"Rogue Squadron 2 knows what the Star Wars nerd inside all of us has always wanted. We don't want to protect generic convoys on generic grassy planets like in the first game, we want to blow up the damn Death Star. The first level lets us do just that, and the photorealistic graphics make it look like a scene out of the movie. Squadrons of plucky rebels in their X-Wing fighters wiping out TIE Fighters while green turret fire sprays in the background; speeding down the country-long trench while Da..."
Rogue Squadron 2 knows what the Star Wars nerd inside all of us has always wanted. We don't want to protect generic convoys on generic grassy planets like in the first game, we want to blow up the damn Death Star. The first level lets us do just that, and the photorealistic graphics make it look like a scene out of the movie. Squadrons of plucky rebels in their X-Wing fighters wiping out TIE Fighters while green turret fire sprays in the background; speeding down the country-long trench while Darth Vader and his cronies firing at you from behind; Obi-Wan telling you to turn off your targeting computer and use the force to land the one-in-a-million missile shot down the reactor core's exhaust port. Forget Half-Life and forget Panzer Dragoon, this is why 3D videogames exist.
But don't let me geeking out dissuade you, Rogue Squadron 2 works just as well as a game as it does as fan-service. Those who don't even remember what the hell an Aluminum Falcon was in the first place will feel almost as at home as those who do. Cannon fodder ranges from titanic four-legged AT-AT walkers that you'll have to trip up with a cable in the obligatory Hoth snowfield level to a quick assault on an Imperial Star Destroyer. Taking out its shield generators and then ramming the bridge isn't the most complex of tasks, but its gun turrets and the squads of enemy fighters flying around will tear the careless player to shreds. TIE Fighters move realistically, flying in formation until attacked and then quickly scattering and trying to swerve around behind you.
A later mission has you piloting the heavy bomber Y-Wing into an Imperial flight academy to steal a shuttle. Disabling sensors along the outskirts with your ion cannon doesn't stop them from noticing you as soon as you pass a single fighter patrol, but it at least gives you a chance to make it off with the shuttle before they lock the base down. A shuttle isn't meant to withstand much firepower, though, and you'll want to bomb the hell out of the rows upon rows of gun turrets and parker fighters. Awesome, and kudos if some sap is trying to take off and you hit him dead on.
More awesome for us who had the DYNAMIC LASER-FIRING ACTION TIE FIGHTER toys as kids, of course, and though it stands on its own legs as a great game, Rogue Squadron 2 certainly earns its share of praise for catering to this crowd. Boba Fett's frail but powerful gunship Slave I, Han Solo's unwieldy but fast Millenium Falcon... it's all in there. There's even an unlockable Buick car. Really.
Let's go back to that Imperial Academy for a moment. Unlocking things requires getting gold medals on different levels, and I was certainly expecting this mission to play out a bit differently since I had to be more careful if I wanted top honors. What I was not expecting was for the entire level to be different because I happened to be playing at night. Suddenly I was flying one of the ground-hugging speeders and simply hiding below the dusk fog to avoid the sensors rather than disabling them with my ion cannons! This was also when I realized that by picking off a pilot at an outpost, I could steal an unmanned TIE Fighter and fly it around! Base command of course noticed that I wasn't exactly manning my post, but that was as simple a matter as joining one of the formations flying around and letting it take you almost all the way over to the shuttle. Fantastic.
Even with details like these, ten missions just aren't enough: you can blow through this game in an afternoon. Bonus levels range from a take on The Empire Strikes Back's brilliant asteroid chase to a surprising level that has you flying as Darth Vader against the forces attacking the Death Star, but they are undeniably bonus levels: short and easy. That Factor 5 had to pump the game out in a blazing seven months doesn't change the fact that it's over in a flash.
But even I'm not enough of a soul-crushingly pessimistic person for that to bother me. Minor complaints aside, Rogue Squadron 2 is everything that it should have been. It's perfect childhood nostalgia wrapped up in a slick arcade shooter package. It's flying your ship into the Death Star as Luke Skywalker, it's dogfighting Imperial TIE Fighters with battleships blasting away in the background, it's flying through the alleyways of Cloud City while gorgeous orange gas rolls on through. It's a well-made game, no doubt, but more importantly it's what the Star Wars nerd inside all of us has always wanted.
Community review by Cornwell (June 18, 2009)
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