vader clone

The Video Game Critic's
Star Wars Review Extravaganza
Part II

Updated December 18, 2015

videogamecritic.com

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Dreamcast

Star Wars: Episode One Racer (LucasArts,2000)
System: Dreamcast
Grade: A-
screenshotWhen Episode One Racer was released for the Nintendo 64, it was a real treat for Star Wars fans. This new Dreamcast version looks slightly better, but the gameplay is exactly the same, giving me the worse case of Deju vu ever. Racer lets you relive the exciting pod-race sequence from the Phantom Menace, and the smooth, detailed graphics put you right into the driver's seat. There are 21 spectacular courses spread over eight unique worlds, and a wide variety of drivers and vehicles to choose from. The illusion of speed is effective, and the game does a fine job of capturing the spirit of the film. But is it worth the upgrade if you already own the N64 version? No. In fact, unless you compared both versions side-to-side, you'd never be able to tell the difference.



Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles (LucasArts, 2000)
System: Dreamcast
Grade: A
screenshot This outstanding title lets two players assume the role of Jedi Knights, hacking their way through creatures and environments inspired by the Phantom Menace. Although a "twitch" game at heart, there are some interesting defensive techniques and "Force powers" to spice up the action. This is the kind of game Star Wars junkies have been longing for since Super Return of the Jedi (SNES, 1993). Jedi Battles for the Dreamcast also represents a dramatic improvement over the Playstation edition, which was quite good in its own right. Having played the Playstation version immediately before trying this one, I can say it doesn't even look like the same game! The graphics here are sharper and brighter, and objects are significantly larger. And not only is this version easier on the eyes, but it's more fun as well. LucasArts may have realized how frustrating the Playstation version could be, and made this one far more forgiving. The control scheme is superb, using the analog stick to run and the digital control to walk (with precision). You'll even discover playing modes you won't find on the Playstation version, like a training mode and a two-player versus. Jedi Power Battles for the Dreamcast is outstanding - one of my favorite Star Wars titles. I'd even recommend this if you already have the Playstation version.



Star Wars Demolition (Activision, 2000)
System: Dreamcast
Grade: F
screenshot Being a die-hard Star Wars fan, I picked up this piece of junk without giving it a second thought. However, had I scrutinized the packaging I would have noticed this ominous warning: "From the creators of Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense". That game sucked big time, and this is basically the same repackaged crap, only with Star Wars window dressing. That's really sad, because Star Wars provides all the characters, vehicles, weapons, and battlefields you'd ever need for a kick-ass vehicle combat game. Demolition's vehicle selection includes a landspeeder, snowspeeder, AT-ST, and battle tank. You can also play as Boba Fett in a jetpack or the hulking Rancor monster (from Return of the Jedi). Two things I cannot fault are Demolition's graphics and sound. The battlegrounds provide a diverse set of environments, including Hoth, Tatooine, Dagobah, Cloud City, Naboo, and the Death Star. The scenery looks attractive and provides plenty of recognizable landmarks and subtle details only Star Wars aficionados will notice. The musical score and sound effects are straight from the movies, so they're pretty good. Once you get past the presentation and begin delving into the gameplay, numerous problems surface, particularly with regard to the weapons. Your default laser weapon is practically useless, and all too often you get stuck with the ultra-annoying "tractor beam" weapon. The thermal detonators, which work like mines, are also a real drag. In general, it's far too difficult and time-consuming to destroy other vehicles, and you can't even determine if an opponent is taking damage! Making matters worse, shield repair portals can be found all over the freakin' place. Don't be surprised if after spending ten minutes wearing down your opponent, he enters a portal and reappears good as new! Did I mention that the control is horrendous? Star Wars Demolition totally sucks, and it's even more upsetting when you realize how good this game could have been.



