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Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike

Developer: Factor 5 | Publisher: LucasArts
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 10/15/02 | Genre: Action

When Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader was released alongside the launch of the GameCube, it amazed critics and gamers. It was one of the first GameCube games, yet it already had some of the most amazing graphics seen on any console. Bump-mapping, dynamic lighting, volumetric fog, self shadowing, and more were all abundant in Rogue Leader as people were only just then beginning to learn what those terms meant. It was new, and it was gorgeous. Not only that, but it provided some great expansion on the gameplay of the original Rogue Squadron. Perhaps even more amazing, Factor 5 developed the game in just nine months. If Factor 5 could make such a great game in nine months, then what could they do in the nearly two years that has passed since then? This is why Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike bears so much anticipation.

Rogue Leader allowed players to take part in many events that took place during the classic Star Wars trilogy. From the destruction of the first Death Star to the epic Battle over Endor, many fantasies of living through Star Wars movies could be fulfilled. There were a lot of great moments in that game. However, Rogue Leader featured only flight missions. As great as it was, I remember thinking to myself how great it would be if I could also step out of my X-Wing and confront Vader at Bespin or romp around with Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor. Basically, I wanted to live through every action sequence in the classic Star Wars trilogy. Then I would be totally satisfied. Apparently, Factor 5 had the same idea. Director Julian Eggebrecht stated that the idea was that with both Rogue Leader and Rebel Strike, players could get a complete classic Star Wars experience, fulfilling the fantasies of geeks everywhere. To that end, Factor 5 included new modes of play to the series. Rebel Strike not only features flight missions with even more new and cool Star Wars craft to pilot, but there are also many ground missions. They involve both on-foot character missions and ground-based vehicles. On top of that they tried to improve everything they could. They added several multiplayer modes and improving the graphics engine wasn’t enough for them. They felt like redoing the whole thing!

The graphics for Rogue Leader was amazing, but surprisingly enough, Rebel Strike blows it away. As I have discovered through many intimate meetings with trees while riding the speeder bike, there is a lot more bump-mapping going on. The self-shadowing is also a lot better too. One of the most notable enhancements is the new light scattering engine. Light scattering simulates the way light bounces and filters through the atmosphere. In short, it makes light look much more natural than it does in most video games. Rather than sharp and uniformly bright, light (from a sun for example) looks much more soft and natural as it spreads across the landscape. Intent on delivering a smooth multiplayer experience, Factor 5 not only wrote new engines for the graphical effects above, they basically rewrote everything so that the graphics could look just as amazing in the two-player modes. Rebel Strike seems to have every graphical effect known to game developers. There’s even cel-shading for the highly useful targeting computer. Some of the beauty of the game can really be seen in the on-foot missions, where you can get close-up views of the highly detailed environments. The forest levels are also particularly amazing. Foliage can be seen in every direction, and there are no cheap 2D walls of trees anywhere in sight. The forests are dense with trees and bushes, and they are all fully rendered in 3D. It’s gorgeous. Rebel Strike’s graphics are simply amazing. Another nice addition is the inclusion of clips from the original Star Wars movies where appropriate. Factor 5 helped to develop DivX software for the GameCube that allows developers to compress video while still be able to play them at a great viewing quality. They put it to good use here. The clips seem to be DVD quality. They’re really crisp and clear. There is one aspect of the graphics that Factor 5 didn’t get quite right. The character animation seems stiff and unrealistic. The animations just don’t give you the impression of a real person running, turning, shooting, etc. It’s like they’re action figures or something. It’s not the worst animation I’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t look natural either. I expected better from Factor 5. Not surprisingly, Rebel Strike does support progressive scan. However, it does not support widescreen. I really wish it did, because it just seems like a Star Wars experience should be presented that way whenever possible. Granted, they would have to redesign the cockpit views for a widescreen format, but it would have been really appreciated.

Audio-wise, Rebel Strike is on-par with Rogue Leader. That is to say, it’s excellent. There’s a mix of Star Wars music straight from the official soundtracks, and awesome fully orchestrated music that’s been composed or remixed by Factor 5 artists. Factor 5 probably knows how to do GameCube sound the best, since they helped developed that portion of the GameCube’s hardware. It really shows in Rebel Strike. Not only is the music great (both quality and composition), the voice and sound effects are clear, and they do not sound compressed. Dolby Pro Logic IIx is supported, with nice channel separation. This is pretty much the best quality of sound the GameCube has seen. The voice acting can be a little off in some areas though. For Rogue Leader, they had the original actor, Dennis Lawson, who played Wedge Antilles in the actual Star Wars movie. He did the voice acting for Wedge in Rogue Leader. Unfortunately, they did not have his talent again for Rebel Strike. The replacement voice actor doesn’t do that good of an impression of him either. The same goes for the voice actors for Han Solo and Princess Leia. The voice actor who impersonates Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) is actually quite good. The voice acting for original game characters are also pretty good, although a bit overdone sometimes.

