Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
George Lucas' Star Wars universe has always been known for its big things (miles-long spaceships, moon-size bat-testation's, the galaxy-spanning Force, etc.). Likewise, the Nintendo 64 is quickly earning a reputation for big things, too (pick any level from Super Mario 64, then try to explore fever inch of it). Now the L galaxy and the game system have come together- in the form of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. The result is H a game that...well. it sure isn't tiny.
Shadows of the Empire is an epic game experience, much more so than any previous console Star Wars title. Shadows is made up of 10 levels-some of them flying stages, most of them Doomlike. first-person ones. While 10 levels may not sound like many, each stage is broken down into separate challenges. And each stage-in true Star spirit-is huge.
For instance. Level One puts players in the cockpit of a snow speeder during the battle over Hot. The stage starts out simple enough: Players only have to swoop low and blow away a few measly probe droids. Once that mini-mission is accomplished, however, they have to destroy a set number of probe droids and the chicken-like scout walkers. Then they have to destroy droids, scout walkers and AT-ATs. By the time the level is finally beaten, players will have scattered a few thousand tons of Imperial scrap metal over Hot's icy wastes.
Level Four is equally lengthy. This first-person stage starts with players riding atop a speeding hovertrain, ducking under overhangs and leaping from car to car. But it ends in a huge scrap warehouse, where the player has to scramble over mounds of junk to escape the droid bounty hunter IG-88.
Control in Shadows is especially good. During flight stages, the snowspeeder (and later, the spacecraft) handle much like the vehicles in PilotWings 64. thanks to the N64's analog controller. But control in the Doom-inspired stages is state-of-the-art-at least for the first-person genre. The player's character can jump, duck, strafe and look up and down. Players can also control their character's running speed by varying the pressure they apply to the analog stick.
Shadows' graphics are, of course, top-notch-all anti-aliased and detailed and looking straight out of the Star Wars universe. But it is the game's music and sound effects that will probably surprise gamers. The soundtrack sounds too good to be packed in a cartridge (even a 12 Megabyte one like Shadows). Simply put, the game's tunes are almost CD perfect. For instance, the music for Level Three-in which players battle through an asteroid field-is nearly identical to the score from the asteroid-belt scene in The Empire Strikes Back.
The sound effects, too, are true to the trilogy. Laser blasts ring out with the familiar PA-ZAPl The metallic slam of AT-AT fire hitting the snowspeed-er's canopy is bone-jarring. And even the probe droids' odd-sounding radio chatter has been digitized from The Empire Strikes Back.
Vet the game's movie feel is helped by more than just the spectacular graphics and sound effects. Shadows is being developed by LucasArts, the interactive-entertainment branch of the company George Lucas built (when lie wasn't building the Star Wars universe). You better believe the game's developers know Star (Wire, and consequently, Shadows is packed with tons of little extras that make it fit the feel of the films. For instance, the snow troopers in Echo base stand with the same bent-leg stance they hold in The Empire Strikes Back. When the player's snow speeder banks and slows, the trademark airbrakes can be seen extending above and below the craft. Even the barked orders of storm troopers have that amplified mechanical sound the armor-clad soldiers are famous for. Simply put, Shadows is filled with Star Wars authenticity.
Theses little touches help the game bring the Star Wars flicks to life, which is strange, considering that Shadows isn't based on any of the three films. Instead, it's loosely based on the Shadows of the Empire novel, which is set between the events depicted in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The novel, incidentally, sits at the center of a multimedia marketing campaign that also includes action figures, comic books and even a soundtrack (some of the tunes from which can be heard in the game).
Shadows follows the adventures of Dash Rendar-a roguish smuggler and one of the novel's peripheral characters-who is hired by Princess Leia to protect Luke Skywalker. What's this? A tough, would-be Jedi-like Luke needs a bodyguard?
It turns out that the Dark Prince Xizor, leader of the galaxy's largest criminal organization, wants Luke dead. Xizor is one of the Emperor's top cronies, and he figures Luke's death would disgrace Darth Vader. After all, the Emperor ordered Vader to capture Luke alive. With Luke dead, Xizor figures Vader will be banished from the Emperor's side. Xizor would then get in tight with the Emperor and become the second most powerful dude in the galaxy. The prince's little powerplay can only mean bad things for Luke-and Dash, since he must protect the Jedi-in-training.
So players spend the game as Dash, starting out on Hoth and ending in a space battle against Xizor's massive space station, the Skyhook. Along the way. Dash will drive a swoop bike down Beggar's Canyon on Tatooine, slosh through the sewers under Imperial City and cruise the galaxy in his decked-out ship, the Outrider. As the game's story unfolds, players will see familiar faces from the trilogy such as Han, Luke,
Leia, Chewie-even the notorious Boba Fett. These characters pop up both during the game itself and in the cinemas that play between stages.
Even after they beat the game, players will want to jump into Shadows again. Each level holds hidden Challenge Points, which are shaped like Rebel Alliance symbols. Some Challenge Points aren't too challenging to find-they're simply stashed away in secret rooms. Others, like the ones players get for downing AT-ATs with tow cables, are much more difficult. Players earn an extra life if they collect all the points in each level.
Although LucasArts is done developing Shadows, Nintendo isn't releasing the game until Dec. 2. This delay is part of Nintendo's strategy to stagger the release dates of games that were once thought to be launch titles, such as WaveRace 64 (now coming out Nov. 4) and Killer Instinct Gold (which will hit stores on Nov. 25).
The wait for new games may mean N64 owners will have more time to beat Mario 64, but many gamers are no doubt all geared up to take a 64-Bit leap into the Star Wars universe.
The Hovertrain Level--Level Four--is the hardest stage by far. so here's a little tip to help make the going easier.
To progress through the stage, Dash has to leap from car to car (a feat made all the money difficult by the guard droids and other enemies that take pot shots at him from neighboring cars and overhangs).
When jumping co a car ahead of you. don't leap when you're approaching a curve in the train tracks. Since the cars follow the tracks, the car ahead of you wife swing out of the way as you leap, thus causing Dash to miss (and in a broken heap). Instead, make sure the track is straight as far as the eye can see when you leap onto a new car.