Playstation 2

Star Wars: Starfighter (LucasArts, 2001)
System: Playstation 2
Grade: B
screenshot The first Star Wars title to grace the PS2, Starfighter is largely a success. Not only does it deliver superb dogfighting action, but it delivers on a grand scale. Unlike most first-person space shooters, Starfighter convincingly places you in the middle of a much larger conflict. The background story involves three characters, and you can control each one in their own distinct starcraft. There's a gung-ho white guy, a black woman, and an alien who talks like Jesse Ventura. Personally, I would have preferred actual Star Wars characters - oh well. The cut scenes are good, but not jaw dropping, and the storyline is convoluted. Fortunately the action is much more straightforward. Of the 14 missions, some are set in space, and others occur over planet surfaces. The missions are lengthy, and there are "bonus goals" along with the main objectives. Your craft is remarkably easy to pilot. When you become disoriented, it only takes a push of a button to reorient your ship. Responsive controls and silky smooth animation make it a cinch to line up enemies in your crosshairs, even from a great distance. Unlike the Nintendo 64 Star Wars shooters, you won't have to worry about crashing into the ground (unless you're closing in on ground targets). The battles occur over expansive areas, and you can see a great distance. Your instrument panel is complicated but can largely be ignored, as a handy red arrow always indicates your next target. Surprisingly, there's no radar display! Although Starfighter's on-screen activity can be extreme, the framerate remains smooth (although I did notice a few minor hiccups). Your targets are finely detailed, but the smooth, featureless planet surfaces doesn't look much different that those in the N64 games. I recall hearing how the PS2 could render a million trees (each with a million leaves) without breaking a sweat. So where the [expletive] are they? Still, Starfighter's graphics aren't too shabby. Damaged ships trail smoke, and the explosions are gorgeous. But the audio is where this game really shines. The familiar and crystal-clear sound effects, combined with various Star Wars themes make you feel as if you're in a movie. You'll also hear voices on your radio, but who are these people? Who are they talking to? It sounds like you're listening in on everybody's conversation (good guys and bad) and it's just confusing as hell. I should also mention that Starfighter's load time is significant but not unbearable. It is by no means a flawless game, but as a basic shooter, it serves its purpose.



Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing (LucasArts, 2001)
System: Playstation 2
Grade: D
screenshot As a hopeless Star Wars fanatic, I couldn't resist buying this mediocre kart racer, despite my better judgment. Sadly, it is as bad as the critics say it is. Bombad Racing might have been something, if only the developers had not done everything wrong. You know, it wasn't easy for LucasArts to screw this up. After all, the Phantom Menace provided plenty of interesting characters and environments to work with, and kart racers have been done to perfection on all systems dating back to the SNES. Bombad's roster includes Darth Maul, Obi-Wan, and six other stubby Star Wars characters with oversized heads. Is this game supposed to be humorous? I suppose. The tracks take you through nine movie locations, and although the scenery looks smooth and attractive, the track layouts tend to be maze-like and confusing. Apparently, whoever designed these tracks has never played a kart racer before in his life. As any seven-year-old will testify, sharp turns, narrow ledges, obstructed views, bottomless pits, and cramped quarters do not belong in a kart game! Duh!! All too often you'll find yourself asking "Where the [expletive] am I?" and "Where in the [expletive] am I supposed to go now?" A few tracks require trial and error just to figure out where to go! Someone needs to introduce LucasArts to the concept of "play testers". The framerate can barely keep up in the single-player mode, which is inexcusable. Obviously, you can write off the split-screen - it's unplayable. Bombad offers a wide variety of weapons, but their effects are never clear, and it's hard to tell who shot whom. The confusing, cluttered radar display is utterly useless. Finally, the whimsical musical score is so pathetic, it turns my stomach. Poorly designed and programmed, I can't believe LucasArts would put their name on this.



Star Wars: Bounty Hunter (LucasArts, 2002)
System: Playstation 2
Grade: F
screenshot How could such a rock-solid premise - playing the role of a Star Wars bounty hunter - result in this abomination? Bounty Hunter is a third-person action/adventure that doesn't offer much new content and is bursting at the seams with design flaws. Playing the role of Jango Fett, you travel from planet to planet, completing missions while collecting bounties for Republic credits. To claim a bounty, you must "mark" your target first, and then use your whipcord to subdue him. There are a number of optional bounties to collect in any stage, but my "shoot now and ask questions later" style of play wasn't conducive to earning these. The game begins with an exciting sequence in which Jango is tossed into an arena with an ugly beetle monster. After a fast start, things gradually head downhill. Bounty Hunter's gameplay is a mix of Tomb Raider-style exploration and mindless shootouts. Armed with two laser pistols, you'll find yourself strafing and firing like there's no tomorrow whenever you come upon a new band of thugs. Two original elements in Bounty Hunter are Jango's ability to weld (through certain doors and gates) and more notably his ability to fly short distances using a jetpack. It's cool how he can target a different enemy with each gun, although we've seen that before in Tomb Raider. Bounty Hunter had crazy potential, but technically the game is simply not up to par. When I defeated the first monster (in the arena), I noticed I could walk right through its body - the first of many graphical glitches. Certain textures just look absolutely awful - particularly the flat sludge flowing through the sewer pipes. The control scheme is well designed, but can be unresponsive at the worst times (during jumps). Bounty Hunter's stage layouts are confusing, and in some cases tedious backtracking is necessary. The scenery is woefully uninteresting, and each new area looks the same as the last. Tedious platform jumping and unclear mission objectives add to the frustration. Enemies regenerate with annoying frequency, and they don't immediately drop when killed, thereby making it hard to determine if you've wiped them all out. Lastly, the loading screens are so long that you'd think EA developed this. That load meter moves so monumentally slowly that my friends and I were laughing at it! I didn't make much progress in Bounty Hunter, but the few chapters I did complete were a real chore. If this game is any indication, perhaps being a bounty hunter isn't all it's cracked up to be.



