Star Wars Starfighter Review

If you feel like playing through a solid arcade shooter set in the Star Wars universe, then you might want to give Starfighter a try.

Star Wars Starfighter originally appeared on the PlayStation 2 about a year ago, and the new PC version is basically identical to the original. The game itself is reminiscent of last year's Star Wars: Battle for Naboo, which was also based on Star Wars: Episode I and was also easy to pick up and play. While the missions in the two games are somewhat different, Starfighter takes the same basic arcade-style shooting of Battle for Naboo and improves upon it with a better sense of flight, significantly improved graphics, an original story, and the ability to issue orders to wingmen, much like what you'd find in other space combat simulations. That's not to say Starfighter is the ultimate Star Wars flight combat game--it's rather short, and it also has a number of problems, ranging from the somewhat unresponsive controls to some uninspired and sometimes confusing missions.

Starfighter takes place just before the events of Star Wars: Episode I, and it begins with you in the role of a young Naboo pilot named Rhys as he goes through a series of training missions in the canyons of Naboo. However, Rhys' trainer, Essara, is killed in the midst of combat, leaving Rhys drifting in space before meeting up with a Toydarian named Reti, who repairs Rhys' ship before joining him on a mission to find Essara's assailant. While all this is going on, a mercenary pilot named Vana happens to stumble upon a Trade Federation droid factory that's preparing for an invasion, but unfortunately, a space pirate named Nym captures her before she can alert the Naboo. Starfighter's rather complex narrative is relatively solid, if somewhat out of place. Since the game is essentially an arcade shooter, the story--which unfolds through prerendered cutscenes and cockpit chatter--is easy to ignore while you focus on the tasks at hand.

The types of missions you'll encounter in Starfighter are fairly basic, and they don't feature the same level of creativity as those in Battle for Naboo. That's partly due to the fact that you'll only pilot three different ships in the game, and they're all essentially the same, so you'll be trying to complete the same types of objectives throughout almost every mission. Needless to say, it gets a little repetitive, and even the different environments--with the exception of the two canyons stages and the droid control ship, which are interesting--don't really do enough to break up that repetition.

The mission objectives themselves can occasionally present problems as well. There are usually several objectives per mission, including optional secondary objectives, and you'll typically have to complete the main objectives before you can complete the stage. The problem is that new objectives are usually given to you through cockpit chatter, and it can occasionally be difficult to hear the directions you're being given, especially if you're under heavy fire at the time. Of course, you'll also be able to read what the next objective is in a window, but these descriptions are often vague. Beyond that, as you progress through the game, you'll undoubtedly be struck with a sense of déjà vu, as so many of the missions in the game seem the same. There isn't much variety overall, and there are no multiplayer features. Starfighter is quite short, and it can be finished in one long play session, although there's some replay value to be found in the secondary objectives and unlockable secrets.

The ability to issue orders to wingmen is one of Starfighter's notable features. At any time during a mission, you can order your wingmen to attack your target, form on your wing, or help defend your ship. Though you might find yourself ignoring this ability in some of the more hectic battles, it becomes an invaluable tool during defensive missions and attacks on larger targets, such as freighters.

Controlling any one of the three ships in Starfighter is fairly straightforward. You can use speed boosts to get away from or close in on enemy ships. There are also breaks, which are quite useful for taking out some of the larger targets. Firing primary and secondary weapons is as simple as pressing the corresponding buttons--though you should keep an eye on your primary weapons, as their strength dissipates while you're holding down the fire key and gradually recharges when they aren't being used. Unfortunately, actually maneuvering of your ship can take some getting used to, as the controls don't seem to be as responsive as they probably should be. You'll notice this especially if you're using a flight stick, as it takes a considerable amount of pressure just to make your ship perform even the slightest turn or tilt. Fortunately, those who were frustrated with the "invisible ceiling" problem in Battle for Naboo--which limited your movement in each stage and made loops quite difficult to execute--will be happy to know that you don't feel nearly so constrained in Starfighter.

Battle for Naboo was originally developed for the Nintendo 64, and since Starfighter was originally developed for hardware that's significantly more powerful than the N64, it also has the luxury of looking much better than Battle for Naboo. Actually, the game looks better than the original PlayStation 2 version thanks to the higher-resolution graphics. Most of the environments in Starfighter are huge, the special effects are great, and the textures generally look good--though you'll probably notice some rather ugly ones during some of the game's cutscenes. Despite all this, the frame rate manages to stay consistent throughout most of the game, even during battles with well over a dozen ships on the screen at once. The mission in which you fly into a massive droid control ship and through a series of its air ducts should give an idea as to how massive the areas can be.

The sound in Starfighter is made up of all the usual music tracks and blaster effects found in previous Star Wars games. While none of them are bad, those who have had their fill of "Duel of the Fates" or other Episode I music tracks may find them a little overbearing.

Starfighter looks great and has a good story, though not all its missions are engaging, and they start to feel repetitive as the game goes on. The game doesn't last that long, either. Even so, if you got some satisfaction out of Battle for Naboo, or you feel like playing through a solid arcade shooter set in the Star Wars universe, then you might want to give Starfighter a try.

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Star Wars: Starfighter More Info

  • First Released Feb 19, 2001
    • PC
    • PlayStation 2
    The game presents a compelling story, excellent presentation, and gameplay that will surely satisfy fans of LucasArts' N64 shooters.
    Average Rating1080 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Published by:
    LucasArts, Activision, Electronic Arts Victor, SCEA
    Space, Sci-Fi
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.