Though Star Fox: Assault is a fairly enjoyable shooter; it fails to live up to the standard set by its predecessors.
Star Fox: Assault starts out quite poorly in the beginning; Andrew Oikonny, Andross's nephew (many gamers who are familiar with the Star Fox universe will remember him as the main villain of most Star Fox games, including Adventures), has taken up his uncle's remaining fleet and has started a rebellion. The Cornerian fleet can't handle their guerrilla tactics and so their leader, General Pepper, hires everyone's favorite mercenaries for hire: the Star Fox team. Led by Fox McCloud, the team consists of Falco Lombardi, Slippy Toad, Krystal, Peppy Hare and Rob.
The story itself should seem rather familiar, because once again Star Fox has been called to battle all of Andross's goons. Rest assured this game's plot involves Andross in no way at all, save for the beginning. In fact during the very first mission you are introduced to a new enemy, the alien race known as the Aparoids. Either way, the games hackneyed plot won't interest anyone except for younger gamers who may think the story is good. However, dog fighting in space should be more than enough to entertain most gamers.
In the beginning Assault feels rather familiar, you control Fox in his Arwing and shoot down as many enemy ships as you can. In the Arwing you can do many moves ranging from a left or right barrel roll, to loops and even U-turns. You shoot down enemies with your laser and can even charge it up to fire a powerful lock-on blast. You can also shoot bombs too, but these destructive weapons aren't always at your disposal and come in limited quantities. The aerial combat is straight out of Star Fox 64 and it is a lot of fun; blasting baddies in space is as fun as ever. The one problem that arises is that you don't get to stay in your Arwing for the whole game, in fact, you only spend about half the time in an Arwing, which is rather disappointing since ground combat in Assault is just pathetic.
There are two ways to fight on land, either on foot or by way of Landmaster. The problem in itself isn't that fighting on land is a bad thing; it's just that the controls for these portions of the game are just atrocious. The controls are so poor that you will oftentimes find yourself avoiding the use of the Landmaster. Any control setup for that tank is going to cause you frustration, it just doesn't seem right. Thankfully it is possible to avoid use of the Landmaster for almost every mission, save for a few. However leaving the Landmaster behind will mean going out on foot to fight, and even that controls horribly, albeit nowhere near as horribly as the Landmaster controls. The intensity of the action also seems to die down during on foot missions. Thankfully that will come as a blessing to those who can't stand the controls, then again, most people can't.
The Landmaster fires much like your Arwing, and much like the Arwing, the Landmaster can be charged up to fire a powerful lock-on blast. The Landmaster does the most damage in the story mode.
When on foot, you take control of Fox in a third person view. Fox starts out with a simple blaster that he can fire or charge the shot, much like the Arwing and Landmaster. Fortunately you do get more weapons to fight with other than your blaster, from a machine gun to homing launchers and grenades; the variety of weapons do make the on foot missions more interesting to play, but once again it isn't the actual combat that makes this section feel bad, but the controls. Sure Fox moves fast and jumps high and whatnot, but the effort it takes to turn him is just too much; on a harder difficulty you may just find yourself killed in combat from the hits you took while making Fox turn. The controls for these portions hurt the game very much, if only the developers at Namco locked Fox and his crew in their Arwings and left them there.
The only solace that can be found in the on foot missions is that in some of them you are allowed to control your Arwing to fight bogeys in the sky, and sometimes you have to or else you'll fail the mission.
The only thing worse than the on foot missions is the lukewarm multiplayer mode. It has no lasting value and doesn't add much to the game. The multiplayer in Star Fox 64 was no fun at all, and this is more of the same except with better graphics. The basic premise for the multiplayer is pretty much just deathmatch. That's all there is to do, and while killing your buddies in a game is usually fun it just doesn't work too well in Assault. The biggest problem is that there are only four players and the maps themselves are much too large. In the campaign you are constantly bombarded by enemy fire and have a lot of targets to fire at, but in the multiplayer portion of the game you only have one to three other opponents to go after and it just doesn't work for a game like Star Fox. Perhaps if there were more players it could be a bit more interesting, but as it stands the multiplayer just isn't that good. It's very basic, not fun, and hardly worth trying out.
So the gameplay is a mixed bag, but one thing that most people can't complain about is the game's visuals. The space combat in the game is just stunning to watch, and some of the environments are just gorgeous. While Assault isn't the best looking game ever made it sure is a pretty one. The space battles are epic; while you fight, other ships all fly in, great warships are off to the sides deploying enemy units while simultaneously firing at you, and it is just organized chaos everywhere. The on foot missions are nice to look at too, since we get to see environments that we usually don't get to see in a Star Fox game.
The audio on the other hand is pretty much what most people expected: great Star Fox music, decent sound effects, and a lot of corny, and oft repeated dialogue. Most of the music is the usual Star Fox melodies we all listened to in Star Fox and Star Fox 64, but a little mixed so as not to be exactly the same. The sound effects are nothing special, but they get the job done. Everything sounds a bit cartoonish, and some of the weaponry just sound wimpy, especially the bombs, gatling gun, and homing launcher. The voices are as lame as ever, they get the job done for a game like Star Fox but if voices of this quality were used in a more serious game like Metal Gear Solid or Halo than it would all just be laughably bad. The biggest problem with the dialogue is that characters often repeat themselves, and it gets very annoying very quickly.
Star Fox: Assault is a very short game, unlike Star Fox 64, it doesn't have any branching paths to help with the replayabilty it just has ten short missions. While some gamers may go through these missions few times to get a higher score, the lack of the branching paths found in Star Fox 64 manages to bring Assaults value down a lot. Some gamers may be able to blow through the entire game in about four hours, and the multiplayer does nothing to help the game's value. If you feel motivated, you can collect a certain number of badges in the missions to unlock a bonus game called Xevious, an arcade shooter from 1982. Xevious fails to really add any value to this brief game as well, since most people aren't exactly dieing to play an old shooter from 1982 that no one has heard of.
Overall Star Fox Assault is a very brief but fun game, despite it's flaws. The space combat is a blast, but the land missions and multiplayer are no fun. It's a great game to look at and fun to play as well. Though Star Fox: Assault is a fairly good shooter that was better than I expected it to be, the game fails to live up to the standard set by previous entries in this once proud series.