Star Wars: Racer Revenge (LucasArts, 2001)
System: Playstation 2
Grade: B-
screenshot The original Star Wars Racer (N64, Dreamcast) did a superb job of recreating the speed and thrills of Episode One's pod-racing. With little room for improvement, I was surprised to see this sequel. Technically, there's not much to fault. The graphics are silky smooth, with beautiful, well-designed tracks. The tropical and rain-soaked tracks look especially nice, with brilliant rainwater effects on the windshield. It's quite a thrill to careen through tunnels and valleys at breakneck speeds. You won't find yourself asking, "Where do I go now?" like you did in the ill-fated Bombad Racing. The turbo boost is effective, but the so-called "power slide" is worthless; you're constantly banging into walls on sharp turns. There's a roster of 18 characters, the main one being a teenage Anakin Skywalker, who doesn't hesitate to talk a little trash ("You can't beat a Jedi!"). Revenge tries to put more emphasis on the combat aspect, in the form of banging into other vehicles to wear them down. In my experience, it really doesn't help your cause, and often just slows you down. The L2 button conveniently repairs any damage incurred to your vehicle while you race (no need for a pit stop thank goodness). The most interesting aspect of Revenge is its "advanced control" option, which allows you to steer your pod with the two analog sticks - like Anakin did in the movie. It works, but it's a lot tougher than the normal control scheme. After trying it out for a few races, I returned to the normal configuration. In contrast to the original game's difficulty (which was steep towards the end), Revenge is actually too easy. I'd like to credit my keen eye and cat-like reflexes for finishing this game in one night, but I don't think I deserved to win some of those races. As for the sound, I was impressed with the background music and sound effects in general, but that announcer is just awful. His commentary is more corny than it is informational ("Oh no! Is there a pit droid in the house?"). The two-player split screen action is smooth, but I was surprised to see a significant amount of fog in the distance. Overall, Star Wars Racer Revenge offers some fun arcade action with wonderful graphics, but its low level of difficulty and stale gameplay probably won't appeal to many fans.


Xbox

Star Wars: Obi Wan (LucasArts, 2001)
System: Xbox
Grade: D-
screenshot Obi Wan has "rush job" written all over it. The action is viewed from behind Obi Wan, and the graphics are mediocre at best. The characters are boxy and stiff, and although the scenic backdrops look nice, the stage designs are surprisingly dull. They take place on a variety of planets, including Tatooine, Coruscant, and Naboo. The mission objectives may seem interesting, like saving a prisoner or discovering a secret, yet they all boil down to using your lightsaber to hack your way through endless bad guys until you reach your destination. Some of the baddies inexplicably require you to beat the living hell out of them before they finally keel over. Heck, Obi Wan might as well be carrying a baseball bat! Certain stages let you fight along side a computer-controlled Qui Gon Gin, but in general there are few surprises to spice up the bland gameplay. LucasArts did do some nifty things with the controls. The right joystick controls the lightsaber, which works pretty well. Obi Wan can deflect fired shots back to their source, and perform force powers like pushing enemies, disarming them, or throwing objects. The "force push" is especially useful for disposing of deadbeats loitering on the edge of cliffs. Still, nothing can save Obi Wan's tepid gameplay. There are annoying glitches, frequent hiccups in the framerate, and lengthy load times. The collision detection is suspect and the jumps are hard to judge. The voice acting is reminiscent of Hans and Franz from SNL, and the two-player mode is appalling. The force is not strong with this one; Obi Wan is a major disappointment.


Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter (LucasArts, 2002)
System: Xbox
Grade: B-
screenshot A hopeless Star Wars fanatic, I feel obligated to purchase any new Star Wars game, even rehashes like this. As a basis of comparison, I played the original Starfighter game on my PS2 just before trying Jedi Starfighter. What I discovered was that the games look and play nearly the same! Jedi's graphics are attractive but no more detailed than the PS2 version. While the XBox visuals may be slightly sharper and smoother, I still noticed a few "hiccups" in the framerate. Jedi Starfighter has a nice arcade feel. There's no radar - just a helpful arrow pointing you to the next target. While it makes the gameplay accessible for beginners, it eventually becomes mind numbing and repetitive. You just follow the red arrow from one target to the next, destroying each one, and most targets aren't even evasive. The satisfying explosions however make it all seem worthwhile. In addition to your main guns, you can employ a set of secondary weapons including bombs and missiles. When flying the craft used by Obi-Wan in Episode II, you can even employ Force powers like lightning or shields. The lightning allows you to destroy several small targets at once, which is both effective and fun. Yes, it's a little far-fetched to think Obi Wan could use the Force to this degree, but it works in the context of the game. The storyline awkwardly tries to incorporate characters and locations from Episode II, but it couldn't maintain my interest. I swear that's Jesse "The Body" Ventura doing the voice of Nym. A nice two-player mode is also included. Jedi Starfighter is a decent game, but frankly it's just more of the same.


Star Wars: Battlefront (LucasArts, 2004)
System: Xbox
Grade: A-
screenshot Normally I'd purchase a Star Wars game without giving it a second thought, but my impression of this one was tainted by a magazine review. The review stated that Battlefront was only worthwhile for "on-line" play - which is not my thing. What a crock that turned out to be. Not only does Battlefront offer a superb single-player experience, but the two-player split-screen mode is an absolute blast! This third-person shooter is so fun and intense that I played it for hours on end with a friend. Expansive in scope and boasting remarkable graphics, you play the role of a single infantryman in the midst of a huge, galactic conflict. Depending on the type of soldier you select, you might snipe enemies from a distance, blow up vehicles with a rocket launcher, or enter the fray with guns blazing. The battlegrounds are set on practically every planet featured in the Star Wars films, from the deserts of Tatooine, to the stormy, rain-soaked platforms of Kamino, to the frozen tundra of Hoth. The forests of Yavin 4 are so detailed that you can actually distinguish individual leaves on the trees. Missions are divided into the Clone Wars (prequel films) and Galactic Civil War (original movies). It's really cool how you fight side-by-side with hundreds of other troops, and vehicles of all sizes provide support. And don't be surprised to see a lightsaber-swinging Darth Vader or Mace Windu in the middle of the fray! The well-designed landscapes are loaded with familiar landmarks, and you can even commandeer cannons and vehicles. Your main objective is to wipe out the enemy or take control over all of the strategic command posts. Counters on top of the screen track how many enemies remain, but the tiny font makes these hard to read. In addition, the manual does a poor job of explaining the controls and what all of the symbols on the screen mean. I still can't figure out how to bring an AT-AT down with a tow cable. Depending on which side you fight for (good or bad), either Yoda or the Emperor will describe your objectives before you enter battle. However, the voice actors are such obvious knock-offs that you almost have to laugh at them. After each battle, a detailed breakdown of each player's performance is displayed. Victories unlock nice special features like concept art, storyboards, and stills from the film. Battlefront has a lot to offer, and if you're an on-line gamer, it's an even sweeter deal. Star Wars Battlefront plunges you into the Star Wars universe like no other game can.


Lego Star Wars (LucasArts, 2005)
System: Xbox
Grade: B-
screenshot This unlikely game is actually more enjoyable than many of the "serious" Star Wars games of recent memory. The characters, vehicles, and scenery are constructed entirely of Legos, but once you get accustomed to the look, you'll hardly even notice it. What you will notice is the refreshingly simple gameplay and stages that re-enact Episodes I, II and III. The control scheme is uncomplicated (perfect for young kids), and most scenes let you switch between a variety of characters on the fly. The animation is fluid, and when a character is struck down, he breaks into a pile of Lego pieces (awesome!) Jedi knights like Obi Wan can "use the Force" to transform loose Legos into ramps and platforms, allowing you to access new (and hidden) areas. There's no camera control, but it's not really an issue in the single-player mode. It is a factor however, in the two-player mode, where different types of characters are forced to take different routes. The Episode One stages do a terrific job of incorporating key scenes from the first film, including the pod race and battle with Darth Maul. Between stages, humorous cut-scenes fill in the rest of the story. There are no voices (just mumbling), but the musical score is straight from the films. It may seem tedious to have a text crawl for each new chapter, until you realize it's really a thinly veiled load screen. Compared to Episode One, Attack of the Clones feels abbreviated, as if the developers ran out of time. As for Episode III, well, I couldn't bring myself to spoil a movie I haven't even seen yet. Lego Star Wars' main "story" mode is brief, but there are literally hundreds of locked items and playable characters to go back and unlock. But although I was initially thrilled with the game, eventually it did start to wear thin. With an easy difficulty level and unlimited continues, there's little tension or excitement. Lego Star Wars is a little short, but the concept is cool enough to warrant a purchase.


Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (LucasArts, 2005)
System: Xbox
Grade: B+
screenshot I'm glad I resisted buying Episode 3 until after the movie was released, because not only does it give away the storyline, but it contains a generous helping of video clips taken directly from the film! Episode 3's gameplay is reminiscent of Jedi Power Battles (Playstation, Dreamcast) with its non-stop lightsaber battles, constantly changing scenery, and treacherous bosses. Thankfully, there's no tedious platform jumping in this game. Assuming the role of Obi Wan or Anakin Skywalker, you hack and slash your way through all the locations and villains featured in the flick (which I loved, by the way). To be honest, I was hoping there would be some space battles or vehicle stages to break up the monotony, but at least the lightsaber action is first rate. In fact, the fluid animation and sheer variety of moves make these battles look as impressive as they do on the big screen. And they can be intense! The stage where you battle the four-armed, alien-droid hybrid General Grievous is nothing short of epic, giving my arm (and trash-mouth) an incredible workout. At first glance the frantic action would suggest crazy button mashing, but in fact there are subtle techniques which can tip the scales in your favor. The "Force" can be employed to "push" enemies or toss objects. I like the "lightsaber throw" and "stun" moves, but having to hit the Xbox controller's "white" and "black" buttons in the heat of battle is problematic. The main issue I have with this game is the same one that plagues so many other Star Wars titles. Namely, in order to ramp the challenge, the game gradually introduces robots that require more and more hacks to destroy. And I don't like how you can toss them off some platforms but not others. You can deflect their laser blasts, but not with the same precision you had in Jedi Power Battles. Episode 3's graphics are terrific; I especially enjoyed the color-splashed background scenery. The characters resemble their real-life counterparts, and their entertaining banter is dead-on. After completing each stage, you spend your "experience points" to upgrade your character, and you can also view unlocked movie clips and concept art. Oddly enough, the two-player cooperative mode is not immediately available (need to unlock). A half-way decent versus mode is also included. I have to say I'm fairly pleased with how Episode 3 turned out. The attractive graphics, intense battles, and tight control keep you wanting to see what the next stage has in store. Star Wars fans who crave action should find this worth their while.


Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (LucasArts, 2005)
System: Xbox
Grade: D+
screenshot It took me a long time to review this game, mainly because it was hard to force myself to play it! The first Battlefront game made you feel like single soldier in a larger conflict, but Battlefront 2 feels scripted and contrived. Not only does the CPU pump out and relocate enemy troops in plain sight, but the game's specific objectives make you feel as if you're being led around by the nose. The presentation is first-rate, with detailed graphics and an operatic musical score. Two tutorials are included (for ground and space combat), but since they don't specify which buttons do what, they're pretty worthless. Movie clips precede each stage, and they really do get you psyched up. It's fun to visit the diverse worlds of the Star Wars universe, including the snowy Hoth, the flowery Felucia, the stormy Kamino, and the metropolis of Coruscant. As you run-and-gun on foot, targeting is easy and the explosions are gratifying. When you die, I really like how the game pans over to show your attacker (smug bastard!). The main problem with Battlefront 2 is its artificial gameplay. You don't feel like you're having a direct impact on events. The illusion of fighting an army with limited resources is shattered when you see enemy droids (or even large vehicles) appear out of thin air! The ability to commandeer immense vehicles is always fun, but assuming the roles of characters like Darth Maul and Yoda feels gimmicky. One major new feature is the ability to engage in space battles, but these aren't the least bit fun. Destroying a huge battleship by mindlessly pelting its hull is shallow, and traveling between ships is a tedious process. In fact, these space battles are so worthless that the game actually gives you the option to skip them altogether! And you will. The single player experience is only mildly amusing, and the multiplayer split-screen mode is unsatisfying. There's plenty of eye candy and cool concepts abound, but Battlefront 2 does a poor job of putting you "in the game".


