|Movie licenses have always
been sort of a gamble on the part of a game company. Many fail to spark the
imagination in the same way their motion
picture counterpart did. (Example: Any of the "Jurassic Park" games.)
Some, however, turn out to be quite entertaining, even spawning an entire franchise.
The Star Wars license has produced more games than any other movie license
to date. With games spanning a list of systems that reads like a timeline of
videogame history. The arcade, Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega
Master System, Super Nintendo, Sega 32X, the PC, Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation
have all had Star Wars-based games available. While not all of them have been
great, most have been regarded as pretty good. It's too bad The Phantom
based on the most recent entry in the Star Wars canon, isn't one of the great
ones. In fact, it's barely any good.
scheduled for a dual release on the PC and the PlayStation, this third-person
action/adventure game allows you to navigate through the biggest
movie of the year's main scenarios, as well as a few that weren't included
in the film. You move your character (either Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Queen Amidala
or Captain Panaka) around, performing a variety of actions that mainly include
blowing things up and jumping around. Dialogue, which normally plays a large
role in an adventure game that bothers to include it, takes a backseat to finding
switches and the proper way to access a part of each level. You can talk to
other characters, just don't expect much in the way of insight from their responses.
are fairly decent. The characters are all fairly well represented in polygonal
form. Some fare a bit better than
others, but they are all recognizable. The weapons produce some rather interesting,
if not spectacular, lighting effects. The thermal detonators, when they go
off, provide a nice shockwave effect that is as deadly as it is cool to look
at. My combination of a Voodoo II 12 MB card and 32 MB of RAM was considered
a "medium" level system and the game automatically set up a default
set of graphics effects, like particle animation and shadows, that were turned
on. I switched my machine into the next lowest setting and the game still looked
respectable. The higher, "balls-to-the-wall" setting bogged my machine
down and caused the action to get choppy, but it did look very nice!
Problems arise however when you're actually playing the game. The camera view
is placed slightly behind and way above the character you control. This prevents
you from seeing what lies more than approximately 20 feet in front of you.
I found myself searching for a way to adjust it to a more Tomb Raider-style
perspective, but, alas, no such luck. This hampering view allows off-screen
enemies to shoot you before you can even see where they are, which is absolutely
not cool. Even though the blaster shots move pretty slowly, the sheer number
of enemies firing at you can become overwhelming at times.
The game allows your character to jump and roll, as well as walk and run.
However, all of these actions feel as if Obi-Wan or Qui-Gon have lead weights
tied to their ankles. Turning to walk in a particular direction just feels
clumsy and sluggish. The Phantom Menace just doesn't control as smoothly as
a game of this nature should.
Even though the game provides a
cool soundtrack, courtesy of John Williams' movie score, and nostalgic sound
effects, such as the lightsaber's signature "whoosh" and
the countless blaster noises, it's hard for me to avoid talking about the voice
acting. Although Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker) and Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks)
provided the voices for their characters, the main voices of Obi-Wan Kenobi
and Qui-Gon Jinn, in particular, sound like horrible impersonations. Well,
at least whoever played Obi-Wan tried to sound like Ewan McGregor. No such
effort was put forth by whoever played Liam Neeson's part.
game featuring the Star Wars universe is not exactly a no-brainer. Many integral
things need to be in place for the
game to successfully bridge the gap from movie screen to computer monitor.
One example is having the characters act as they do in the movie. For example,
I wouldn't expect R2-D2 to jump into the cockpit of a starfighter and start
blasting enemy ships out of the sky. So, why then does this game ask a Jedi
Knight to pick up a blaster and start blazing away at enemies? I found this
extremely out-of-character and, while deflecting blaster shots with the lightsaber
does get kind of old after a while, I still don't think the characters should
deviate THAT much from what's been seen in the movies. Even the signature "Force" power
is watered down. In the movie, it was a little more effective at handling enemies
than it is in the game. Am I nitpicking? Possibly, but it still irked me that
they'd ask Star Wars fans to forget that Jedi Knights consider blasters as
inferior to the lightsaber and use of the Force.
As much as I wanted to like this game, I cannot recommend it. Although taken
individually, my complaints may not seem like much. Add them up and you have
a less-than-satisfying gaming experience that's definitely not worth the price
of admission. Save your money and see the movie a few more times instead.
System Requirements: Pentium 200 or higher; 32MB RAM or higher; 4X or faster
CD-ROM drive; Direct3D compatible hardware accelerator required. Joystick and
Tested on: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 32X CD-ROM drive, Best Data Voodoo
2 12 MB accelerator, Saitek X6-32M gamepad.