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SummaryAs good as it gets.
The GoodRebel Strike is the third Rogue Squadron entry in five years. It is the second Rogue Squadron game for the GameCube and, coming just two years after Rogue Leader, it's fair to have a little healthy skepticism about it. After all, Rogue Leader's strengths made it a platform-seller and it's not like Rebel Strike is a technological leap forward. So is Rebel Strike its own game or just another example of blatant sequelization?
The biggest difference between Rebel Strike and its predecessor is evident from the start of the franchise's trademark Tatooine tutorial level: Luke Skywalker starts out on foot. Putting players closer to the action, much of Rebel Strike takes place on the ground. Whether on foot, on swoopbike, or in a commandeered AT-ST, players have the chance to engage the Empire via a somewhat limited third-person shooter mode.
Back to Tatooine, it doesn't take long for Luke to find transportation, racing through Beggar's Canyon in a T-16 Skyhopper, testing out a Landspeeder, and taking potshots at target droids with an AT-ST at an Imperial recruitment center. There's also a somewhat awkward portion where Luke, on foot, blasts Sandpeople—but that's probably not a harbinger of doom. After Luke hits all the test vehicles, Tatooine is ready for open exploration so Luke can spend the rest of this forty minute tutorial finding hidden items and completing other objectives.
Then it's on to the real game and the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin. The destruction of the Death Star was a Rebel poke into the Imperial hive of evil (sorry, I just channeled The Tick there), anyway the first mission is called "Revenge of the Empire" and it deals with Rogue Squadron providing enough cover for Rebel transports to flee a full-scale Imperial invasion. Before they reach the Massassi Temples, Rogue Squadron has to shoot down Imperial transports while dodging TIEs.
Up to this point, Rebel Strike felt more like a Rogue Leader add-on than a standalone game. It looked like Rogue Leader, sounded like Rogue Leader, and controlled like Rogue Leader—except for the fact wingmen were more effective this time around, I could have sworn I was playing the same game. But then, I had to land and rescue/escort General Jan Dodonna from a swarm of Stormtroopers. Once again the third-person shooting was very awkward, but it was soon over and probably not an indication of anything to come.
After the early levels, the game dovetails into Luke Skywalker's story and Wedge Antilles story (and eventually reunites). There actually is a cohesive story this time, Luke's loosely following his Jedi path and Wedge's covers the runs the standard Star Wars gamut of new TIEs, secret Imperial bases, and the like. Successfully completing missions may earn Gold, Silver, or Bronze medals and respective points players can use to unlock bonus missions. Like the other franchise entries, there's a difference between finishing Rebel Strike and COMPLETING Rebel Strike. Expect to play and replay levels to earn Gold medals, find all the power-ups, unlock all the ships, and more.
I didn't explore the Co-op mode, but it's there—featuring the levels from Rogue Leader. I did explore the coolest features ever: the original arcade versions of Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi! Okay, the longevity of these classic games is a little questionable, since they are basically a looped handful of stages with some variation and increasing difficulty, but they offer a fun trip down memory lane. If you haven't seen these before, you'll probably scratch your head and wonder why you can't shoot the Ewoks.
The BadAfter making the same game (basically) for the third time in five years, you'd expect Factor Five to be pretty good at it and you'd be right… almost. Even I couldn't complain about the starfighter levels in Rebel Strike. The controls are great, tying up AT-ATs is less frustrating, TIEs leap visually off the starfield, missions are varied and challenging, and everything that takes place off the ground is fine. On foot is another matter.
For being a really good starfighter arcade game, Rebel Strike is also a really bad third person shooter. Players have to rely on auto-targeting since the camera doesn't move to allow better control of aiming. The controls are unresponsive compared to some of the organic third person games out there. Frankly, the whole thing feels primitive.