Star Wars: Republic Commando (LucasArts, 2005)
System: Xbox
Grade: C+
screenshot Squad-based combat has become popular over the years thanks to games like SOCOM and Full Spectrum Warrior. These titles add layers of strategy by letting you control multiple soldiers working in concert to accomplish surgical missions. Republic Commando is the Star Wars entry to the squad warfare genre. It begins like a typical first-person shooter as you assume the role of a clone soldier in the Republic army. You're immediately introduced to the other three members of your team, each of which possess unique skills and characteristics. The game employs environments from the new Star Wars trilogy, including the bug-infested Geonosis and the Wookie home-planet of Kashyyyk. The graphics are exceptionally detailed, but the repetitive, maze-like caves of Geonosis get old in a hurry. As you explore new areas and encounter hostile forces, you can direct troops to perform specific tasks like wire explosives, assume sniper positions, or recharge health. Republic Commando is less tedious and more forgiving than most squad-based games. Strategically located task icons indicate available actions, and a commando will perform the highlighted task at the touch of a button. Although each commando has his own specialty, it was never apparent to me which who was doing what - they all look and sound the same. The first-person shooting action is fun, and I enjoyed the game's brisk pacing and frequent automatic saves. When your health expires, you can call on one of your men to revive you, and it's pretty intense as you hope your squad can survive long enough to resuscitate you. Rupublic Commando's single player mode is engaging for a while, but the monotonous environments and regenerating creatures (damn flying bugs) take their toll on the fun. The storyline and objectives are pretty vanilla as you blindly forge ahead on your linear path. The multiplayer split-screen is even more bland. I like Republic Commando's crisp graphics and simple gameplay, but it's one of the less memorable Star Wars titles.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (LucasArts, 2003)
System: Xbox
Grade: B+
screenshot I need to tread softly here, because this game is considered legendary by many Star Wars faithful. Knights of the Old Republic has the trappings of a traditional RPG (experience points, saving throws, strong storyline, etc), but these elements are abstracted by realistic graphics and an ingenious user interface. Your main character evolves within the game, drifting towards the light or dark side based on the choices you make. Not for the impatient, Knights takes a good hour or two to gain traction but becomes more intriguing as characters are introduced. You don't control any character directly during combat, but you can "queue up" a series of actions for each member of your party, and it's satisfying to sit back and watch the action unfold. Your party is limited to three members at a given time, but the diverse selection includes a bounty hunter, Jedi, droid, and even a Wookie. You're involved in several missions at any time, including some compelling scenarios like infiltrating a Sith base and rescuing a Jedi. The massive "worlds" require you to cover a lot of ground, but the game finds clever ways to minimize backtracking. For me, the worst part of the game is the verbose dialogue. The game encourages you to converse with your party, and these conversations abound with moral dilemmas and racial undertones. I'm sure some players will relish the carefully worded prose, but I found it boring, and paged though it as fast as I possibly could. C'mon people - less talking and more ass-kicking!! Knight's graphics are first-rate, with bustling environments complete with pedestrians and ships flying overhead. In addition to exploration and combat, you'll engage in mini-games like pod racing, turret shooting, and an addictive card game called Pazaak. Also fun is tapping into computer systems in order to view security cameras and raise hell remotely. Knights' streamlined user interface is logically designed, but the targeting system can be problematic. Sometimes you'll attempt to open a box in front of you, only to have your character run clear across the room to open a door instead. The game auto-maps your progress, and you can save at any time. As you might imagine, the sweeping musical score is fantastic, and the dramatic cut-scenes are almost movie quality. It took me a while to warm up to Knights of the Old Republic, but after sinking about ten hours into this massive adventure, I think I can finally say, "Yeah, I get it".


GameCube

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (LucasArts, 2001)
System: GameCube
Grade: B-
screenshot Cast from the same mold as its highly-acclaimed Nintendo 64 predecessor, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (N64, 1998), Rogue Leader is a compelling air/space combat game. Its presentation is impeccable, with real Star Wars movie clips playing on the menu screens, fantastic explosion effects, and awe-inspiring starships rendered in meticulous detail. Easy-to-grasp controls even allow you to give orders to the rest of your squadron while in the heat of battle. Your targeting computer (highlighting enemies on the screen) is invaluable, since distant Tie fighters tend to get lost in the star-studded backgrounds. Your 3D radar display always directs you to your next objective, but locating a specific enemy can be tricky. Rogue Leader does have a major flaw, and that is unclear mission objectives, which make it very easy to get become hopelessly stuck on a particular mission. The difficulty of the stages is also uneven. You struggle through a so-called "training mission", only to coast few some of the more advanced stages. Despite its inconsistencies however, Rogue Leader is still a fun title that Star Wars fans won't want to miss.


