Jedi Starfighter Preview
The Xbox version of Jedi Starfighter has arrived at our desks. Check out our full report.
Jedi Starfighter for the Xbox will be a port of the second installment in the Starfighter series, and it will also be the second time a Starfighter game has been ported from the PS2 by Secret Level. You'll notice, however, that the game isn't getting the "special edition" treatment, as was the case with the first Starfighter port. The game will essentially remain the same, with a few little tweaks and additions worked in for good measure.
For those who are not familiar with the Starfighter series of games, they're essentially arcade-style spaceflight sims that employ a simple and effective control scheme and feature a storyline that ties the game neatly together. These games never follow characters from the Star Wars films, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as the characters in the game are likeable, and their individual struggles can be quite compelling.
Jedi Starfighter takes place during the events of the upcoming Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones film. This was a pretty big deal for the PS2 version, as the game was released two months earlier than the movie, and it provided an early look at what was to come. This is less important to the Xbox version, as it is scheduled for release only two days prior to the film.
The game follows the stories of two pilots, one an idealistic Jedi master, the other a pirate who is reluctantly drawn back into the fighting. The first game had a cast of three, but the pirate Nym is the only returning main character. The other two characters are essentially gone (though one does make a cameo appearance late in the game), and they have been replaced by Adi Gallia, a Jedi master in her own right and the former apprentice of the esteemed Mace Windu.
As the story goes, there is a new threat in the Karthak system. A malicious human by the name of Cavic Toth has allied himself with the mysterious Count Dooku, who is spearheading a separatist movement that is gradually weakening the Republic. Cavic Toth has already made his move in earnest, creating biological weapons and unleashing vicious attacks on weaker planets. It's up to you to assume the roles of Adi and Nym and fight back in heroic fashion.
Both of the pilots have their own unique ships, along with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Nym is a surly character, and his ship, the Havoc, reflects this by being a stout bomber that can take and deal out a beating. It isn't the fastest or most agile ship, though, and it's not very attractive or flashy--it's a purely utilitarian craft. Nym sports a good number of secondary weapons such as missiles and bombs. He starts off with weaker bombs that will replenish with time. As you progress, he'll add power missiles, cluster missiles, proximity mines, and even a manned turret to the top of his ship.
Adi is a Jedi knight who has set out to help in the fight and compile information, and her craft is a sleek triangular ship with a great amount of agility and speed. The Jedi starfighter from which the game draws its title has only one weapon: its semi-powerful lasers. The pilot, who has a variety of force powers, supplies anything beyond that. Despite being a Jedi master, Adi is still learning, and she will add powers to her list as the game progresses. Early on, she'll have force lightning, an electrical blast that can damage groups of smaller craft, and force shield, an energy field that surrounds the craft and prevents damage for a short amount of time. As she matures, she'll pick up the ability to slow time and emit a radial blast that damages all the enemies in the area. The Jedi starfighter's design is reminiscent of the classic Star Destroyer, and it perhaps reflects the old Republic ideals before they were twisted into weapons of fear and destruction as the Empire rose and took power.
In addition to the story mode, which is the backbone of the game, there are also a number of single-shot single-player missions, multiplayer missions, and DVD-style extras included. You'll also be able to bring a friend along for a strong co-op mode that runs through the entire story mode, if you're so inclined.
The few new additions to the Xbox version include a few graphical tweaks and a new multiplayer mission. The new mission takes place on the planet Coruscant, the heart of the Republic. It will pit players against each other as they try to reach 100 points by tagging floating targets by shooting them. Basically, the two players will constantly be dueling for control of the platforms by tagging and retagging them as they try to retain control of each platform. While this is a level that was created exclusively for the Xbox, it doesn't look like it pushes the native hardware much, and it instead fits in with the rest of the game in terms of visuals. As far as graphical enhancements in the rest of the game are concerned, these are mostly subtle changes in the lighting that may or may not be noticed at first--it all depends on how much of the PlayStation 2 version you've played. In the first mission, for example, Adi is meeting with a contact in the far reaches of space, just before the Trade Federation and their hordes of droid fighters set upon them. The level takes place in space, with a red nebula in the backdrop and a few odd asteroids drifting around. The lighting in the PS2 version was fairly plain, but in the Xbox version, there is a darker glow to everything, as the reddish light of the nebula is cast across all the objects in the level. It's a subtle effect, but a good one that adds to the atmosphere very nicely.
So while the Xbox version of Jedi Starfighter probably won't see significant enhancements along the lines of those found in Starfighter: Special Edition, it does have a few new touches in there. At this point, with the exception of the lighting effects, the game looks almost identical to its PS2 sibling. There are a few random bugs, but we're sure they will all be addressed prior to the game's release. The only difference between the two versions of the game that might be of concern are the abnormally long loading times in our Xbox build, some of which exceeded five minutes in the worst cases. Considering that loading times are usually optimized in the last stages of development, we're fairly certain that this issue will be dealt with as well. As mentioned above, the game is scheduled for release just a few days before the new film hits theaters. In the meantime, be sure to check out our new media.
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