Fast-paced and engaging, LucasArts' "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D" is a spiffy, arcade-style flight game for "Star Wars" aficionados who don't have time to master sophisticated flight simulators.
In fact, the hardest part of this game may be getting it up and running. More on that later.
Set in the period between the original "Star Wars" film and "The Empire Strikes Back," Rogue Squadron plops you into Luke Skywalker's seat as you pilot the various aircraft he made famous in George Lucas' films. Among them are the famous X-wing from the last fight in "Star Wars," an Airspeeder from the snow battle in "Empire," and an A-wing from "Return of the Jedi."
Retailing for $50, Rogue is more in line with LucasArts' Rebel Assault games and Shadows of the Empire than the purer Tie-Fighter simulators, which toss you into deep space and require more technical piloting ability.
This time around, the war is on the ground, where you'll be supporting invasion troops, protecting small Alliance cities from Imperial attack and taking the fight to Imperial bases.
That doesn't mean Imperial Tie fighters and interceptors won't drop in to burn your Airspeeder out of the sky. In fact, enemy fighters are often a menace, and the air action is often deadly.
The controls are simple. You can fly with just a joystick -- no throttle or rudder pedals. Thrust is constant unless you want to add a burst of speed or slow your ship down with a button push. If your joystick doesn't have enough buttons, you may have to reach for the keyboard to punch in some commands, such as rotating your X-wing. Otherwise, it's simple flight stuff.
The visual effects are not state-of-the-art for a PC game -- but they are fun to watch. You get a sense of speed and danger as you fly between buildings and canyon walls. And the game conveys the almost claustrophobic feeling that comes from flying between dozens of enemy and friendly ships, laser blasts and missiles -- just like in the movies. The sound is fair with the screech of Tie fighters accurately portrayed.
The game requires a 166 MHz or faster Pentium, with 32 megabytes of RAM, a quad-speed or faster CD-ROM, 30 megabytes of hard drive space, and a 3D accelerated video card. As with all flight simulators, whether realistic or arcade, a joystick makes flying easier.
Getting the game up and running has not been easy for some purchasers, however.
If you have a USB mouse, LucasArts' technical support folks admit that you may get some strange reactions from the game. The interface panel that leads to the missions provided a hyperkinetic dance act with the cursor bouncing all over the screen. Getting the cursor to stay put on a selection was a serious problem.
More importantly, though, the game is finicky when it comes to graphics cards. Check the Lucas Arts Web site for a list of graphics cards that work: www.lucasarts.com/products/rogue/rogue_requirements.htm.
Washington reviewed this game using a 350 MHz Pentium II computer with 64 megabytes of RAM, a 32X CD-ROM, two Monster Diamond 3Dfx II cards and Thrustmaster's X-Fighter joystick.