- MANUFACTURER - Nintendo
- DIFFICULTY - Moderate
- THEME - Action
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1
Download Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
The Force is with us once again. LucasArts and Nintendo have completed Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and this highly touted early release for the N64 features many of the elements that made the Star Wars film trilogy a success--a classic tale of good versus evil, primo sci-fi hardware, weird aliens, and mucho laser blasts. And it presents all this with a stylized charm and sharp, cutting-edge graphics.
However, Shadows is not for everyone. Familiar gameplay, which mostly involves chasing polygonal henchmen and shooting them down (a la Doom, Duke, Quake, et al.), abounds in this game. This is definitely a Star Wars fan's dream come true, but action/adventure fans not enamored with the Star Wars film universe will find Shadows shadowy.
The 11 levels of Shadows fall into three main categories: flying vehicles, shooting on the run, and shooting while flying. The opening level is a knockout as you begin where the movie The Empire Strikes Back began: on the familiar snow-white terrain of the ice planet Hoth. Imperial Walkers threaten the Rebel defenses, so you pilot a snowspeeder and shoot at AT-STs, AT-ATs, and Probe Droids. As in the movie, you also have to take down the elephantine Walkers by launching tow cables and entangling their feet. It's as impressive and exciting as the cinematic battle for Hoth.
Next you control Dash Ren-dar, a mercenary who, on the orders of Princess Leia, is supposed to be guarding Luke Sky-walker. You walk, run, and jump Doom-style through corridors, blasting Stormtroopers and other Empire heavies while fulfilling mission objectives like detonating Empire strongholds. You pick up different weapons and helpful items, like Boba Fett's rocket pack, but most of the time you're busy blasting Vader's boys.
There is some variety--you swing a Swoop bike (a Harley for mercenaries) through Mos Eisley, you blast TIE fighters and TIE bombers while avoiding asteroids, and you hop along railroad boxcars through a desolate junkyard with some very familiar junk (like abandoned spacecraft from the trilogy movies) lying around. But for the most part, it's shoot first, think later. I am one of the biggest Star Wars fanatics around. Shadows is a solid performer with dazzling good looks, but not the breakthrough superstar the buzz might have led you to expect. Then again, aspiring Jedis will enjoy feeding their jones with Shadows of the Empire.
- When riding the tain, switch to the behind-the-person view tor Dash.
- Use your missiles on large groups of fighters, and on the single fighters ship to ship.
- Only Seeker missiles can take out the Wampas. You can also sit back and watch them fight each other.
- As in the asteroid field, use the missiles on clusters of fighters. Don't let them get behind you. Switch views so you can track their progress all around the ship.
- The Red Guards are the toughest to kill. Use the Laser to stun them, then hit them with Seekers. You can also keep shooting them at point-blank range with the laser.
- Use Seeker missiles on IC-88 bounty hunters. It's the only way to take them down from double-tiered areas iff the palace.
- Loop around the Walkers and release the tow cables as you shoot at their ankles. Keep pressing the tow cable button, because you can fire it as many times as you want to hit the sweet spot.
The crisp polygons are sometimes obscured by murky fog effects. However, there are plenty of familiar, well-rendered Star Wars foes such as Stormtroopers, Wampa monsters, and Probe Droids.
Fully orchestrated music, some of which is sampled directly from the Star Wars movies, follows you wherever you go. Even in the murky sewer areas, the moody music heightens the tension.
Effortless shooting is tempered by sometimes imprecise walking and jumping controls. Turning corners on ledges is especially tricky, as is making chasm jumps.
It must be reiterated--if you're a fan of the Star Wars films, this game is for you. Others may want to reserve their N64 money for other titles.
Shadows will dish out top-end challenge. The game will consist of 10 locations, which in turn contain several stages each. Although completing the game will require linear progression through the levels, there are multiple pathways through the game. Also, every stage has Challenge Points, which are hidden areas or pathways that test your skills and reward you with power-ups and special items if you successfully complete them.
Dash to The Rescue
Shadows will be a straightforward action/adventure game that packs a galaxy of gameplay. You'll fly a snowspeeder against Imperial forces on Hoth, then fight a blaster battle on foot with Stormtroopers at Echo Base. Later, you'll race on a swoop bike against a gang of assassins, Shadows even places you in a shooter-style dogfight as you blast TIE fighters and TIE bombers from the gun port of your ship, the Outrider.
The preview cart's graphics were a knockout! The Star Wars universe was beautifully rendered, and obviously LucasArts ensures that fans will find familiar characters, vehicles, and situations. You can switch among behind-the-vehide, behind-the-character, and first-person views.
The Shadows Story
Shadows picks up the Star Wars saga immediately following the movie, The Empire Strikes Back Bobba Fett is taking Han (encased in car-bonite) to Jabba the Hutt. Leia. Lando, and Chew-bacca are hot on Fett's trail. Luke is oft perfecting his Jedi skills.
Dash Rendar. a mercenary and smuggler, is on a secret mission to protect Luke Skywalker from bounty hunters employed by the evil Prince Xizor, who seeks to wrest control of the Empire from the Emperor and Lord Darth Vader. The N64 game "shadows" the "Shadows of the Empire" novel and the Dark Horse comic book by featuring the basic situations and most of the characters, but it won't follow the exact same story line.
One of the most eagerly awaited games of the year is Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, a LucasArts game coming exclusively to the Nintendo 64. The most exciting facet of the game is its plot: Shadows delivers a fully developed story line that fits snugly into the chronology of the three original Star Wars movies.
Return of the Story
It's the placement of the Shad ows story that's unusual. Rather than being tacked onto the end of the trilogy, the Shadows plot bridges the second installment (The Empire Strikes Back) and the denouement (Return of the Jedi).
Thus, in Shadows Darth Vader is still the Emperor's right-hand man, Han Solo is still a frozen wall ornament, and Luke and Leia still don't know they're related. Other familiar Star Wars names in the new plot include Chew-bacca, Lando Calrissian, the bounty hunter Boba Fett, the Millennium Falcon, Hoth, and Mos Eisley. For Lucas fans, playing Shadows will be like going home...to a galaxy far, far away.
