While Xbox owners get a special version of the 2001-released PlayStation 2 game, Star Wars: Starfighter still plays exactly the same albeit with some added missions and multiplayer contests. Those who enjoyed Rogue Squadron or Battle for Naboo on the N64 expecting the same type of gameplay are in for a surprise, as the game takes a slight turn for the worse with a fixed perspective, strange controls, and some rather tedious levels.

The biggest change from the early-Star Wars shooters is the absence of a third-person perspective set behind the craft. Since the game must be played entirely from a first-person view, you lose the ability to sense where your wings are in relation to the surroundings. This makes the planetary missions more difficult than necessary since you can't tell how close your ship is to hitting something, whether it's the edge of a canyon wall, an enemy turret, or the ground.

The perspective becomes less of an issue during the openness of space combat, but problems exist here as well. The majority of missions end up feeling like basic point-and-shoot exercises rather than requiring any degree of piloting skill. Despite being able to pilot three different ships during the course of play, they all basically handle the same and controls feel more akin to driving a car than guiding a sleek starfighter, not that a valid comparison can be made this early in the 21st century.

For some strange reason there is a sniper view on the Naboo Fighter, allowing you to zoom in on targets rather than chase them down, and quick turns involve "power-sliding" by quickly alternating between the boost button and the brake. The worst problem is trying to scroll through the available targets, as you often have to keep tapping the button until the right ship, tank, or structure appears into view. There is no map or radar on the screen, so you are at the mercy of following a red arrow until you blast the target out of the sky.

Since many of the missions involve multiple objectives, such as protecting a craft from damage or defending a base from oncoming attacks, it's important to plan a basic strategy that involves eliminating the most dangerous threats. Fumbling with the controls to cycle through targets -- keep in mind you're under the pressure of being attacked while doing so -- makes it easy to miss what you're looking for, so you end up cycling back and forth through a long list until either the mission ends due to a failed objective or you happen to stumble upon the target.

The space missions suffer from a lack of speed or movement, as it often feels like you're just spinning the cursor around the screen instead of actually flying through space. The background doesn't do a convincing job of fooling you with elements like streaking comets or motion blurring, so the environments become less and less believable until certain story sequences kick in which allow you to fight amidst asteroids or participate in the final battle against a looming space station.

Most of the planetary battles early on are rather boring, with the same "destroy-as-much-as-possible-as-quickly-as-possible" tenant of gameplay, but within enclosed environments that are either too foggy or just devoid of interesting things (such as the Mars-like base that looks like a red planetarium with gun turrets, small spaceships, and a few buildings to destroy). It's not until the ninth mission (out of 14) where things start to pick up in terms of scope, challenge, and in visual style (such as flying over the rolling green hills of Naboo).

Those owning the PlayStation 2 game will probably want to pass on this version, as the primary missions are structured exactly the same and there isn't a substantial difference in visuals (while the frame rate seems to be smoother in some areas, it's still not perfect). There are six extra bonus missions, three of which are completely new, with the rest being two-player versions of the first three bonus missions on the PS2. The only real standout in the new crop is "Serious Swarm," where the object is simply to survive.

This is easier said than done, of course, as this mission represents the longest battle in the entire game -- with a "good" attempt being able to complete it within 30 minutes. Players will fight wave after wave after wave after wave of every fighter in the game, including large freighter ships and a duel with none other than Darth Maul himself in his elongated TIE Fighter-esque spaceship. To help you survive, there are occasional power-up icons that can temporarily offer invincibility, a wingman, new shields, or a restock of missiles.

Star Wars: Starfighter won't impress Xbox owners used to playing such greats as StarLancer, TIE Fighter, or even titles in the Colony Wars series. The simple fact the game is based on Episode I is also a knock, since it lacks the built-in nostalgia and familiarity associated with using an X-wing, Y-wing, or Millennium Falcon against the Empire's Star Destroyers, TIE Fighters, or wonderful AT-ATs. Yet if you're just looking for a basic shoot-'em-up with great music, an above-average storyline, and a variety of two-player modes, Starfighter will satisfy. It's not quite as special as the title suggests, but it has its moment

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  • Model: Microsoft XBOX
  • Shipping Weight: 2lbs
  • 1 Units in Stock

This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 12 April, 2011.

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