Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5472)
Written on  :  Dec 03, 2004
Rating  :  3.29 Stars3.29 Stars3.29 Stars3.29 Stars3.29 Stars

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Good, from a certain point of view.

The Good

Joe Bob Briggs' theory of movie sequels is that the good ones are just remakes of the original movie and the bad ones are bullstuff like Halloween III. The best thing said for Rogue Squadron: Rogue Leader is that it's a next-gen update of the original game. Rogue Squadron was and is an arcade game, instead of a flight simulator. Taking place over the course of the holy trilogy, players take the roles of Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, Rebel pilots who engage the Emperor's forces time and time again.

Like the first game, Rogue Leader begins with a Tatooine tutorial. Here players fly a T-16 Skyhopper (Luke's toy from Episode IV) and learn basic moves and weapon controls. Players have twenty minutes on this level to complete all the challenges and find all the hidden items (like Bantha herds or escape pods). The tutorial level is a nice, open-ended experience. Like the actual game, there are hidden things to find and there are differences depending on the time of day you play (if that does anything for you).

The game itself begins with the Battle of Yavin. The Death Star battle was the basis for the classic arcade game, part of X-wing, and a bonus level in the first Rogue Squadron. It has never looked or sounded better than it does here. TIEs howl past you, gun turrets fill the air with laser bolts, and the level plays out exactly like the movie.

Other battles from the movies are well represented. Players must buy the Rebels enough time to flee from Hoth by engaging probots, taking out AT-STs, tying up AT-ATs and then providing air support against TIE Bombers. The Battle of Endor is probably the most epic level. The Rebel fleet comes out of hyperspace and launches an assault against the Death Star. Lando shouts out that the Death Star's shields are still up and when the fighters circle back to the fleet, they see the Imperial Fleet has blocked off any escape. Admiral Ackbar wants to call off the assault, but Lando knows Han just needs more time. So it's up to the player to defend the Rebel capital ships before engaging two imposing Star Destroyers.

The levels between the movie missions are hit and miss though. There's a fun, but brief, B-wing attack on a Star Destroyer followed by an interminable level where players provide cover for a Rebel assault team trying to get to the crashed ship. There are some nice touches here, like the opportunity to switch craft depending on what objectives need to be completed, but there are weak spots I'll address below.

The craft control very well. The majority of the game is played in a third-person follow mode, but there is a cockpit camera where you can toggle the targeting scanner. A new feature lets the player send orders to his wingmen, instructing them to attack certain targets or flee—amazingly, there isn't a cover me option.

The Bad

Rogue Leader looks and sounds great, but it's still the shallow gaming experience offered by the first game. I accept that Rogue Squadron will not be the platform version of X-wing, but couldn't it be closer to Wing Commander? There's no sense of character here, other than a few movie lines tossed out here and there. Confined to the movie series, there is no room for surprise.

Unlike the original game, Rogue Leader has several space based levels. Visually, I had trouble picking the TIEs out from the starfield, but I'll take the blame for that. However, I kept hitting the ceiling and walls in these levels and found the radar to be mostly useless.

The game isn't that long (as far as finishing it, completing ever aspect is very time-consuming), but some levels are tricky. I don't think a checkpoint save system would be that hard to implement or would take away from the game. Every level has objectives and time triggers which keeps the pressure on, but it's annoying failing one section and having to restart the level. Despite the fact that the player is commanding a flight wing, it's up to the player to do 80% of the work. And don't expect the computer-controlled craft to do any special maneuvers like tying up AT-ATs (still frustrating) or bombing targets.

The Bottom Line

Much like the challenge of the cave, my perception of Rogue Leader is influenced by what I'm bringing to it. Knowing that the immersive experience of X-wing is possible on a platform, I'm continually disappointed by this franchise. I can't deny that it's a fun experience. The graphics and sound are top notch, but I can't bring myself to care. That people bought a GameCube solely for this game is a testament to something. What, I don't know.