Title  : Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
Platforms  : Nintendo GameCube
Publisher  : LucasArts
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 8.7
Review by  : Ken Gagne

These are no rebels without a cause. Join the fight against the Imperial forces in one of the Nintendo GameCube's first and finest exclusive titles: Star Wars Rogue Leader, developed by Factor 5 and published by LucasArts. 

The sequel to the Nintendo 64 game Rogue Squadron, Rogue Leader is essentially a flight sim shooter, and takes place concurrently with the first Star Wars trilogy. Four of the game's ten missions are lifted directly from the movies: the attack on the Death Star (A New Hope), battling AT-ATs on the ice planet Hoth (The Empire Strikes Back), and the final battles against the Death Star above Endor (Return of the Jedi). 

The other six missions provide background story, delighting Star Wars aficionados with imagined scenes coming to life, while giving new depth to those people less versed in Star Wars lore. Gamers looking for the thrill of playing out the movies, perhaps as Han Solo or Chewbacca, will not have those opportunities here. Instead you get to fly as Luke Skywalker or Wedge Antilles, with the later voice-acted by the actual actor from the movies. 

The missions include a variety of goals, from shooting down enemy ships to infiltrating bases and stealing shuttles and plans. Certain missions may even look or play differently depending on the time of day. A-, B-, X-, and Y-Wings stock the hangar of craft players may choose from. Each controls similarly, though never as quickly or tightly as enemy fighters. It is sometimes required to swap ships in mid-mission, keeping the gameplay interesting and players on their toes. 

Regardless of your vessel, spotting enemy TIE fighters often requires use of the targeting computer — use of which the game deducts points for. The game ranks your performance; achieving enough points to earn medals is a fiendish and frustrating task. Unfortunately, constant replay and perfection of skill is the only way to unlock the game's many secrets, including hidden vehicles and video featurettes. 

You're likely to die plenty of deaths in pursuit of that goal, as Rogue Leader features missions of wildly varying difficulty. Fortunately, you don't have to be a Star Wars enthusiast to enjoy what's essentially a simple shooting game. The variety of missions and obstacles keep members of Rogue Squadron from just "pointing and shooting." You must choose your ships, priorities, and approaches carefully, or else the Rebels may not get another chance. 

Rogue Leader is one of the first games to employ Dolby Pro Logic II, allowing for gamers appropriately equipped to be enveloped in 5.1 surround sound, with laser fire and stomping AT-ATs coming from every corner of the room. Yet you still won't be missing much if a stereo television is the best you have. John Williams' soundtrack abounds, as does digitized speech from wingmen and Imperial troops. Your comrades' patronizing remarks offer little encouragement during the game's harder missions. 

The game's difficulty is clearly represented by the graphics, which happily depict swarms of enemies. The number of moving objects the GameCube can render simultaneously would be obnoxious, if it wasn't so impressive — and deadly. TIE fighters and laser turrets are rarely placed just to show off. Dash head-first against a star destroyer, and you'll get the attention of all its glorious weaponry for the few remaining seconds of your life. 

I may anger a few Jedi fanatics by calling this game a glorified flight simulator. Regardless, it's very good, with plenty of atmosphere, challenge, options, and graphics. The Force is strong in this one!

This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 10-Dec-01