Feel the force in aerial combat game

Tuesday, April 9, 2002

You'd better hope the Force is with you if you plan to come out victorious in "Star Wars Jedi Starfighter."

An excellent new game from LucasArts for the PlayStation 2 adds to the vast collection of titles available using the hugely popular Star Wars movie series as a base.

It might seem as if a Star Wars game surfaces every week or so, but this one has something the others don't -- a link to Episode II Attack of the Clones, the next, as-yet unreleased movie in the series.

The game focuses on Nym, a rebel leader, and Adi Gallia, a female Jedi knight sent to make sure the resources-rich Karthakk system doesn't fall into the hands of the Trade Federation.

To achieve that end, you'll be cruising through 15 missions in the sleek and speedy Jedi Starfighter, or Nym's starship, the Havoc, which has four devastating secondary weapons to choose from.

Even better, you'll also have access to the Force.

It's complicated to explain the use of the Force in the game, but a lot of its value rests in your ability to time its power. Pressing the O button summons the Force, but how long you hold the button is key to using it effectively.

The Force can be used in several ways; as a shield, as a lightning field that can damage or even destroy enemy craft, as a means of speeding up your reflexes (actually, slowing down the rest of the game) and as a powerful shock wave.

The Force isn't just a technical gimmick you can call up once in a while. It's a vital part of the game, and the harder the missions get, the less likely you'll be able to complete them without using it.

The game also displays nice teamwork between you and your AI wingmen.

If you have a real person to play with, the split-screen two-person mode is excellent. The second player flies as one of three additional pilot characters -- Reti, Jinkins or Siri Tachi -- or serves as turret gunner on Havoc's bomber, which player one (that's you) is piloting.

The missions feature a wide selection of enemies, from hordes of aircraft to submarines and destroyers to land facilities such as tractor beams and weapons turrets. There are useful training missions available if you're feeling inadequate, and unlockable bonus levels are lurking for the talented fighter pilot.

Graphics get an A. They're beautifully shaded and detailed and look far better than last year's original Starfighter title. Wildly colorful combat effects add to the on-screen excellence.

Control gets a B+. Everything works smoothly, including the targeting. If only the fighters would just turn a little faster; I constantly found myself being passed by enemy warships and unable to swing around fast enough to deal with them.

Sound gets an A. The roar of crackling weapons, huge, colorful explosions, radio chatter and Star Wars tunes add greatly to the enjoyment of the game.

"Star Wars Jedi Starfighter" gets an A. The game doesn't give away the plot of this summer's latest Star Wars flick, but it will sure get you in the mood. It's a solid upgrade of the original "Starfighter" game, and has to be one of the best Star Wars titles yet.

May the Force be with you.

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