Star Wars: Episode I Starfighter Hands-On

We spent a little time with Episode I Starfighter at E3, and here's what we came away with.

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While the PlayStation 2 certainly had a number of visually impressive titles on the show floor, none impressed me more than Lucas Arts' Star Wars: Episode I Star Fighter.

The game continues Lucas Arts' tradition of bringing the dramatic spaceship battles of the Star Wars series to the small screen. You can choose to play as one of three pilots: Rhys Dallows, Vana Sage, and Nym. Rhys is the typical space-jock-in-training who thinks he knows it all. His Naboo N-1 starfighter is fast and highly maneuverable, making him a great choice for many of the dogfighting missions in the game. Vana is the gun-for-hire type who pilots an ultrafast, stealthy ship that is excellent for reconnaissance missions. Nym is a space pirate who steals from the Trade Federation and has a starship outfitted with powerful bombs, lasers, a rotating turret gun, and heavy shielding.

Each character has a personal grudge against the Trade Federation, which brings them together in a story that parallels the storyline of the Phantom Menace. The action takes place in 14 different environments set in air and space. Some of the missions in the game directly tie in with key events and battles in the movie, such as the climactic assault on the droid control ship.

The majority of the gameplay consists of flying around and blowing up Trade Federation targets. In all, the game will feature 20 ships for you to pilot and 50 enemy vehicles, including Trade Federation drop ships, battle tanks, droid starfighters, and never-before-seen craft such as the deadly Protector, Scarab, and Dagger.

Visually the game looks incredible. The most breathtaking aspect of the game's graphics is the sheer distance at which you can see. Remember how Pilot Wings 64 looked the first time you saw it? In Star Wars: Episode I Star Fighter, the distance at which the levels begin to draw in is incredibly far. The 3D-rendered starships look fantastic, thanks to superdetailed 3D models and a ton of visual effects. Most noteworthy are the light reflections that gleam off the sides of the ships and look different depending on the type of surface, paint patches, and battle scars.

Overall, Star Wars: Episode I Star Fighter is a beautiful game and was certainly one of the most impressive PS 2 games at the show. It'll be interesting to see how the game comes together as a whole. Star Wars: Episode I Star Fighter is currently scheduled for release in the fall of 2000

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