The 12-level Shadows story describes a power struggle between the Emperor's number-two henchman, Darth Vader, and a powerful new character, the Dark Underlord Xizor (pronounced "she-zore"). The green-skinned Xizor is a ruthless crime lord who wants to assassinate Luke Skywalker and usurp Vader's power. Vader still wants to find his son, Luke, and so, in a flashback to The Empire Strikes Back, he sends the Imperial Starfleet on a search to Hoth. Shadows of the Empire opens with AT AT walkers confronting Rebel Snowspeeders over icy fields. A run-n-gun shootout inside Echo Base and a dogfight with TIE Fighters in an asteroid field ensue.
The story then moves to the Imperial City, an imposing place where Vader and Xizor have palaces. Despite a flight through Smuggler's Gorge and a fight inside a spaceport, the Rebels are unable to keep the bounty hunter Boba Fett from escaping to Tatooine with the carbomte-frozen Han.
Gather No Mos
Mos Eisley is the setting for subsequent shooter action and the disclosure of Xizor's sinister intentions. More run-n-gun action leads to a hidden fortress in the Imperial City where Leia is being held captive. When Xizor dashes off in a shuttle, Darth and his armada of TIE Fighters fly in to kill him, joined by Rebel fighters in a wild aerial melee. Ultimately, Luke and Leia's search for Han continues in Return of the Jedi.
What's the best way to sell a new game system? Use a well-known license to develop games. And if you haven't heard of Star Wars, then you probably haven't heard of video games.
Shadows of the Empire, which takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, looks like it should push the N64's hardware and provide solid, multifaceted gameplay. With levels that vary from outer-space flying to Doom-style shooting and featuring appearances by Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, and Darth Vader, Shadows looks like the perfect game for SW freaks and video game junkies.
The Empire is primed to strike back in dramatic fashion. You'll spearhead the Rebel Alliance's forces by flying several types of Star Wars spacecraft from cock pit and outside-the-ship views. Early demos featured the snow-speeders, but expect to fly X-j wings and speeder bikes, too.
The story is set in between the movies The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Of course, the evil Emperor's forces will feature classic Empire hardware like the Imperial Walkers.
It's not yet clear how much of a participant Darth Vader will be. But rest assured that the Dark Side of the Force will be in full fury.
I know what some of you are thinking: I gave this one a 9.0 just because it deals with Star Wars. Actually, if anything, that would make me review it more closely. Shadows is the coolest Star Wars game I've ever played. It's better than anything on the consoles or on the PC. The graphics are incredible with few polygonal flaws. The music is the best I've heard on the N64 thus far. It's great that there are different types of levels. It's not Just all one genre. There's Doom-lsh levels, flying levels and racing levels--It's like several games in one. Plus, each of the different level's control i is as great as the other. A deal even for $70 or $80.
Strange. I find myself applauding the variety put into Smote, but at tile same time, the only level In the game that I truly enjoyed was the Snow Speeder Stage (the gem of this cart). All of the--if you Will-Doom levels really bored me. They didn't offer anything that I haven't experienced before, and the fog shading was poured on a tad thick. I was mildly entertained in the Asteroid and Skyhook areas, but I found myself only wanting to refight the snowy Battle of Hot. Fans of the movies should check this game out; the prevalent Star Wars theme masks much of the game's shortcomings. Wars fans need not apply.
Shadows tries to be several games in one-a first-person shooter, a flight-combat game, a driving game-and it does a pretty good job at pulling off each style of play. Of course, some levels are better than others. The first stage, which has you piloting a snow speeder over Hoth, is outstanding and looks like it's straight from the movie. The first-person stages, however, are less Impressive. They're plenty long (one takes more than an hour to complete), but they hold few puzzles and can get a little lean on action sometimes. The hovertraln level, on the other hand, Is revolutionary. Shadows' music and sound effects are also superb.
After all the hoopla surrounding Shadows, I was expecting a lot more than what was presented here. Essentially what you get is a poor first-person shooter on top of an awesome Hoth battle sequence. Let's just say the first four stages (very short) are to die for. After that, you get a mish-mosh of first-person, racing and skeet shooting. Probably the most irritating thing about the first-person portion is the horrid control. Dash Rendar is a clumsy beast, for sure. He doesn't side-step, his boots need traction and other than the Doom-style view, the views are blocked by Dash's body. Too bad this happens in over half the game.
With the home movie release of the Star Wars Trilogy, Nintendo thought it proper to give U64 users the chance to climb into the cockpit of the Snow Speeder and defend the rebel base from the Imperial Walkers. Battling in an arctic setting, you and your comrades are battling against not only the AT-ATs, but also the Scout Walkers and possibly even the Probots.
As with most of the Nintendo titles, not much of the game is being shown so early in its development, so everyone will just have to wait and see until Nintendo releases more info on these titles. Be sure not to miss this Star Wars release, because Nintendo has the exclusive rights to have this one solely appear on the Ultra 64. In other words, don't plan on seeing it available on any other system.
Battle against Imperial forces invading the Rebel base on the frozen planet, Hoth. Star Wars Shadow of the Empire has you flying against AT-ATs and Scout Walkers using the supplied weaponry in your Snow Speeder. This title looks to be more of a flight simulator as seen in the computer release, X-Wing, but appears to have more action allowing you to get a real feel for the smooth flight and incredible action as a Snow Speeder pilot. Star Wars fanatics should not miss out on this one, because its graphics and play appear to be outstanding.
A decidedly dodgy Star Wars cash-in that was hugely over-rated when it was first released because of N64 euphoria. Time hasn't treated Shadows kindly, though -it's a kind of third-rate Tomb Raider meets Starfox, with some very lumpen subgames that should have had their throats crushed at birth. "Do, or do not," said Yoda. This one does not.
The usual Imperial tactic for ground attack is to deploy a group of four Probe Droids in advance of the major land forces. An air-braked Snow Speeder sweep parallel to our emplacements can take these out quickly in a ‘one, two, turn, three and four' formation.
The Imperial's initial strike force consists of two AT-ST walkers supported by four Probe Droids.Rebel intelligence has discovered a weakness in this formation. AT-STs have only a 180° line of fire. Thus, by flying to the edge of the engagement area and flying air-braked up behind the Walkers, Snow Speeders can be immune from their fire. As you approach the" Walker, pull out of your run and turn back before flying past (and thus into the line of fire of the Walker's cannon fire). Three slow approaches on each Walker should be enough to take it out. Pick off the Probe Droids as previously described.
