Reviewed: July 3, 2002
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: March 11, 2002
LucasArts is back to dazzle us with more of their gaming goodness in Star Wars Jedi Starfighter. This is more or less an extension of last years mega-hit, Star Wars Starfighter, only this time we have some Jedi powers, some new characters, and a really cool wedge-shaped Starfighter lifted right from the big screen. Yes, you can now fly the actual ship that Obi-Wan pilots in Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
The story that provides the backdrop for the single player campaign runs concurrent with the movie’s plot and expands upon it by allowing you to explore new and exciting locations beyond the scope of the film. Ultimately, you will take part in the epic battle depicted in the film’s exciting climax, but it will be a long and challenging road before you get there.
Veterans of the first game will note several similarities. Once again you get to play as multiple characters, each with their own ship. Your primary character is Adi Gallia, a Jedi sent by the council to investigate disturbances in the Karthakk system. This leads to the introduction of several supporting characters and a plot so deviously intricate and unsuspecting that even I was surprised.
If you played the first Starfighter then you will only have a 15-minute learning curve to get used to a few new features and the implementation of Force powers. Aside from this, Jedi Starfighter is your typical space shooter.
This time around you only have one other playable character and ship; the cranky space pirate Nym. The mission structure will have you jumping between his larger attack ship and your sleek Jedi craft always keeping things fresh and interesting. The difference is ship capabilities is implemented quite nicely with a typical command-cross interface. Nym’s commands consist of choosing from various weapon types while Adi’s commands allow you to pick from several offensive and defensive Force powers.
It is these Force powers (along with 20 new missions) that LucasArts is relying on to make you want to play what is essentially the same game they released last year. The Force powers are quite creative and compliment the gameplay quite nicely. The Jedi Starfighter is rather weak on its own, but when you start unleashing Force Lightning that is capable of taking out entire formations of fighters with a single blast, you won’t want to be flying anything else.
Other Force powers include a Reflex that warps time around you. This is great if you need to make a long attack run on a capital ship. When properly used you can swoop in and surgically remove every turret on a cruiser before they can even target you. Force Shield provides some added protection to your craft while Shockwave emits a ranged blast that will damage and hopefully destroy any nearby craft.
Nym’s bomber is more suited to heavy combat featuring plasma bombs and fire-and-forget cruise missiles. He also has proximity and cluster bombs that are added to his arsenal later in the game. While the story dictates which ship you fly in each mission you do have the ability to return to these missions later and play them with a bevy of ships that can be unlocked by obtaining medals for outstanding gameplay.
As with the first game, each mission outlines very specific objectives. You are also given a bonus objective and there are hidden objectives that you must discover on your own. Some of these hidden objectives are simply “evil”, such as destroying the spy ship in the first level. This objective is never given to you and the only way you will ever even see the spy ship is if you just happen to be cycling through your targets at just the right time. Sometimes finding the hidden objective is harder than completing it.
Completing all of these objectives rewards you with medals that will unlock a multitude of bonus goodies such as extra ships, levels, movies, and other cool prizes. It’s all pretty good stuff, and some of the movies are really good. The animated short, “My Day At Work” is my favorite, and features the best version/remix of the Imperial March in the history of the Star Wars franchise.
The campaign is a bit larger this time around, clocking in at 20 missions. These are split about 50-50 between deep space and planetside missions. During these missions you will encounter over 40 types of new craft including those awesome tanks from the final battle in the movie. The missions range from just a few minutes to upwards of 15-20 minutes in length, and you will find yourself repeating them as you learn the way each one plays out and attempt to earn those coveted medals.
The missions are basically the same attack, defend, escort, protect style of gameplay, but this time around they seem to be a bit more complex actually mixing up the styles within a single mission. One scenario has you attacking an orbital cannon. Once partially destroyed, you must escort transport ships as they haul parts of the cannon back to your fleet. Then you must protect the fleet from attackers while the cannon is integrated onto the capital ship. Then an enemy fleet warps in and you must take out their main guns before your fleet can attack. The mission is huge and the list of objectives keeps growing and growing.
Gameplay is rather methodic and you can lapse into that state of “been there - done that” during the early levels, but once you get about halfway into the campaign things get serious, both in story development and gameplay. You will soon find yourself struggling just to complete a mission with or without those medals.
