|Star Wars Rebel Strike: Rogue Squadron III
|Oct 15, 2003
|Action, Flight Simulator
|T for Teen (ESRB)
Star Wars Rebel Strike: Rogue Squadron III for the Nintendo GameCube is the final entry in the Rogue Squadron series. LucasArts and Factor 5 once again give us the opportunity to live the adventures of Luke, Wedge and the rebellion as they battle their way through and between the events of the original trilogy. After the achievement that was Rogue Leader, fans wanted more and the devs at Factor 5 were happy to oblige.
Rebel Strike is an incredibly ambitious attempt by the devs to top themselves and deliver a gaming experience Rogue Squadron fans had yet to see. While retaining the superior gameplay mechanics, flight simulation, and features seen in Rogue Leader, they pack this game to the brim with brand new elements and a wealth of content. Players are now treated to 14 main missions (and 5 secret missions) that span the original trilogy from the Battle of Yavin to the Battle of Endor. These missions are split between Luke and Wedge, giving players a wider scope of the story as you fly through new locations and also relive familiar movie events.
We are also introduced to a new subplot character, Lieutenant Sarkli, who plays a subtle role in the story similar to Kasan Moor from N64’s Rogue Squadron. The most noticeable of additions (and perhaps the most defining characteristic of Rebel Strike) is the inclusion of on-foot gameplay. Players are taken out of the cockpit and equipped with a blaster or lightsaber as they chase down enemy imperials, rescue iconic prisoners or simply run for their lives in new third-person missions. Factor 5 clearly wanted to experiment and bring new ways to play and interact within the Rogue Squadron universe. Finally, Rebel Strike possesses an incredible multiplayer experience (so much so, it gets its own section further down) that will add hours of gameplay.
Rebel Strike’s mechanics are near identical to Rogue Leader, which is a good thing. The no-nonsense flight control scheme and the command cross make a return, as does the 3D radar, always pointing you to your next objective. Flying is still smooth and players will once again have access to the same iconic ships from Rogue Leader (along with some old and new unlockables too), as well as in-game ship swapping. The devs also figured out a suitable balance in difficulty, as this game is easier yet still satisfying. The medal system also returns, serving as a currency to open secret missions and the passcode system is also available for if you just want to unlock everything from the get-go.
Controls for on-foot and temporary special craft are varied but not too difficult to master. The A button will always fire your primary weapon, whether it’s a blaster or lightsaber. The B button remains the secondary button, which usually fires a weapon of limited quantity, such as a grenade or charge. The in-game cues will guide you through the controls for one time use special craft, such as AT-STs and speeder bikes, so I’ll only cover on-foot controls from here. With a lightsaber, B is block, which deflects incoming blasts. Y still brings up your targeting computer (electrobinoculars when on foot) and X is to jump. Holding L is used to lock-on to enemies for strafing and targeting. Press R to crouch; when crouching, tilt the control stick in any direction to roll. Hitting Z in a direction will make the character dive and tapping the C-stick interacts with objects, such as manning an E-Web blaster or opening doors. After some practice, it all becomes second nature, allowing you to focus solely on your objectives.
If you’ve read my reviews for Rogue Squadron and Rogue Leader, you’ll know one of my common complaints is a severe lack of content pulled from the original trilogy. Not this time; Factor 5 does an excellent job of pulling audio and visuals from the movies. Major movie scenes are now used as cutscenes for missions. For example, a scene from The Empire Strikes Back in which Luke is shot down in his Snowspeeder serves as a prelude to the on-foot Hoth mission involving the take down of AT-ATs with thermal detonators. The audio, too, is impressive. Many of John Williams’ scores are used, providing a level of atmospheric depth that had yet to be seen. Add to that classic sound effects (TIE engines, explosions, and Ewoks…) and you have yourself a satisfying, immersive experience.
Perhaps the most impressive feat by Factor 5 is the multiplayer mode. There are two modes to play; versus and cooperative. Versus mode pits players against each other in 4 different modes; Dogfight, Rampage, Tag and Defend, and Special. Dogfight is, well, a 1-on-1 dogfight. Parameters like time limits, score limits and weapons can be customized. Rampage is a competition to see who can do the most damage to a specific area. Tag and Defend is like King of the Hill, in which you need to gain and keep control of specific areas. Special includes two special Rampage like levels in which you control AT-STs, as well as two racing levels.
Then there is the awesomeness that is Cooperative mode. Cooperative mode allows you and a friend to play through all the missions (secret missions too) from Rogue Leader. It is literally two games in one here. Plus, you get to use the new unlockable ships and weapons upgrades from Rebel Strike for these Rogue Leader missions (the only ships I think were missing between games were the Slave I and the TIE fighter). So now, you get to replay Rogue Leader with the added advantage of a real co-pilot and not some computer controlled wingman. Unfortunately, you cannot play through these missions on your own; you still need to buy Rogue Leader for that.
Now despite the devs treating us to these improvements and the wealth of new content, there are still some flaws that significantly impact the overall quality of the game. As I stated before, one of the most obvious additions of Rebel Strike is the third person on-foot mechanic. Unfortunately, the game only suffers from it. Controlling your character is hardly smooth and can be downright frustrating when precision is most necessary. The camera suffers from a lack of fluidity and it will feel like you are fighting it on occasion. The levels and objectives designed for the on-foot portions of gameplay are lackluster and seemed forced. I applaud the devs’ creativity, but they fell very short on execution.
Another complaint I have is the level length. Pure flight missions are packed with objectives and are rewarding when accomplished. However, the levels that take you out of the sky are shorter and tend to confine you to a very specific path. While all levels have you go from point A to B via the radar, you can frequently complete objectives out of order or do parts of them at the same time when in flight due to the open level design. I preferred that freedom over the constricted feeling I got playing special craft/on-foot missions. In all honesty, I believe the game would have been better had the devs focused more on continuing to innovate flight and abandoned everything else altogether. This is because in some instances, I felt like the flight missions were too familiar; a rehash of what we had already seen in Rogue Leader and I would have preferred it if more effort were put towards that issue. I’m sure this was the overarching concern by the devs, which was why the new mechanics were implemented but again, their efforts on that fell short and I cannot help feeling that the flight missions suffered from it.
Overall, Rebel Strike is a still great game that will keep you entertained for hours. Whether you are new or a veteran to the series, Rebel Strike delivers a satisfactory gaming experience that fans of the genre will enjoy. Despite the perhaps over-ambitious efforts of Factor 5 to try new things, Rebel Strike is still very much a noteworthy addition to the Rogue Squadron series.
Review copy purchased by author