Star Wars: The Clone Wars (LucasArts, 2002)
System: GameCube
Grade: C+
screenshot Basically a ground-based version of Rogue Squadron, Clone Wars lets you glide around planet surfaces in hovercraft and low-flying starships. In some stages, you can even mount wild animals! There are also opportunities to guide Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Mace Windu around on foot, slashing everything to bits with your lightsaber. Clone Wars is similar to Star Wars: Battle For Naboo (N64, 1999) in terms of gameplay, and that's not a bad thing. Unfortunately, the graphics and framerate also resemble Battle For Naboo, despite the fact that the GameCube is a far more capable machine. Objects look inordinately blocky (especially when running around on foot), and the framerate goes straight to hell when the combat heats up. But Clone Wars is still a fun to play, thanks to the nicely paced, diverse stages, and non-stop shooting action. Equipped with a blaster and missiles, you'll be strafing and firing almost constantly (much like a first-person shooter). I love how enemy craft burst into flames or spin into the air when blasted. It's also satisfying when Mace Windu throws his lightsaber and cuts down scores of bad guys at a time. If you're a fan of Attack of the Clones, you'll recognize all the imaginative new vehicles and villains from that film. Sadly, the multi-player modes are lame, and my friends lamented about how they couldn't all be on the same team. Clones Wars has its moments, but it's definitely not a top-notch Star Wars title.


Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike (LucasArts, 2003)
System: GameCube
Grade: B-
screenshot Rogue Squadron III kicks off with an animated sequence featuring all of your favorite Star Wars characters cutting the rug on a disco dance floor. It's supposed to be funny, but it's bound to turn off serious Star Wars fans like myself. The game itself contains all of the trademark dogfighting action that made the series such a hit, but expands the scope by incorporating ground missions, both in vehicles and on foot. Unlike its predecessors, Rebel Strike's storyline incorporates actual characters from the films including Wedge Antilles, Mace Windu, and Luke Skywalker. The first stage is mainly a rehash of the Tatooine training stage from the Rogue Squadron II, with a million tedious objectives to complete. Thank goodness you can skip that! Subsequent stages are really a series of short objectives strung together, and it really sucks when you die during the last one and have to start all over. Rebel Strike's air/space combat is first-rate as you would expect, with Tie fighters that careen out of control and magnificently explode when blasted. But like the last Rogue Squadron game, you may find yourself asking, "What am I supposed to do now?" The difficulty is wildly uneven. Some missions that are nearly insurmountable, while others you can practically sleepwalk through. The ground missions provide a welcome change of pace, but their graphics are a bit rough and the targeting system is clumsy. Despite the occasional frustration, Rebel Strike has its share of exciting moments, and the constantly changing scenarios will keep you wondering what the next stage has in store. Some of the locations are fascinating, like the water planet with its jaw-dropping waterfalls. I also enjoyed the delayed-explosion sound effects of the sonic charge weapons - very cool. Rogue Leader III is highly ambitious, but its pieces don't quite come together as well as they could have. In one instance, my pilot could be heard talking over his radio after his ship had been blown to bits! Despite the rough edges, fans of the series will appreciate Rebel Strike's fresh set of challenges. A two-player, split-screen, cooperative version of Rogue Squadron II is also included.


Xbox 360

Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (LucasArts, 2006)
System: Xbox 360
Grade: B-
screenshot The first Lego Star Wars met with a very warm reception from gamers, and this second edition is just as good if not better. This whimsical platformer has an old-school vibe to it, with simple gameplay, crisp controls, and charming, blocky graphics (intentionally blocky in this case). The game recreates the events of the original trilogy, but a few liberties have been taken. The story has been simplified, additional humor has been incorporated, and Mark Hamill's acting is much improved (sorry, I couldn't resist). Each stage is a nice combination of combat, exploration, and simple puzzles. There are a lot of items to collect, but gathering them up never feels tedious - partially because they gravitate towards you as you approach them. The environments are highly destructible, and the explosion effects are satisfying. It's also fun to unlock dozens of new controllable characters as the story progresses. You're not likely to get stuck in this game (at least not for long), because key items tend to glow, usually making it obvious what you need to do next. Heavy emphasis is placed on teamwork, so you'll often need to switch between characters in order to perform tasks like operating machinery, opening doors, or grappling to higher ledges. The two-player co-op mode is enjoyable, although the camera is sometimes an issue. One great new feature is the ability to construct things out of mounds of loose Legos by simply holding in the B button. The dramatic soundtrack is outstanding, with music taken directly from the films. So what's not to like? Well, the Hoth stages were disappointing with their closed-in snowspeeder stages and squirrelly controls. As you accumulate a group of characters in a stage, switching between them is problematic as they tend to bumble into each other. Finally, Luke's lightsaber isn't nearly as effective as it should be - he should be slicing through these guys like melted butter! Still, if you enjoyed the first game or you're just looking for a light-hearted platformer, Lego Star Wars II is a real treat. NOTE: The original Lego Star Wars game review is available in the Xbox section.