The second wave of Imperial attack will consist of four Probe Droids and two AT-STs flanking an AT-AT Walker. Approach this formation with caution. Survey the enemy layout and skirt the battlefield until your Snow Speeder is behind the Imperial direction of attack. Take out the AT-STs as described previously. Now engage the AT-AT from behind. Fly in quickly, and, once close, engage the air brake and keep it held. When your computer gives you the go-ahead, launch your harpoon and be ready to pilot your craft from the remote position. To trip an AT-AT, you'll have to circle it about four times. To circle clockwise, the joystick should be held diagonal down right, returning to the central neutral position to fly straight along the longer sides of the Walker. Tripping the AT-AT will gain pilots a Challenge Point. Beware: i harpoons are limited on every level other than Easy.
Mop up the battlefield by picking off the remaining Probe Droids as previously described.
The final wave of Imperial attack will consist of three AT-STs and four Probe Droids supporting two AT-AT Walkers. Approach this battle as before, locating the rear of the battleground and concentrating initially on the AT-STs. A Challenge Point is awarded for each AT-AT successfully harpooned and tripped.
Farty Star Wars tie-in made up of numerous subgames, most of which are crap. Even Lucas fanatics should think twice about it.
Fab snowspeeder and space battles are ultimately let down by some lacklustre Doom-style bits. It still has a great Star Wars feel though.
From the breath-taking opening battle of Hoth, with your powering Snowspeeder whipping between the legs of AT-AT walkers, buffetted by Imperial fire, Shadows of the Empire appears almost revelatory in its aesthetic glory. Make no mistake, this is a game designed to 'wow' a generation with its sizzling visuals.LucasArts has wisely rejected - the sim pretensions of X-Wing and TIE-Fighter in favour of a distinctly Nintendo-esque experience designed for the young at heart. This is no kiddies adventure though, and like Mario 64, the term 'interactive movie' is equally applicable. Although Shadows Of The Empire is unquestionably flawed in comparison to the 64's truest killer app, its ambitious and frequently stunning glories ensure its status as a genuine next generation game, and unquestionably the most satisfying and ambitious tie-in ever delivered.
This is the closest you'll get to living and breathing the atmosphere of Star Wars, so much so that it's akin to sitting back on a theme park movie ride, except in Shadows, you're not on rails, but in a war zone. Before you've even adjusted to the sledgehammer ferocity of the Hoth battle,cut-away animated comic strips flash the unrolling narrative and push you into the next chapter. Shadows greatest trick is to never let you catch up...
The camera rushes through an ice encrusted hanger scattered with snowspeeders, and you receive your introduction to alter-ego Dash Rendar.
Brown and blue fatigues clad your character who stands, edging from side to side with blaster drawn.
Flick through the variety of cam modes and you can admire the detail of your next generation, texture mapped hero, sculpted down to the stubble on his face. Crouch and he'll fall to the ground, extend his blaster hand and track as you use the Z-button to scan the surroundings. Pull back to the pre-set view, following Rendar from slightly behind, nudge forward on the analogue stick he'll start walking through the smooth scrolling Rebel hanger.
Hearing activity ahead, you push the stick harder and Rendar starts sprinting, drawing a bead as you move towards an Imperial welcoming committee. Ignoring their calls to halt, you let off a few burst of your blaster and watch the snowtroopers crumple to the floor in a way no other games machine could re-create.
Turn into another hangar and the Millennium Falcon lifts slowly into the air, its engine glowing, but as you run to catch up, the engine roars and it accelerates over head, vanishing into the distance. The enormous sense of depth and high detail of objects at far distances exemplifying the N64's superior aliasing and mip-mapping -there's not a rough edge in the game -and close up, the texture mapping applied to everything from the walls and doors to Render's jacket and glinting jetpack create an illusion of reality that is unrivalled, encouraging you to explore the horizon.
Xizor's palace is quite extraordinary, a cathedral-like labyrinth of corridors, halls and chasms, blending motifs of gothic, Chinese and Imperial architecture, all swathed in fabulously moody lighting. Red strip lights on the stairs and walls throw crimson colours across Render's features, the armour of Coruscant Guards shimmer out of the ethereal mauve fog as they storm towards you, lasers flashing. Gigantic chasms swathed in mist obliterate your view as you descend into the bowels of never-ending chambers.
The grainy filters applied to many interior levels, most prominent in the murky sewers of the Imperial City; accentuate the atmosphere of murky; gritty realism, and contrast beautifully with the crystal clear, bright exteriors of Mos Eisley and Beggar's Canyon, or the opaque beauty of Hoths' ice formations. Whilst the constant re-introduction of familiar props, from the AT-ST as end-boss, to an Imperial shuttle, roaring overhead as you traverse Gall spaceport on a skiff, homogenise the many varied game styles so that every level feels like a natural chapter in the same.
Playing Project Reality
Playing the game as (or with) a Star Wars fan, the hysteria is immense. Around every corner there's a slice of history exploited with superlative inventiveness. From the first, gorgeously rendered snowtrooper felled to the last, epic space battle, it's impossible to list all the delightful flashes of joy, although as set pieces go, the confrontation with Bobba Fett which marks the climax of the Gall spaceport section must rank as the most extraordinary. You find yourself in the middle of a gigantic, circular hanger, the walls above you are hundreds of feet high and laced with ledges packed with power-ups and weapons. A lot of power-ups, you realise. And it's suddenly quiet.
Your view cuts to the centre of the arena, from where Bobba Fett casually appears from a lift in the floor. The camera zooms towards him, and for a few seconds, you can admire the phenomenal texture mapping and animation as he leaps Into the air and pounces to the ground, crouched like a lion, targeting its prey.
The camera pulls back to your point of view, and Fett is suddenly accelerating towards you, jetpack roaring, twin lasers blasting. To shoot back seems almost sacrilegious. You just want to look, but taking a deep breath, you power up your own jetpack and blast skyward to engage in an exhilarating battle of wits. Fett doesn't just try and kill you. He hunts you down!Skulking on the ground, hovering high above or traversing the ledges, he'll suddenly vanish, then appear over your head, blasters trained and shooting with devastating accuracy, hitting harder when you weaken, running for cover If you get some good hits yourself. Eventually, A he retreats, giving you a breather, until the ground splits in two, and from the darkness, Slave 1 gracefully emerges, twin lasers swivelling on its snout to draw a bead on you... Now it gets serious.
