PlayStation 2 games are expected to look incredible, but really now, LucasArts is almost going too far with their first release for Sony's new machine (due this fall). We had the chance to spend some time with Starfighter, and are happy to report that not only are the controls feeling good, the gameplay is perhaps the most exciting part of the title. Unlike many shooting games, where it's you against everybody else, Starfighter is designed to give you the feeling that you're only a small part of the ongoing battle--an impressive effect made possible by having dozens of other crafts realistically fighting each other while you fly over, below or into(!) them. "There's a battle already going on," is how Daron Stinnett, the project leader for Starfighter explains it. "You're only there to turn the tide."
You are a Starfighter, the last hope for the entire universe; only you can save the cosmos from certain demise. Put on your spacesuit, strap yourself into your Starfighter, and get ready to wreak havoc on anything that moves or sits or stands there or just exists.
In Starfighter you can do damage to anything and everything (including the planet itself) while you fight your way through different worlds and scenarios to ultimately save the universe. The story is thin and the destruction is heavy, so get ready to put some mileage on that old flight stick as you tackle Studio 3DO's newest shooter.
It is obvious to me that the folks at Studio 3DO modeled Starfighter after Microsoft's Fury 3. They are both the same style of game with different attitudes. Like Fury 3, in Starfighter you basically destroy everything in sight. As in Fury 3 you have a ship and the ability to view it from many different camera angles, including the cockpit view, as you soar over a nicely done topographical landscape. You have a mother ship (which seems to be omnipresent) that flies in the upper atmosphere, where you can go to dock and complete a mission. Sometimes the enemy will attack your mother ship, and you must defend it or be prepared to lose the mission if it is destroyed.
The graphics and effects in Starfighter deserve some attention. They are unique, and in some cases they are done very well. The overall resolution is good (it could have been a little better) but what really kept me playing was the special effects. I really enjoyed shooting at the base of a tall building and watching it sever in half, plummeting the top portion to the ground in devastating fashion. I also really enjoyed scorching the ground with my lasers, as well as blasting through (terraforming) mountains; you can do damage to just about everything in the game. Since I love graphics and special effects, these additions were what made the game fun for me.
The control in the game is a little disappointing, as Fury 3 does a much better job at making you feel like you have full control of your ship. I had a hard time making precise movements and often it was hard to get my ship to do what I wanted. I liked the loss of control and/or speed you experienced when you got hit and damaged. It seems Studio 3DO tried to incorporate some sort of realistic flight model and they did succeed partially at this. It is unfortunate that the overall feel of control just wasn't as satisfying as I would have liked. It sort of felt the way I imagine it would feel flying a 747 jumbo jet into fast-paced combat and not being able to maneuver as well as your enemy.
The sound is good, once you manage to get it set up properly. The setup program has an auto-detect feature which tries to detect your sound card, but it often fails and that means manual input -- what a drag (I hope you know your IRQs).
What I liked best was the background music list. You can pick between a number of music tracks to play while you destroy the universe (C&C style). My favorite was "Death by Stereo." The music and blasting sounds did not hinder performance on my machine, but you may have to turn some of these off if you want optimal destructive enjoyment. You know, the important stuff.
The manual provided with _Starfighter _is adequate; it gives a good overview of the setting as well as the controls and how to play. One thing that gave me a bad impression of the game was the manual, with eight pages of troubleshooting information near the front. It's almost like they knew we would be experiencing all these problems. I can't say I tackled all 8 pages, but 6 ain't bad. I guess that's one step better than knowing about the bugs and not putting helpful hints in the manual. I just say, "make me a cool game with lots of destruction, and do it right the first time." I hate bugs.
This is where most of you will give up on this one. I had a heck of a time getting all the little settings right; I even had trouble calibrating my MS Sidewinder 3D Pro! I had to reboot several times as I realized I made the "wrong choice." You will have to go through many of the troubleshooting items in the manual as I did, and just hope you can get this one to work. I pity the poor dude who only has 16 MB RAM and an older video card. I have some nice equipment and a lot of RAM, and it took me a good 1 1/2 hours to get the thing going.
If this game was easier to set up, it would have received a better score. These issues should never come up, in my opinion. I realize you can't make a perfect product that will work on everyone's machine, but the installation and setup routine on Starfighter is very substandard. If you hate to mess with complications such as these, I recommend you steer clear of this game.
Minimum: 486/33 MHz, 6 MB RAM, MS-DOS or Windows 95, 2X CD-ROM drive, 15 MB available hard disk space, SVGA (320x200/640x480) video card, SoundBlaster 16 or 100% compatible sound card
Recommended: Pentium 90 MHz or better, 8 MB RAM for Windows95
I ran the game well with my P-133 with 32 MB RAM. The sight distance and graphic detail are determined when the game is installed. A system test is run and settings are determined based on processor speed, etc. I do not have a 3D video card in my machine, but if you have one coupled with a faster processor your sight distance and/or graphic detail may be enhanced.
In some cases this game soars with the best, in others it grovels with the worst. What then do I give it for a score? How about a 70 out of 100 for a product that needs some major improvement? If you are a hard-core enthusiast of games of this genre, pick up Starfighter. After you get it set up, I know you will enjoy scorching some innocent mountains into dust just for fun.