Title  : Star Wars Racer Revenge
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2
Publisher  : LucasArts
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 7.3
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Like "The Phantom Menace", many Star Wars games can't clear the hurdle of mediocrity. Rogue Squadron for Nintendo GameCube is a recent and welcome exception, but with Star Wars Racer Revenge for PlayStation 2, LucasArts returns the race to the rut.. 

Racer Revenge is a sequel to a previous game based on the Episode I movie. Anakin, Sebulba, and other aliens are again piloting small chariots strapped to massive jet engines. This straight-out racing action comes with no power-ups, pit jobs, or other complexities with which to contend. 

The uncomplicated gameplay is assisted by the control scheme. Gas, brake, turbo, steering, repair — there's not much else a pod pilot needs to remember. A more intriguing setup simulates an actual pod by requiring use of both analog sticks, one for each engine, but this advanced scheme is difficult to master using the small joysticks. 

Revenge places an unexpected emphasis on aggressive driving, without offering players many means by which to participate in such abuse. Colliding with other racers inflicts cumulative damage, leading to explosions and a whittling of the competition. There are no smash attacks, weapons, or other offensive techniques — just demolition derby-style racing. Assaulting opponents hinders the attacker's speed, but increases the prize money for whoever's left to claim it. Any damage inflicted on the player is easily repaired, though at a loss of speed. 

Given proper use of boost and repair, a pole position victory on a new course is not uncommon. The experience gained from a rough first lap is sufficient to put a player in the lead. Even those weak in the Force will have little trouble racing these circuits. 

In racing games, an important aspect of the graphics is resolution — the quality that determines how smoothly the screen scrolls, which contributes to the realism and sense of speed. There are no resolution issues here; Revenge's graphics are so proficient at speeding the course along, you're likely to miss a few turns. There are shortcuts and alternate routes aplenty, but it's hard to spot them at high velocity. Even the main path can be difficult to discern in the more poorly-lit levels. The screen is blurred when boost is engaged — an unnecessary effect that makes high-speed steering even harder than it normally is. 

When many pods are on screen simultaneously is when Revenge is at its busiest. John Williams' noncommittal score pipes up in the heat of the race, but mutes entirely when there are no nearby racers to battle. The sound effects comprise crashes, warning bells, and foreign exclamations from surly drivers. A commentator offers useless observations, sensationalizing a rough and riotous affair. 

If crashing other people's pods into rock walls, Sandcrawlers, steam pipes, and statues at hundreds of miles an hour appeals to you, then Racer Revenge will hold your interest for a day or two. The revenge will be cold by the time the last finish line is crossed.


This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 25-Feb-02