The mixed reception afforded Shadows on its American release isn't entirely surprising, with the prevailing criticism that the game's too fractured and erratic grounded in fact. Whilst the Hoth battle scores ten on the Richter scale, early Doom sections, particularly on easy mode are relatively sparten, and the simplistic asteroids section also suffers in comparison.
However, it's churlish to criticise LucasArts for its ambition, and considering the enormous variety on offer, it's remarkable that the game delivers as often as it does. Critics who've bemoaned the relatively linear nature of the 3-D exploration sections as flash but insubstantial Doom clones are missing the point. By placing Rendar 'in' the environment, the sense of scale and involvement when balanced above yawning chasms, or staring up at looming AT-STs blows away any id inspired variant for sheer heightened realism and downright fun.
And as a flagship title, too,Shadows promises a thousand delights for future games. At least half of this game blows away every lesser console and PC title in existence for sheer visceral action and exuberance (even the weakest stages, such as the Swoop chase, deliver cutting edge visuals), and itls impossible not to look at state-of-the-art 32-bit titles with a sense of pity.
Set against it's only true peer, the faultless Mario 64, Shadows is inevitably a flawed masterpiece, but LucasArts should be proud of its contribution to the Nintendo 64's successful launch and few will be disappointed with this truly worthy addition to the Star Wars legacy.
Part 1 - The Battle of Hoth
Battle of Hoth
The breath-taking introduction to Shadows has Rendar leading a squadron of Rebel snowspeeders helping keep the Imperial ground attack in check as the fleet escapes. Initially, Probots and AT-STs need to be eliminated, but when the first intruders have been dispatched, the gargantuan AT-AT walkers enter the fray, swiftly decimating the rebel defences...
At full pelt, your speeder whips above the snow like a bullet, but slamming on the air brakes pulls the craft back to a slow attack pace, and alternating speed and is essential to evading enemy fire. Rolling left or right with the joystick, the appropriate air flaps wink open or shut to steer you, and even your wing men provide invaluable assistance, finishing off weakened enemies and joining in on attack runs. The criss-cross of red (Imperial) and blue (Rebel) laser fire makes for a chaotic battleground, with smoke pouring from your fuselage if hit. But blasting the heads of probots and AT-ST walkers on initial attacks is easy enough. However, when the AT-ATs lumber onto centre stage, serious thought is required. Head mounted blasters recoiling, AT-ATs require an enormous amount of accurate head hits to kill, but if you're feeling lucky (and want to earn the challenge points), you can swoop to ground level and shoot a harpoon to their underbellies. Judge correctly, and the scene cuts away to a rotating movie pan, as you attempt to circle the monsters three times, still avoiding enemy fire yet keeping your lasso tight enough to entangle and topple them.
Almost worth the asking price for this section alone, the exhilarating, utterly free play is bolstered by the outstanding music and sound effects that continue throughout the game. Just as Lucas acknowledged the importance of Ben BurtVS distinctive sound design and John Williams' sweeping soundtrack, so the authentic, familiar sound effects and music of Shadows maximise the Star Wars experience.
Whipping between the legs of an AT-AT, slamming on the air brakes, then blasting the head from a rogue AT-ST is as much fun as you can get, but although it's tempting to rush centre-stage blasting initially, it's more fruitful to circle and plot, picking off the weaker AT-STs and probots from the periphery of the battleground, so that no-one's sniping at you when you're trying to bring down the AT-ATs. Ifs all too easy to chart an attack route on the rear of a lumbering AT-AT without noticing three scout walkers have circled you, and the buffeting you'll receive as they let loose a salvo of lasers is both thrilling and terminal, as your snowspeeder kisses snow in a looping wipeout of flames.
Escape From Echo Base
Whilst the rest of the Rebels have escaped Echo base, Dash's ship, the Outrider, is trapped in Bay 3, whose doors must be opened from the control centre at the heart of the base. Imperial forces are sweeping through the corridors in search of stragglers, and as Dash sprints through the labyrinth, armed with just his blaster, the odds seem stacked against him...
Running around the first corridor, you see the Falcon accelerate out of it's hanger, as the Snowtroopers who were targeting that prize turn their attention to yourself. Amongst the abundance of camera options, the first person Doom view appears most sensible at first, but in fact the Mario 'over-the-shoulder* camera provides the best choice. Not only does the game run faster, but on the tricky jumps and narrow platforms, It's the only way to achieve pixel-perfect accuracy.
Targeting and blasting snowtroopers and automated gun placements is easy enough, as you push forward into the centre of the base, where the first lift leads you up to the hanger door control room, containing six buttons which must be thrown to activate the two enormous gears that are placed parallel with the central gantry. Inside these, you'll find two hidden challenge points. Along the way, you'll also find a prison containing Wampas, best avoided as their swatting arms inflict massive damage.
Pushing on through a tunnel which cracks and splits as you traverse it, you'll reach the hanger that interconnects with the Outrider's hanger, patrolled by an AT-ST. Circling this hanger are a series of platforms scattered with power-ups, including an invincibility cloak, which can be reached by climbing up the various crates. Killing the chicken walker is simple enough if you keep a cool head. Rush straight towards it, then try to keep directly underneath, circling with it to avoid blasts from its front mounted lasers, whilst blasting its chest and head. In later confrontations, pulse lasers and seekers will blast it in a minute, but with just your blaster, you'll have to pummel away for ages before it topples. Once it's down, blast the crates to collect any extra power-ups and move into the Outrider hanger, killing the few snowtroopers on guard, and boarding your craft. This section sets the tone for most of the V platformer/blasting sections f^K of the game. A wide variety of environments in each section, simple (and few) button punching puzzles, and plenty of action. Although it takes a while to get used to Dash's analogue control system, soon you'll be sprinting across narrow ledges and leaping across chasms with gusto. It's also a good level to practice strafing (holding down the Z-trigger) in preparation for more intense levels to come.
