes X-Box and PS2 owners drool and then start making excuses for their systems. If you like Star Wars, you will think you're in heaven when you start playing this game.