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Star Wars Starfighter:
Special Edition

Secret Level


Space Combat

1 - 2


We get up close and personal with pirates, mercanaries, and other assorted space jockeys.

There are many reasons to pick up Star Wars Starfighter: Special Edition. Multiplayer has been expanded over the previous (PS2) version; the graphics have been given a bit of a facelift; the gameplay is stellar, but perhaps the biggest selling point is the story.

"The sound is quite possibly some of the best in any videogame."
From the opening scene, you are immersed in the Star Wars universe. The music, the logo, the three paragraph scroll, it all evokes the magic that has captured a generation. SWS: SE takes place in the Episode One timeline, but has a completely original cast of characters. Players start out as Rhys Dallows, a potential fighter pilot for the royal forces of Naboo. The first mission has you training in the canyons of Naboo with Essara Till. The first mission is a warm-up, to get you used to flying the ship, how it maneuvers, and so forth. It isn't until the second mission where you are assigned as an escort to the Queen when all hell breaks loose.

The story is told in cut-scenes both before and after the missions. It is here that the graphical upgrades are very noticeable. There are parts where you swear that with a little bit more polish, these could be scenes from the cutting room floor.

After being introduced to Rhys and his storyline, we meet Vana Sage, a mercenary employed by the Trade Federation. When she declines a certain deal, things turn sour. Her path crosses with Nym, a pirate whose love for the trade Federation is pretty absent. We follow these two for a while, until the storylines of the three principal characters meet up.

Each of the pilots has their own ship, each having their own special weapons. As the story transfers from one pilot to the next, players will find themselves in a differently corresponding cockpit. The missions are keyed in to a specific individual so choosing which ship to fly not only isn't an option it's pretty unnecessary.

Graphically, the game has some moments that make you wonder if it was optimized to the full Xbox potential, but overall, the game absolutely rocks visually. After hours (and hours) of gameplay, there have only been a few noted instances of clipping or slowdown in the framerate. Some of the fields in the planetary missions look like a green blanket, which can be a bit disturbing, knowing what the Xbox is capable of, but as soon as shots are fired on your ass and you feel the rumble in the controller, you quickly forget about any piddling grievances you have.

The sound is quite possibly some of the best in any videogame. Not only is the score by John Williams (properly licensed!) but there are over 30 individual pieces of music. The mood is properly set with the visuals and the audio, but are you kept in? Absolutely. Some of the best voice acting in a game is to be found here, whether during a cut-scene or during actual gameplay, voices flow naturally.

Throughout the game (especially during the massive dogfight towards the end of the game) the variety of banter heard over the com is rather varied on the human side, and predictably, well, predictable on the 'bot side. I got sick about hearing "threat level blue" and "target 002" during the course of the game- and while these are nuisances, don't detract much from the achievement in sound the game has achieved.

Some may complain about the length of the game, but getting all of the gold medals (which thankfuly you don't have to do to progress the story) on each of the three difficulty levels will keep you occupied for days. Then there are the bonus missions, which haven't even been touched upon. Suffice to say that the extra missions, when available, are worth it. You'll want to use them to hone your skills to go back and get those medals.

Controlling your ship (whichever one you happen to be in) is fairly standard. The L Trigger accelerates, with the R Trigger slowing you down. "A" is for firing your primary weapon, with "B" firing the secondary - no choosing weapons, just press the right button. "X" will zoom in, helping to aim in on those targets far away, with the "Y" button targeting what is in front of you. The black and white buttons cycle through available targets. The left stick controls up, down, left, and right, while the right stick will rotate your ship on its axis. The D-Pad will give commands such as "Cover me" or "Attack this target" which come in useful, but not much until later in the game. Handling the ships do take some getting used to, but not much, it's a fairly easy game to get into.

"A must own for fans of the space combat genre..."
The ships are pretty responsive, with enough options to keep any flyjockey happy. There are 4 controller setups, one of which is bound to suit your needs. You can even set how loose or tight you want the control sticks to move. Other options include volume control for sound effects, voices, and music. Personally, I tapped down the music a couple of notches, and kept defaults pretty much the same (except rumble - thankfully I could turn that off). There is no option to use music from the Xbox hard drive, but with actual Star Wars music, why would you want to?

Multiplayer is almost a game unto itself; there are many games and locations from which to choose from. The multiplayer options are:

    Tag - which is a little bit more complicated than merely getting a sensor lock on your opponent.

    Capture the Flag - where both players start at either end of the field and the object is to fly to the opponent's camp, take their flag, and return to your own shield generator. You may want to blow up your opponent if they take your flag.

    Dogfight - should be self explanatory, pretty much just blast each other out of the skies.

    Hunter - where one is the hunter, and one player is the prey. The prey tries to stay alive. Kind of like Tag, but with some teeth to it.
    Detonator Drop - similar to Capture the Flag, this game instead places a thermal detonator in the middle of the field for somebody to pick up and place in the opponent's camp.

The playing fields for the multiplayer options are taken from locations within the game. Some of the modes (Dogfight for example) have more playing fields available to them, where some have fewer. Players choose their ship and proceed to blast the other into oblivion.

While some may find the multiplayer a bit lacking, there were not that many complaints about it on the PS2 - other than there weren't many options. That major complaint has been alleviated to a great degree with the Xbox Special Edition. There is no way that this game will take the place other games that are primarily head to head space combat, but it is a nice addition that has been fleshed out.

Sure, the game takes place during Episode One, but that shouldn't be held against it. This title has a lot going for it. While the difficulty can be frustratingly difficult at times, even on the "easy" setting, when the game is done, there is a feeling of satisfaction. The storyline still can't hold a candle to the story of Luke and Vader, but if you can get past your Jar Jar hang-ups (he's not a pilot here) then you should find yourself immersed in not only a good space combat game, but a decent Star Wars game.

Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
Becoming more comfortable with the title to Episode II.

Star Wars Starfighter: Special Edition: The Scores













The Final Word:  Essentially, this is the same game that was on Sony's machine, so you may want to skip it if you have already played it. If you held out for a superior version, then you are in luck. Star Wars Starfighter: Special Edition for Xbox is the game that should have been on the PS2 in the first place. A must own for fans of the space combat genre, or Star Wars fans.

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