Dash has escaped Hoth in his freighter, the Outrider, but an Imperial fleet is giving chase and an asteroid field is slowing his escape. You can't make the escape to hyperspace until you've wiped out the TIE fighters that are following you. Your mechanical co-pilot, LE-B02D9 is piloting the Outrider, leaving you to man the top and bottom mounted blasters. Glowing red asteroids conceal the challenge points you need to collect in order to finish the level clean...
Whilst the screaming TIE fighters and smoothly rotating Outrider create a wonderful impression, the simplistic action is something of a disappointment. The inability to steer yourself through the asteroid field is frustrating, but the frenetic, spectacular action provides some compensation. As well as regular TIE fighters to target, TIE bombers prowl your circumference, dispatching
glowing green thermal detonators which must be blasted before exploding against your hull. As well as the top and bottom mounted blasters on your ship, an infinite supply of homing concussion-missiles are available, although these must be reloaded every nine shots, forcing you to deploy them with caution. The asteroids themselves are showcase glitz that can be ignored as Leebo charts a path through them.
The attractive graphics and soaring soundtrack enhance what Is essentially a filler level. TIEs that are clipped spin like balls of fire, whistling right over your shoulder, and although the external view is tougher to use, over the bow of the Outrider, it's much more fun to watch your ship spin and dip as the legion of TIEs circle and swoop. The cockpit view offers more comprehensive HUDs, which flash up graphics of whatever ship you're targeting, and this format is revisited with stunning success in the final battle against Xizor's Skyhook...
Part 2 - In Search of Boba Fett
Ord Mantell Junkyard
Since the Battle Of Hoth, Han Solo has been ensnared by Darth Vader and passed on to Boba Fett. Hired by Luke and Leia, Dash travels to Ord Mantell, where Fett's rival bounty hunter, IG-88, is known to be scavenging for spacecraft equipment. Dash must travel along the scum patrolled train track that leads to the junkyard where IG-88 is lurking, in the hope that he can be persuaded to reveal Fett's location...
This is the first level to really showcase Shadow's sumptuous fogging effect, which ensures that as the train you 'surf* moves smoothly through derelict wastelands packed with wrecked spacecraft (and even crumbling AT-ATs), there's never any pop up. After the interiors of the Rebel base on Hoth, this section contrasts impressively with its mammoth horizon and abundance of suitably weathered texture maps.
For the first couple of minutes, stood atop a meandering train, you must leap above or duck below supports that criss-cross over your route, whilst avoiding and blasting darting Dogbots (rapid firing drones). As you progress through the desolate terrain, your track intersects with new lines and parallel trains, manned by guards and assassin droids which must be traversed to ensure you stay on the one correct route to the junkyard. Jumping side to side across trains, blasting guards, assassin droids and exploring carriages for power-ups and challenge points, the action is both intense and tricky. With narrow carriage tops to negotiate and plenty of traversing to be done, it's here that you learn the importance of mastering Dash's analogue control system. The difference between edging forward and sprinting to catch your connection is significant.
Get to the junkyard itself, and your problems are only just beginning. IG-88 is the second major boss (after Hoth's AT-ST), and proves more challenging. The tall mechanoid waits on top of an enormous junk pile, burbling irate white noise, but when he spots you, he leaps to greet you, rifles blasting and giving chase when you run. As one of the most agile and intelligent bosses, stalking and running away is the key to success here, the most important advice being not to let him out of your sight. A good tip is to listen out for his electronic feedback, which invariably provides a clue to his location if you can't see him. As a one-on-one battle of cat and mouse, this is exhilarating stuff, making any so called boss from Doom look like it's nailed to the floor, and it takes a few practice runs before you can outwit this agile bounty hunter.
The defeated IG-88 has revealed the location of Fett at Imperial moon base on the desert planet Gall. Dash's objective is to track down Fett before he can repair Slave 1 and escape with his frozen cargo.
The cut scene zooms down to the Outrider, safely landed on the outskirts of the desert. The game opens with Dash in the belly of his own ship, access to the cockpit denied by the insistent Leebo!
Treading out onto the planet surface, the 'physical1 presence of the game is again accentuated, as you explore the underside of your spacecraft. You can even climb onto the hull to locate a challenge point.
Pushing on, the high cliffs and lethal chasms are populated by stormtroopers, probots. Imperial commandos, IG drones and computer controlled gun turrets. The Tatooine-like planet unravels beautifully, and jiggling between views is essential to negotiate the crevices and chasms that prove all too easy to tumble down. The seeker proves Invaluable too, for eliminating distant soldiers and previewing upcoming locations. There's even a few 'sand' Wampas lurking inside hidden caves along the cliff face that leads to the Imperial base. Once at the base, the stormtrooper count increases, as youYe forced to explore the dark interiors, with lifts and corridors providing close encounters at every turn. On the lifts, it's handy to use the Z-trigger to look up, as often you'll see stormtroopers waiting for you.
Halfway through the level, you'll reach an Imperial control tower, and pick up a jetpack, which you'll keep for later levels. The first challenge is jetting across a series of enemy patrolled buttes. The ietpack has a limited thrust and giddy feel, making safe negotiation tricky, but once you get used to it, the extra freedom afforded by it becomes liberating. Move through the final hangers of the Imperial base, using skiffs and jetpack, and defeating another scout walker, and you'll get to the mamfhoth, exterior hangar that houses Fett and Slave l. Battling Fett,the best tactic is to hug the walls, collecting power-ups and resisting mid-air confrontations, just picking off Fett from afar then running for cover. And although Slave 1 looks like unreasonable force, it's just a case of circling the underside, a few steps ahead of Its blasters, and slamming seekers into the rear (turn the seeker-cam off). A massive level, to be sure but delivering some of the most fun gameplay and powerful visuals in the entire g ame.
Part 3 - Hunting the Assassins
Mos Eisley & Beggar's Canyon
Dispatched to protect Luke on Tatooine who's meditating with the Force in solitude at Obi-Wan Kenobi's home. Dash's intelligence network inform him that Jabba The Hutt has dispatched a gang of mercenaries to assassinate the Jedi Knight. From the sun bleached city centre of Mos Eisley spaceport to the desolate wastes of Beggar's Canyon, Dash gives chase to the hit squad on his Swoop, a civilian, customised speeder bike...