Rebel Strike’s flight missions will be pretty familiar to those who have already played Rogue Leader. In fact, that’s the problem. We’re not really placed in any new or different situations with flying craft. Also, the flight missions don’t seem to be as exciting as they were in Rogue Leader. Perhaps one reason for that is that they are noticeably easier. In fact, it feels wrong sometimes. In Rogue Leader, going against a Star Destroyer was a difficult, challenging undertaking, as it should be. In Rebel Strike, Star Destroyers seem to be less dangerous and go down too easily. The controls are the same for flight missions are the same. They are easy to learn and use. Some people dislike the way Rogue Squadron games control because it feels a little too artificial. That doesn’t really bother me because Rogue Squadron games are more of an arcade-action game, not flight simulation. For the most part, the flight missions are pretty good, but there’s nothing really new if you’ve already played Rogue Leader, and you’ll probably find them too easy if you have. That’s not to say earning medals isn’t a good challenge. I’ll explain that more in a little bit.

The new ground vehicle missions are the high points of Rebel Strike. You’ll be piloting speeder bikes and Imperial AT-STs in some interesting missions. The controls for both vehicles are easy to get used to, and the crafts feel as they should. The AT-ST (also known as a chicken walker), is a bit slow and clumsy, but it can be devastating once you get good at it. The speeder bikes are incredibly fast. There are four or five missions involving these two vehicles, and they are well designed. Two of the best missions both take place on the forest moon of Endor. One has you speeding through the forest as Luke Skywalker as he chases Imperial troopers. The sense of speed is awesome. The forest also looks very believable. As you hurtle through the forest, trees and bushes are everywhere. You don’t get the sense that you are on some cleared out path made for a video game, yet at the same time, it’s just easy enough to navigate while still being challenging. The AT-ST mission in the same location is also a lot of fun. You take on the role of Chewie during that final battle from Episode VI. As you crush storm troopers and destroy enemy AT-STs, you can even command the Ewoks to release their traps as seen in the movie. You have to be careful that you’re not in the way though! It’s a lot of fun.

Standing in stark contrast to these levels are the on-foot character missions. I’m sorry, but I should just come out and say it. They are pathetic. The on-foot missions have the players take on the role of a Star Wars character. The action is viewed from 3rd person. Generally, the character can run, jump, roll, and shoot. As I stated before, the animation just doesn’t look right. However, that doesn’t even compare to how bad the gameplay is. It consists of running around and tapping the ‘A’ button a lot. There is an automatic lock-on to enemies, so you don’t really do anything. All of the on-foot missions feel basically the same. You run from point A to point B while tapping ‘A’ a lot. There are two different weapons, but one is just a blaster, and the other is just a blaster with a faster rate of fire. The level design is simply uninspired and boring. It seems like they were designed by amateurs. A few missions have some platforming as well, but it’s poorly conceived. One mission takes place on Dagobah as Yoda helps Luke complete his Jedi training. Apparently, the way to the Force is fully of crappy platforming challenges, at least according to Factor 5. Honestly, it’s like a horrible licensed character game from the SNES days. Take some famous property, and stick the characters into a contrived video game setting. In Rebel Strike, you help Luke become a Jedi by jumping across floating logs and moving rocks. I know I said that I wished for a Star Wars game that let me take part in all action events from the movie, including ground-based action; I just didn’t expect it to be this bad. Factor 5 should have just copied developer Raven’s Jedi Knight games. I would have been happy with that. The on-foot portions of Rebel Strike would have been so much better if there was first-person shooting. That way, you would feel like you were in control of something. Luke can also use his light saber in two missions, but all he does is just blindly whack things. Some sweet lightsaber fights would have been cool (imagine confronting Vader in Cloud City), but I’m glad Factor 5 didn’t even attempt this, now that I see how they’re on-foot gameplay turned out. Again, it would have been nice if Factor 5 had looked to the Jedi Knight games for some inspiration. They had a perfect example right there. A game like Jedi Outcast shows them how to do a proper on-foot Star Wars game, with both guns and lightsabers. As they are now, Rebel Strike would have been better if the on-foot portions weren’t in the game at all. They are simply no fun to play. Taking control of Luke, Han, and Leia to reenact exciting scenes from the movies sound promising, but Factor 5 did a poor job of realizing that fantasy.