One refreshing surprise is the ability to have two players cooperatively play the campaign. What a great idea – not entirely a new one, but satisfying to see it finally implemented into a major title such as this. There are also all kinds of new gameplay modes and playable ships you can unlock, but more on those in a minute.
Jedi Starfighter maintains the same standards of quality that the first game delivered. The scope of each level is massive. The vastness of space or the sprawling planetside vistas are breathtaking. Ship models, textures, colors, and backgrounds have all been graphically taken up a notch, and you will find yourself using the zooming sniper view to check out the glorious attention to detail.
The power of the PS2 is pushed to the limits with some of the best visual effects seen to date. Particle effects, transparencies, massive detailed textures that don’t visibly repeat, all combine to create a feast for the eyes. Capital ships are modeled so they blow apart in substantial chunks of fiery wreckage, and bombs leave scars on both terrain and structures after the radiating shockwave subsides.
Movies come in two flavors; pre-rendered cutscenes and game-engine movies. The first look amazing and carry the story along in great cinematic intermission, while the latter seems to mesh with the gameplay serving as a non-intrusive extension of the action.
Insert standard boilerplate comments here. Seriously, what can I say about the sound quality of this game that I haven’t said in every single Lucas game review I’ve done in the past three years. Let’s start with the amazing John Williams score that never gets old no matter how many times I listen to it during the opening text-crawl. All of the classic music is here along with selections from the new motion picture score. It’s all flawless and cued to the onscreen action to keep your adrenalin pumping.
Sound effects are also just as good as they have always been. Every laser blast, explosion, engine whine, and electronic hum, whistle or zap is perfectly reproduced. Of course this game really shines in the dialog department. Not only do these characters have some of the wittiest conversations since the banter in the original movie trilogy, they are all acted out by some of the best voice actors of recent memory.
Nym is hilarious as the cantankerous old pirate who is suitably annoyed every time his ship is modified yet cheers like a kid when his new plasma bombs destroy his targets. He conveys suitable contempt for the Jedi yet slowly comes around as Adi continually proves her worth. Even though 90% of this story is told through intercom chatter you really get involved with the plot and the characters – the voice acting is just that good.
Adi is charming and a bit cynical. During the opening tutorial she made a classic comment that had me rolling on the floor in laughter. While her Jedi master was teaching her about the typical HUD layout – one that we’ve seen in every game since LucasArts was making these games – she responds with “Yes, much like every interface in every other fighter”. It wasn’t so much the fact that she said it, but the fact that I was thinking the exact same thing at the exact same time.
There is plenty of supporting dialog from a variety of charming and sinister characters. Your Jedi master instructs you through several training missions speaking in a calm monotonous voice devoid of almost all emotion and rather hypnotic at times.
The main campaign consists of more than 20 challenging missions that will keep you busy for at least 20 hours – more if you plan on unlocking everything in the Bonus Features menu. The nice thing about this menu is you can highlight the locked extras and it will tell you exactly what you need to do and where to unlock that item.
There are 30 bonus items to unlock in all including 10 new ships like; TIE Fighters, the Advanced Freefall craft, Advanced Havoc craft, an X-Wing, Advanced Zoomer, Advanced Jedi Starfighter, the Sabaoth Fighter, Republic Gunship, and yes, Slave 1.
Some bonuses are unlocked by simply completing the game while others are more challenging and require specific goals. Want to watch movie X – better go complete the hidden objective in mission 12. There is enough original content in this title to keep you playing for weeks after you have finished the main campaign.
Star Wars Jedi Starfighter takes an existing game and adds a bit of Jedi magic to create a substantial new gaming experience. The use of Force powers may seem like a gimmick at first, but you will soon learn that they are an integral part of mastering and completing this stellar game.
Jedi Starfighter doesn’t try to replace the original, but rather extends the scope with new missions and a story that evolves along the same timeline as the movie. I would never recommend one over the other, as they are each viable entities in their own right. Both hold a special place in my game collection, and Jedi Starfighter is a worthy addition to anyone’s PS2 library whether you love Star Wars, or just a good space shooter.
May the Force Be With You.