After the gargantuan toil of Gall Spaceport this high speed chase through city streets promises a welcome change of space. Predictably, the convoluted, retrofitted compacts and shops of Mos Eisley are gorgeously realised, whilst Dash himself, astride his weathered hover bike Is superb. The over the shoulder view offers the more impressive display; but the first person option is easier, enabling you to use the airfoils as a guide to precise steering. This is essential, as the narrow streets and phenomenal pace of the action makes accuracy an Imperative, as you chase the gang of swoop mercenaries through and out of the city; into Beggar's Canyon, a desolate route of canyons whose only occupants are tendril waving Sarlacc monsters.
When a swoop rider is spotted, it's simply a question of following, matching speed, then using the shoulder buttons to ram into their side, smashing them against a wall. The city is scattered with challenge points and extra lives, usually hovering between speed ramps or nestling in nooks and crannies that must be jumped. Use the strafe button for a speed burst, and the top shoulder buttons to veer left or right, ramming the swoop riders Into walls.
Although this interlude is impressive visually and good fun to play (it's incredibly fast), it still seems a wasted opportunity to borrow the speeder bike chase from Return Of The Jedi yet remove the fundamental thrill — the trees. Negotiating tight corners and narrow streets is inevitably less exciting than whipping through a forest of trees, and impact with the architecture merely slows you down, rather than providing high speed crashes. Again, however, details boost the fun factor, with an Imperial shuttle launch from the city centre as you race across a landing pad proving particularly impressive.
Imperial Freighter Suprosa
Cordinates of the Empire's second Death Star are being transferred via the Imperial Shuttle Suprosa, and Rendar must battle through the Stormtrooper infested ship to find and log-on to the super-computer; downloading the info and escaping on the Outrider.
A relatively short yet brilliant level, this perfectly captures the claustrophobic, action-packed movie feel, with narrow corridors, plenty of droids and baddies to blast and no letup at all.
Play is conventional, straightforward progression, until you reach the cargo room, a hermetically sealed series of metal doors built up over three levels. The correct sequence to punch into the two door keys is illustrated above.
Blocking the way to the supercomputer and escape is the Loader Droid, another impressive end-boss, with extending arms and plenty of firepower, but limited smarts. By now, your armoury should be extensive, and slamming seekers or pulse bolts into it's rear or face whilst strafing will finish it off swiftly. After downloading the information, Leebo pilots the Outrider to the hanger doors, and the level is complete.
Part 4 - Lair of the Dark Prince
Sewers Of Imperial City
Princess Leia, seeking favour with Prince Xizor, has been kidnapped, and it's up to Dash to work through the sewers beneath his palace and gain entry.
The city sewers offer a comparatively small adventure, with co-ordination in the labyrinth of tunnels and cesspools paramount to success. The sewers are riddled with Coruscant guards and IG Drones, which appear from the fog around every comer. The maze is very much three-dimensional, in that tunnels lead you to explore up and down as much as horizontally; and the skilful use of your jetpack is essential, as well as negotiating the Z-button to aim up and down to target lurking soldiers. A degree of button punching trial and error is required to open loch gates, pump water out of new areas, and trigger huge, circular spinning wheels that remain static and impenetrable until activated.
Underwater exploration is compulsory, also, as many areas can only be reached by jetting into pits of slime, which are populated by Dianogas multi-tentacled swamp monsters that lurch towards you and are difficult to spot in the murky, dar< haze of waste. Oxygen is limited, and you must learn the geography of the underwater labyrinths to ensure you don't become lost without any route to air. The final barrier between you and Xizoft palace, is a gigantic Dianoga. that possess such a mutant accelerated metabolism, that it regenerates damaged tentacles instantly; and can only be destroyed by repeated shots to its eye which 6 curls protectively, by its cavernous mouth at the base of the pit If you've collected the disrupters by now, this shouldn't prove a problem.
Luke, Lando and Chewbacca are searching for Leia at Xizor's palace, whilst in the meantime, Rendar must activate three thermal detonators to ensure their Imminent escape is afforded a cover...
A brief yet thrilling conclusion to the first-person games, Xizor's palace is moodily lit and wondrously designed, architectural ruminations denied by the sheer number and ferocity of the Coruscant guards. Two bridges must be opened to connect (and open the doors) of separated halls, but with your jetpack and plenty of weapons available, progress should be simple.
When you reach the central core, locate the three green switches (using your jetpack) and activate them. Leebo will tell you the thermals are ready, but before you leave, passage is blocked by Xizor's personal bodyguard, the gigantic Gladiator Droid.This towering mechanoid possesses an astonishing array of weapons to burn you with, including pulse blasts, guided missiles and most devastating, a head mounted laser beam, with which It scours the arena. It also has three 'lives', since it can be reduced to a torso, then just a flying head before being terminally dispatched. Ideally; you'll have stockpiled plenty of disrupters, which sap its strength significantly; but failing that, resort to close range seekers, pulse blasts and, finally; close quarter blaster action, making sure to use negotiate your jetpack skilfully to avoid face to face
confrontations. When your jetpack eventually malfunctions and the floor collapses to create a labyrinth, run as fast as you can, shooting wandering droids and collecting power-ups, before aiming up at It's floating head and getting off short bursts of fire.
Unquestionably the most Impressive end-game boss, it's tough mainly due to the power of its attack rather than cunning. The key is to keep moving at all times, and work through your arsenal intelligently; adapting as your weapons run out.
With everyone safely rescued from the Skyhook, It only seems natural to blow the hell out of the Space Station. With the Falcon and a fleet of X-Wings in tow, you take control of the Outrider in a bid to end Xizor's quest for power once and for all...
A stunning showcase of pyrotechnic mayhem, this delivers what was merely hinted at in the earlier asteroid section, pulling the Outrider off the rails so that you can navigate your own course to glory.
The first task is to blast the four defence towers perched on the outreached arms of the space station, by making several attack runs on each gun emplacement, weakening and eventually destroying them. Now the 'arms' of the space station are exposed, and each offers a slim runway to the reactor of the space station. Piloting through all four access points, you must launch four missiles at the reactor, then beat a path out as the Skyhook joins the Death Star as another mighty killing machine downed by poor design...
