Thursday, 10 February 2011

Star Wars Videogames Special Part 2

The Phantom Menace was a rubbish title, and the film wasn't much better. Once this bandwagon got running, however, the Star Wars games came thick and fast and the Lucasarts assault on the gaming market hasn't really lessened much since. I went from a Star Wars IP starvation diet to the threat of death by gluttony. It was clear one had to be picky from now.

I still had an original Playstation but in addition to Dark Forces, the only other Star Wars game I played on it was Jedi Power Battles which was one of the many games released to tie in with the first prequel. It was quite a fun little caper, with some cool lightsabre moves, but a mere taster compared to the sumptuous meal of Jedi Knight which had gone before it.

However by 1998 the Playstation was starting to look increasingly dated and in any case I had a brand spanking new pentium PC which I soon modified with more RAM and a 3D graphics card that I won from PC Gamer magazine for writing a particularly witty letter. An early game I sampled was Tie Fighter, which by now had a budget all-inclusive re-release. It was pretty cool, and better than X-Wing from what I heard, but for one reason or another I never got round to playing any of the follow up space battle games.

So next up was the brilliant Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast. Still playing as Katarn, Lucasarts took notice of the lightsabre criticsm of the first game and hugely ramped up the sabre battles with all sorts of smart moves. Force powers were much improved as well making Outcast a pure delight from start to finish. If you don't like this game, you don't really like Star Wars.

Skipping over the Age of Empires-inspired Galactic Battlegrounds which never appealed to me thanks to its tinsy-winsy looking AT-AT's and the flawed Force Commander, I kept on the PC FPS trail with Jedi Academy. This game got mediocre scores in the PC gaming press (70% from PC Gamer if I recall correctly, a far cry from the glowing reviews for Outcast), but I still hugely enjoyed it and found it quite refreshing to be playing a new character rather than miserable old Katarn again. If you like Jedi Knight, you'll get something out of it for sure.

Also on my PC I played the multiplayer games Battlefront and Battlefront 2. These gave you the opportunity to go online (or on your own if you prefer, with and against bots) and slug it out within some of the most famous locations in the Star Wars universe. Like Academy, it also got luke-warm reviews, but it appealed so much to me that I bought them anyway. What's not to like about jumping into snowspeeder and plunging headlong towards advancing AT-AT's on the snowbound planet of Hoth? OK, it was a tad limited, and despite the prescence of "historical" and "galactic conquest" modes, there's no storyline to speak of, but with a huge variety in weapons, soldiers and vehicles, Battlefront is great. I downloaded loads of maps as well from the internet, giving it even further hours of play. Battlefront 2 expanded on the original with Jedi Heroes (and Sith Villains) plus a few more locations, chiefly lifted from the final film, Revenge of the Sith. It was more of the same, but if ain't broke...

So what came next? Well not a lot actually. I briefly dallied with Bounty Hunter when I finally acquired a Gamecube a couple of years ago, and its enjoyable enough, if a little flawed. The Rogue Squadron games appear wonderful to start off with, but achingly poor level design and those dreadful on-foot levels ruined them for me, especially as the Battlefront games had already done it bigger and better (in my personal timeline).
Knights of the Old Republic I tried, really tried, to get into, but just couldn't, finding the game too slow and clunky after the pure shooting simplicity of Battlefront. I bought its sequel, Sith Lords edition, recently for the XBOX so will give it another go I guess. Over on the PS2, the Lego Star Wars games are good fun, and I played a fair way through the Original Trilogy version, but found the stud-collecting a bit of a chore. Also for the PS2 I have Force Unleashed to play which received mixed reviews so I will approach that with no little trepadation. I think I've got an Episode III game somewhere as well as Republic Commando for the XBOX which I really should play as admittedly it does look good. With no home PC to command, the well-liked Empire at War RTS game is unlikely to get a play any time soon.

So retro-speaking, what have I missed out on? There were games such as Jedi Arena and Empire Strikes Back as long ago as the early 80's on the Atari 2600. They hold little appeal these days however, and neither do the various Spectrum incarnations. The Nintendo "Super" Star Wars games are essentially super-tough platformers - again this does not appeal and I presume Rogue Squadron on the N64 is merely a cruder version of the Gamecube iterations.

I hope I'm wrong - but I fear the golden period for myself and Star Wars games - the late 90's / early noughties has passed.

NB: I've recently tried Force Unleashed. Not particularly impressed so far!


  1. I forgot about Battlefront 2. I had it for the original XBox and really enjoyed the galactic conquest mode (playing as the Rebels, naturally) as I had no internet connection for my XBox at that time. Like you say, limited, but loads of fun. Makes me wonder if Lord of the Rings Conquest is worth a play.

  2. Get on Republic Commando, its one of the best prequel games I've played and an excellent FPS in its own right.

    As for The Force Unleashed, I played through the Wii and 360 versions. For all the extra visual polish of the 'big' version, its the Wii I have to recommend if you plan on visiting the game. There's a physicality to the combat that just isn't present in the other versions: Thrust your left hand forward (with the nunchuk) to Force Push, slam both controllers down to hit the ground with a devastating shockwave, slash out with the sabre in your right hand. Unlike so many Wii games there's been a lot of thought put into assigning relevant motion controls to in game actions, so they don't feel tagged on.

  3. Episode 1 Racer wasn't bad but the only Star Wars game I really liked was Rogue Leader on the 'Cube :)

  4. Nice post! I fondly recall Super Star Wars on the SNES - although having said that, I downloaded it recently in preparation for a review ( and I just couldn't believe how hard it was. I remember completing it as a kid, but all I can say is that the Force must have been with me back then, because I certainly couldn't do it now. No, actually, scrap that - I probably could finish it again if I could be bothered to struggle through the appalling level design and unfair restarts, but I just don't have the patience to bother trying.