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Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

Developer: Factor 5 | Publisher: LucasArts
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 11/09/01 | Genre: Action

Ah, fellow gamer. I can see the sweat running down your face... These are troubled times! So many choices... Who do you swear allegiance to!? The tiny purple rhombus of joy and treats that is the GameCube or the technically and gravitationally superior Xbox? Are you going to hang out with your old best friend and remember old, good times or are you going to hang out with the new kid down the street, who has lots of new and interesting stories for you and the gang?

It's a really hard question, and unless you sweat diamonds and can afford all three systems, chances are you're debating it right now! You're not alone. And to help you make the decision, I present to you a completely unbiased review of the supposed "killer app" for the GameCube. Is it the game to end all games, the system seller our old friend Nintendo is looking for, or the boat rocker they need at launch? Relatively speaking, yes.

Rogue Leader is the sequel to Rogue Squadron for the N64. It pits you up against the evil Galactic Empire as Luke Skywalker or Wedge Antilles; using an upgraded Rogue Squadron engine, but with the same basic play mechanics. Fans of the Star Wars movies, books, shirt, candy…will definitely feel at home; if not a severe case of déjà vu. The game itself takes you directly through the trilogy mission by mission, slamming you into the cockpit during the battles you've seen on the screen since you were a kid. There are a few original levels, filling in the plot gaps between the movie battles; but the most impressive and most fun are indeed, the levels ripped from the movies themselves.

Ok, ok--it's been done before; but never this clean, smooth, and fun. The graphics are nothing short of godlike. The overall appearance is shiny and smooth, and the models are extremely detailed and stuffed full of polygons; but I believe the real "How'd they do that?" goes to the texture artists. From the snow on Hoth, to each individual panel on the Death Star, the detail in this game seems infinite. You'll never once get close to the trench-walls on the Death Star and notice some pixilation or blur. Nor will you notice any obvious patterns on the brilliantly bump-mapped snow on Hoth as you fly mere FEET above it. Pure sweets. This game is filled with detail in every aspect, and you'll find yourself careening into hills more than once while checking out the way the sand distorts your shields on Tatooine.

Sound-wise, Factor 5 hooked it up again. All the Star Wars tunes you've learned to love [or hate]. The orchestra rising and falling as you approach the air-duct on the Death Star; the Imperial March when you lose; it's all very fitting. Factor 5 also nabbed quite a few sound samples from the actual movies. Han Solo's "You're all clear kid! Now let's blow this thing and go home!" is a personal favorite of mine, and I must admit I got chills when he saved my ass from Darth just in time. In addition to existing samples, Factor 5 brought in the actor who played Wedge Antilles for some new voice work for the original missions. The sound plays such a huge role in creating the atmosphere; I couldn't imagine this game with anything short of the treatment it got. For this I raise my can of Diet Coke to Factor 5 once again.

Now that I've appeased all of you "hardcore gamers" with all that; it's time for the real question: Is it fun? It's great. It's an experience to play through and love. For gamers like me who enjoy the experience and atmosphere a game has to offer, as an escape from reality…this game is for you. For Star Wars fans who've felt ripped off ever since the days of the vector based arcade game… this title offers proper homage to your series. For people who are new to the Star Wars universe, this game is still a great sensory experience and I'd at least recommend a rent. But for those of you looking for replay value…check out your friends copy. You can blow through this game in a day; and while there are plenty of extras including new ships and a few missions… This game is about the experience. For me personally, it just got tiring trying to play any mission other than the last, after I'd completed the game. Even if I was a rebel…there's only so many times I could stick it to the oppressive Empire before I began putting the whole damned thing on auto-pilot.

So is it the killer-app Nintendo needs? Relatively speaking... yes. Against the PS2's 2nd and 3rd gen titles... it's debatable. But against its immediate enemy, the Hoax-box, it's a fine trump card. I mean…what does the Hoax-box really have to offer other than back problems?

By Ray Paskus - 11/20/01
ESRB Details: Violence
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Screenshots for Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

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