A fitting climax, this bodes well for the up-coming Starfox 64, with some of the most complex and faultlessly pulled off graphical trickery on show in the game. The speed and manoeuvrability of the Outrider echo your snowspeeder, and whizzing around the immense architecture of the Skyhook, skimming the surface of a nosy Star Destroyer and blasting TIEs and Star Vipers is great fun (the sight of the Millennium Falcon veering across your path is enough to reduce any Star Wars fan to tears). Tactics wise, the Skyhook battle is a simple test of reactions, decimating the surrounding armada of enemy ships as fast as possible before taking on the mammoth space station itself.
LucasArts, which brought you Monkey Island, Dark Forces and Rebel Assault, to name just a few of the company's games, is all set to unleash its biggest and perhaps most important game to date. Sure, LucasArts can make a bundle of money selling copies of Shadows Of the Empire to N64 kids, but this game could affect the sales of the actual hardware.
Shadows is an all-encompassing title, with a variety of graphic and play styles included on one cartridge.The one we've shown most in past issues is the 3D flight-sim/shooter set above the icy wastes of planet Hoth. Revealed at E3 were a couple of new levels, including a Doom-style corridor shooter and the incredibly impressive asteroid level.This is what Star Wars games should really be about. All the action will be interspersed with some hamhanded blah about the Empire. One of the problems with setting this game between Empire and Jedi is that we already know what happens, and you don't get to kill Darth Vader or the Emperor. Personally, I reckon the Emperor survived his fall into the death chasm and needs killing. LucasArts should concentrate its resources on a game where you get to kill the Emperor.
Anyway, spectacular graphics and some of the best music we've ever heard combine to make Shadows of the Empire one of the most exciting Nintendo 64 games in the pipeline.
The Star Wars universe has always been immediately impressive and alive with vibrant sounds, action, exhilarating music, and an unforgettable cast, and the movies were so well done that it was easy to lose yourself in the Star Wars world, a rarity among current movies. Then when Star Wars and PC games were married with the blockbuster hit X-Wing, I was excited to see what would come out next. To my delight, most of the Star Wars games to date for the PC have been excellent, and thus the expectations from gamers is always high for the next release because of past success and the overall quality that was portrayed in the movies. Naturally, I was excited to get my copy of Shadows of the Empire, which is set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I liked this idea for the plot because it enabled the producers to immerse you in the Star Wars universe as you know it, as well as introducing some new and exciting characters.
You play Dash Rendar, a strong, Indiana Jones-style hero complete with three-day stubble and Duke Nukem biceps, whom you guide through air, land and space missions in your effort to save the universe. Don't worry, you will still get your fill of familiar Star Wars characters -- complete with a cameo by Luke Skywalker and many others -- so strap yourself in. Shadows of the Empire doesn't disappoint.
Shadows of the Empire is one of those games that tries to do it all, from a flight sim to a first-person shooter to a racing sim. Usually these types of games fall flat because their focus is not on one particular area, and the game either sucks or is just so-so at best. I am happy to say, though, that Shadows of the Empire is the exception to this rule. Granted, Shadows of the Empire- does not do a first-person shooter as well as Quake, nor a flight sim as well as _X-Wing, but it does well enough at each type to make it great fun. In fact, there are things about Shadows of the Empire that I like better than those other games; I even found myself wishing the levels were longer so I could fly that snow speeder a while longer. And I was immediately pleased to find out that Shadows of the Empire is not a rail shooter (I hate rail shooters) but a well-put-together game engine encompassed in a linear plot.
The game is divided into episodes, each of which you must solve in succession (no skipping to the last level) to get you to your goal -- which is, of course, saving the universe. At the beginning of the game and between each episode you are treated to very well-done cutscenes which propel the storyline and really immerse you in the universe of this game. You can use just about any input device to pilot your ship, speeder, character, etc. and I found myself switching between my joystick and the keyboard all the time depending on what I was doing. The controls were very intuitive and easy to configure, so there is surely something here to fit most gamers' tastes.
Shadows of the Empire is a 3D-only game, so you must have a compatible video card to play. I recommend a 3Dfx card (I used a Diamond Monster 3D) since I got great results from with that setup. The graphics are absolutely stunning in most areas, and the animations are great -- Shadows of the Empire definitely gets a high score for graphics. In the first episode when you are flying over the planet Hoth, the detail and flight model are incredible, not to mention the explosions and animations. In the first-person action sequences, it was great fun shooting the bad guys and watching them fly back or off a cliff, burning and smoldering from my red-hot laser blasts. There were a very few places that I felt could have used some extra detail, but overall this game ROCKS in the graphics department. Oh -- can't forget the cutscenes -- absolutely awesome, I think the best I've seen in any video game.
The sounds and musical score are incredible -- if you're a fan of the stirring Star Wars score, you definitely won't be disappointed. The music is so well done that I actually felt I was in the movie at times. You even get the scrolling yellow text with the Star Wars theme to usher in a new section of the story. During the game there were times where I wanted more ambient sounds like footsteps, wind, or people talking, but this did not detract from the game too much. The sounds were perfectly done otherwise.
None. Shadows of the Empire is a single-player only game, which at first I thought was going to detract from my experience, especially with multiplayer options becoming standard these days. Let's just say that Shadows is one of the best single-player games out there right now and the lack of multiplayer won't be missed once you're immersed in the game.
Four words, "leaflet in jewel case." But that's okay because the game is so darned intuitive; there is really no need for senseless details. A little light reading on the background story would have been nice, though; maybe a tidbit on the background of your character too.
Minimum: 100% Windows95 DirectX compatible computer, Windows 95, 3D Accelerated PCI Graphics card, Pentium 90 or faster required for 3Dfx chipsets. Pentium 133 or faster required for other supported 3D graphic chipsets, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 100% Windows 95 compatible 16-bit sound card, 100% Windows 95 compatible keyboard, mouse or joystick
Shadows of the Empire is just a great game all around. It would be an instant classic if it came out three years ago (before the multiplayer revolution), but is arguably the best single-player game on the market. The only significant flaw is the lack of replayability. Once I completed the game, I felt a sense of closure (like a good movie) and had no urge to go back and replay my experience. So I will give Shadows of the Empire an 88 and a recommendation to any gamer looking for a riveting single-player experience.