Thankfully, we can get on a brighter not again with the multiplayer. Rebel Strike features a wealth of multiplayer modes, some better than others. What will probably be everyone’s favorite is the Rogue Leader cooperative mode, and it me be Rebel Strike’s saving grace. The co-op mode allows two players to play every single mission from Rogue Leader together. However, the missions have all been redesigned to make it more challenging. Not only are there more enemies, but you’ll find that both players need to be working on certain objectives simultaneously in order to succeed. It’s not just Rogue Leader for two players. They really did some clever adjusting so that the game must be played differently now that two players are working together. Everything from the original Rogue Leader is there too. You and a friend can work together to not only beat the normal campaign, but unlock all of the bonus missions by earning medals with your combined efforts.

There are several other two-player modes as well. The Dogfight mode is your basic deathmatch. There is a good variety of levels, options and ships for every mode. In Dogfight, you can choose to have wing mates as well as other enemy ships for players to contend with. Players can select any unlocked ship, and the variety in ships calls for differing strategies. Dogfight can be fun for a while, but will get old. The other multiplayer modes are a bit more inventive and fun. Rampage challenges each player to destroy as much as possible in order to outscore his or her opponent. Again, there are different craft and levels to choose from. The AT-ST is even used. Tag and Defend is a mode in which bases are placed all around the map. Each base has four turrets protecting it. A player can capture a base by destroying it. The more bases a player has, and the more time he or she holds each base, the more he or she will score. This mode can get a little repetitive, and actually, another Star Wars game has already one-upped it. Although Star Wars: The Clone Wars is an inferior game over all, it has a two-player game called Siege in which players capture bases. However, there is more strategy because bases produce additional AI units to help the corresponding player. In Rebel Strike, it’s mostly just flying back and forth across the map while blowing up ground targets. Lastly, there are some fun race modes. You can race through the Death Star trench, or the forests on the moon of Endor. Although you don’t thing of racing when you think of Rogue Squadron, these two multiplayer games can be a lot of fun. Overall though, the co-op mode is the best. It’s challenging, it will last a long time, and the two players have to work together. The other multiplayer modes are all fun, but they won’t keep you entertained for that long.

Like its predecessors, Rebel Strike has a lot of secrets to unlock. It will definitely keep you busy for a while if you want to complete the game 100%. Each level can be replayed as many times as you want. At the end of a mission, you are rated on things like accuracy, speed, enemies destroyed, and more. By achieving certain stats, you can earn medals. This provides a really good challenge. The more medals you have, the more secrets you can unlock. There are bonus missions, cool new ships, a “making ofâ€? movie, an art gallery, and more to unlock. In fact, you can even unlock three original Star Wars arcade games that were made in the 1980’s! Factor 5 always likes to put a lot of cool rewards to unlock for those that choose to complete every mission and challenge themselves by trying to do the best they can.

It’s hard to form an opinion about Rebel Strike. The game has some areas that really shine, such as the awesome speeder bike and AT-ST missions, and the co-op mode. Then there are the absolutely pathetic on-foot portions of the game. The flight missions are alright, but for someone that has played Rogue Leader to death, they don’t offer much more. I guess I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with Rebel Strike. Part of the reason for that is because I was anticipating so much, but I had good reason to. Rogue Leader was an excellent launch game for the GameCube. I was expecting Factor 5 to follow up with something even more amazing. I recommend a rental for this game, especially if you have not played Rogue Leader. If you really enjoyed Rogue Leader, chances are you will enjoy this game too. You’ll be able to take the good with the bad. If Rogue Leader was not that great for you, then I’m sure you won’t like Rebel Strike. Rebel Strike is mostly more of the same, with additional parts excellent, and additional parts pathetic. It’s a tough call because the game ranges from quality on both ends of the spectrum. If you can make use of the co-op mode, then that is a definite plus. Just rent the game to make sure you want to purchase it, because it’s not a clear winner or loser.

By Andrew Thivyanathan - 11/15/03
ESRB Details: Violence
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Screenshots for Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike

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