Reviewed: June 18, 2002
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: December 18, 2001
George Lucas is big on special editions. He re-mastered and re-released his first three Star Wars movies and made millions while introducing these classic films to a new generation of moviegoers. The special editions of these films included significant upgrades in special effects and even additional scenes.
By Georgeís very own definition of ďspecial editionĒ, Star Wars Starfighter Special Edition isnít that special. It is more of a ďdirectorís cutĒ with a few minor supplements that the programmers were able to tack on in the ten month gap between this Xbox version and the original Starfighter on the PS2. The programmers were also able to take advantage of the additional power of Microsoftís console to enhance the graphics.
Of course one can argue that many gamers who have an Xbox donít have a PS2, so they probably havenít played the original game. For those who have played the original PS2 version, there probably isnít enough in the Special Edition to make you trade in your old copy or purchase a duplicate.
The Xbox special edition has these features not found in the original:
The story is based on events that lead up to Episode One and the Trade Federation is your main antagonist throughout the adventure. Each of the characters have their own stake in this conflict and their own personal reasons for becoming involved that is told through amazing CGI cutscenes.
The game consists of over a dozen exciting missions that include escort, attack, defend, and raiding enemy installations. There is a nice mix of space missions but the Xbox really shows its power when pushing the polygons on the planet missions.
You begin your training in a Naboo Starfighter navigating narrow twisting canyons and blowing up holographic targets. Once you have earned your wings you head out to patrol space and thatís where things really start to take off.
As the other characters are introduced you will have quick training levels to learn the capabilities and limitations of each ship. Then as the story bounces around these three characters you constantly have to adjust your strategy based on the ship you are flying and the objectives of the mission. Itís quite challenging.
Each mission consists of primary and secondary objectives as well as bonus objectives. Completing all of these objectives will unlock bonus missions and gameplay modes, and additional ships. You can cycle through previously played missions and replay them for a better score at any time.
Control is flawless and the Xbox controller is perfect for this game. The triggers control your speed and the inertia-free physics of space is accurately reproduced allowing you to pull off some amazing moves in the more agile ships. The rest of the buttons are used for the various functions such as targeting and weapons fire and the D-pad is used to control the ďcommand crossĒ that lets you issue orders to your wingmen on missions where you command other ships.
Starfighter SE is your typical space shooter played from a first-person perspective with a HUD that displays important information about your ship and your opponents. You can cycle the camera to play from a chase view but I found that this could get confusing at times.
Visually, this game is stunning with several improvements over the PS2 original. The graphics have been upgraded with more detailed textures and a silky-smooth frame rate that makes the planet missions slide by with an amazing sensation of speed. The initial race through the canyon in the training level is breathtaking.
The gorgeous cutscenes were great on the PS2 but they are even better on the Xbox. They just seem to be brighter with richer colors, clearly a testament to the power of the nVidia chipset in the Xbox. Other effects such as lasers and explosions are vibrant and the huge planets that can often take up most of the screen look like NASA photos from the Hubble telescope.
But even as good as the graphics are, there is still room for improvement. Metallic surfaces such as the Naboo Starfighter really donít reflect their surroundings and spaceship textures really arenít that detailed. Of course you are seldom close enough to see the ships. By the time you get a target lock they are a flaming ball of plasma.
I canít imagine a world without John Williams, and I certainly canít imagine a Star Wars game without his amazing score setting the overall emotional tone for all the action taking place. The music in Starfighter is just as perfect as any of the Star Wars movies and cues to the action so you ďknowĒ when you are in trouble.
The voice acting is topnotch with each of the main characters exhibiting some unique personalities and attitudes. There is also plenty of COM chatter during the mission as you are briefed in flight on your objectives and targeting priorities. Your commands to your wingmen are also spoken, as are their responses.
Sound effects are perfect, but what do you expect from a company that has access to the largest collection of sound effects in the world. Laser fire, explosions, engine noises, and just about any other thing that makes a noise does so in a most convincing way.
My only minor complaint is that this game didnít support the Dolby Digital surround capabilities of the Xbox. Even without a discrete 5.1 mix this game is still one of the best sounding space shooters you can play on the Xbox.
With various skill levels and increasingly difficult objectives to complete, it will be quite some time before you finish the game and unlock all of the hidden stuff. Even if you donít care for all those bonus goodies and just want to experience the story, you can still expect 10-15 hours of gameplay.
As mentioned earlier, most of the special edition features are targeted toward the multiplayer experience. You can expect countless hours of head-to-head space battles, but I do wish there had been a cooperative campaign mode that would have allowed two players to tackle the main game. This probably would have taken a major reprogramming effort to tweak the objectives and number of enemies, so I canít complain Ė only dream.
Starfighter SE just oozes quality in graphics, sound, and gameplay, and offers up an epic story that will keep you involved for hours or even weeks if you are a perfectionist. The new multiplayer modes are a nice addition and will have you reaching for this game when friends come over.
If you own a PS2 and have already played Star Wars Starfighter then the special edition is probably not going to be enough to have you reaching for your wallet. In fact, most of the new features in this game really should have been in the PS2 version in the first place. But, if you havenít played the original then you wonít want to miss out on one of the best space shooters available for the Xbox.