Kinect Star Wars (Microsoft, 2012)
System: Xbox 360
Grade: B-
screenshot This hodgepodge of motion-controlled Star Wars games is often silly but mostly fun. The Kinect control is far from precise but the games compensate by being exceptionally forgiving. In Jedi Destiny you play role of a Jedi in an action-packed adventure that takes you from planet to planet. Your journey begins in Chewbacca's home world of Kashyyyk where you'll leap between platforms, duck under obstacles, ride speeder bikes, and slash foes with your light saber. Sorry, but the light saber controls are not the ones you've been dreaming of. You alternate between offense and defense, and blocking is actually more satisfying than hacking away at an opponent. Riding the bikes offer high-speed thrills as you weave around massive trees and skim over shimmering water surfaces. The shooting is less satisfying because the guns fire automatically, so you simply aim the reticule. The game will wear you out (there's a lot of jumping), but it makes you feel like an actor in the Star Wars universe, and that's pretty neat. Duels of Fate is similar except this mode is limited to a series of one-on-one light saber battles culminating in an encounter with Darth Vader. The Pod Racing game is my personal favorite. The motion controls feel silky smooth and it's great fun to explore the various landscapes seen in the films. There's even a split-screen mode that's actually playable. Rancor Rampage lets you unleash destruction as a hulking beast in the desert town of Mos Eisley. Leveling buildings and tossing people like rag dolls is fun in theory, but the erratic controls make it look as if you're having convulsions in front of the screen. Galactic Dance Off may be the goofiest thing ever seen in a star wars video game. It's basically a miniature version of Dance Central except the songs are pop anthems retrofitted with Star Wars lyrics. So instead of Hollaback Girl, it's Hologram Girl, and instead of Genie in a Bottle, it's Princess in a Battle. It's cheesy as hell, but the songs sound professional and watching Leia perform hip thrusts in her gold bikini made me feel kinda funny. There's another mode called M-Tag, but I couldn't figure it out, and there's no instruction manual to fall back on. The game's superb audio track features a triumphant musical score and familiar sound effects that are crystal clear. There are a ton of elaborate cut-scenes featuring classic characters with the actual voice actors. Surprisingly, the graphics aren't so hot. They look okay from a distance, but up close objects exhibit blurriness and pixelation. Kinect Star Wars isn't great, but it sure does feel good to play a brand new Star Wars title. There's a lot of content here to explore, and the game has a way of bringing out the little kid in you.


Playstation 4

Star Wars Battlefront (Electronic Arts, 2015)
System: Playstation 4
Grade: C+
screenshot Battlefront immerses you in the Star Wars universe like few games can. In addition to revisiting memorable locations from the original trilogy, you can assume the roles of characters like Han Solo, Leia, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett. You'd expect the Emperor to kick ass, yet his ability to wield lightning is surprisingly limited. The most notable aspect of Battlefront is its graphics. The visuals are so photo-realistic that when R2-D2 rolls across the title screen you think you're watching a video clip. Likewise the sweeping musical score and memorable sound effects are used to excellent effect. Characters toss out amusing lines but it's fairly obvious they are not voiced by the original actors. Although noted for its online play, the PS4 edition of Battlefront does include some offline action. Five exciting training modes let you fly an X-wing through the canyons of Tatooine, ride a speeder-bike on Endor, and even participate in the epic battle of Hoth. Unfortunately these missions highlight the game's non-intuitive controls. The first time you play you'll have no idea what's going on. The button functions are a mystery and flying controls feel reversed. Using a tow cable to bring down an AT-AT walker inexplicably requires you to manipulate some squirrelly golf meter! I did enjoy locking onto Tie fighters while dogfighting, and weaving around trees and ducking under logs on a speeder bike is quite thrilling. Battle mode lets you engage in ground warfare against computer-controlled bots. You can also play with/against a friend locally (split-screen) or online. I noticed a few quality control issues. The distance markers are so tiny you can barely read them. Also, I wish the game consistently assigned red and blue colors to the imperial and rebel sides. The environments look absolutely sensational, especially Hoth with its powdery ridges and inviting blue ice caves. Other locations include dusty Tatooine and the rainy jungle of Endor. Survival mode pits you against waves of increasingly difficult enemies. These local modes are nice but they are no sustitute for a full-blown campaign/story. In fact, they feel like an appetizer for the online play. I wasn't impressed with the online stuff at first, but sure enough I got hooked. These massive battles have the look and feel of an epic movie scene, although my slow Comcast connection resulted in some herky-jerky animation. There's a wide variety of scenarios to choose from, combining ground and air combat. Most are team-oriented so even if you're awful no one will notice. Overall Star Wars Battlefront looks like a million bucks yet doesn't feel like a fully-realized title. That said, it makes you feel like you're in a Star Wars movie, and that's worth a lot.


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