Rebel Strike hovers between the light and dark sides.
Rebel Strike is the third installment of the critically acclaimed Rogue Squadron series. Developer Factor 5 has maintained the tried and true flight simulation of previous years and attempted to infuse the game with a plethora of new vehicles and 3rd person action sequences. Players can take control of either Luke Skywalker or Wedge Antilles in two distinct paths in order to thwart the Empire’s goal of total galactic domination.
Rebel Strike had very high expectations to live up to and Factor 5 makes a valiant attempt to deliver the goods. Unfortunately, when the game deviates from its predecessors there is a significant lack of polish. The third person sequences are pretty terrible and only detract from the still-shining vehicle sequences. Most of the missions have a pedestrian element that will have you jumping and shooting wildly at some pitifully implemented storm troopers. The lock-on targeting is inefficient and frustrating. There is no easy way to switch between targets and it will often target a seemingly random enemy. This would be an even bigger problem if you couldn’t just run around madly, mowing down enemies without thought or skill. Like many third-person games, the camera inhibits the player’s ability. There is no camera control and the set angles are neither helpful nor cinematic. Even more frustrating are the (fortunately) few platforming-based levels. Jumping is okay when you’re in a flat, open space but when the game requires you to be precise the control just isn’t there. Perhaps the best thing about the third-person levels is the opportunity to use ground-mounted laser cannons, but even these are not without fault. They have a tendency to pull very hard to center and have limited lateral range. I respect the attempt to incorporate a new style of play into the franchise as well as the desire to create a much more complete Star Wars game. A few dedicated third person levels that didn’t require accurate jumps would have been acceptable, even with the rampant problems. Where Factor 5 really dropped the ball was including them as cheap filler material in nearly every level. Having to get out of your precision vehicle all the time just serves to detract from the game.
If the third person sequences are an example of what not to do in a video game, then the flying sequences are generally the exact opposite. The standard star-fighting hasn’t deviated from the formula, but seeing as it was already approaching perfection, this is a positive. Players will get to control all of their favorite ships from previous games as well as a variety of other vehicles from the Star Wars universe including speeder bikes and AT-ST’s. While I can’t say that piloting a two-legged tank is exhilarating, it does seem accurate. You may feel somewhat insecure and confused on foot, but when you hop into the cockpit of your X-wing you suddenly remember that you are a bona-fide rebel bad-ass. You will make the Empire pay as you shoot down hordes of enemies fighters and throw in a couple of barrel rolls just for style.
As with the two previous games, Rebel Strike rewards players through the use of a medal system. The difficulty in obtaining the medals has been intentionally toned down. This should make the game a little more welcoming for newcomers, but veterans of the series may find the game to be lacking some intensity. Once again, Factor 5 didn’t see fit to include a “restart mission” function which continues to make obtaining gold medals more frustrating than necessary. It may be nitpicking, but they’ve had two games and five years to address the problem. Earning medals unlocks bonus missions and ships, as the player fine-tunes his flying skills. Your skills will need to be honed to fully appreciate the biggest improvement to Rebel Strike, the multiplayer. There is both a versus and a co-op mode for two players. You can pit your skills against a friend in a dogfight, capture-the-base, or a rampage (in which he who destroys the most stuff wins). The versus mode does a lot to add value to the game, but is limited by its two player restriction. The co-op mode is fantastic, consisting of the entire Rogue Leader game. The visuals have been touched up and the difficulty has been increased to compensate for the second player. If this bonus material isn’t enough, you can also unlock the old-school vector based arcade games. All in all, Rebel Strike has more value than the previous games.
Rebel Strike is really two distinct games that have been smashed together in an awkward manner. If you’re piloting a ship or vehicle you’re seeing the best the game has to offer, and in many ways the best any star-fighter has to offer. Conversely, the on-foot segments are just plain awful. If you’re a Star Wars junkie, or a fan of the first two games, Rebel Strike is definitely worth your money. Everyone else would be well advised to rent it first.