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In Memory
Sean Pettibone







Star Wars: Racer Revenge from LucasArts and Rainbow studios takes the action of the moviesí famous pod-racing sequences and brings it to life on the PS2. This game is much more brutal and combative than the first Racer game and adds vehicle upgrades and much more aggressive enemy AI. The graphics are superb and the excellent production values make you feel like youíre inside a pod racer. Look inside as The Laser examines this title and finds out if it will appeal more than just hard-core Star Wars fans.

One of the best games based on the Episode I prequel was Star Wars: Racer, a fast and addictive racing game that tied in nicely with the movie yet was a solidly entertaining title in its own right. Now, LucasArts and Rainbow Studios have released a follow-up called Racer Revenge. This sequel allows players to strap into a pod racer as Anakin, Sebubula and other strange characters as they race the pod-racing circuit. In all, there are 18 different racers to pick from (though some of them are only available after theyíve been unlocked.) Racer is quite an addictive title, and allows the player to relive the exciting film sequence all over again. The game fits in well with the Star Wars universe while also serving as a kind of bridge to Episode 2, since it takes place 8 years after the first prequel ended.

While in concept, itís a lot like the first game, this time the combat and battles between the vehicles takes precedence, making for a much more brutal racing experience that is a lot more intense this time around. The action is intense and the game thows a lot at you making things quite difficult at times. There are several types of gameplay including practice, single race, and tournament modes. The main mode is the career-based tournament session where you earn points towards strategy. After each race, you can buy upgrades in Wattoís garage which can significantly affect the acceleration, handling, top speed, repair speed, engine cooling and other factors. This adds some strategy to things because you can upgrade your vehicle, though you need to think about what upgrades to use first, though you should always upgrade your vehicle as much as you can to increase your chances of getting in a good position for the next round. The key to gaining a lot of credits is that you get a percentage bonus depending on how many opponents you knock out of the race, which isnít as easy as it sounds. Additionally, you can unlock additional characters and other special features after you win one of the tournaments. This definitely adds some replay value to the gameplay and makes subsequent races more interesting.

While Racer Revenge might seem, on the surface, to be limited by its arcade style interface, the controls are surprisingly excellent and responsive, giving the player a good sense of speed while allowing for plenty of strategy and nuance in steering. While there isnít much to do aside from winning the race, you have to think fast and judge whether knocking out an opponent is worth the damage youíll take. Contact damages the other vehicles, but can also be detrimental to your own craft as well. The other concern comes in that you earn extra points for each knockout, and the upgrades can be significant. This is important because when the pods take damage, they begin to smoke and spark. If you arenít careful, this can lead to your ship being destroyed and getting knocked out of the race. Fortunately, you only need to press the L2 shift to key repair your vehicle. You can fix your vehicle as much as you want but you lose speed and maneuverability when repairing the racer, so you need to choose a good time to do this. For a racing title, thereís a lot going on at once which makes it much more exciting than the first game. In Racer Revenge, youíll find the biggest challenge isnít winning the race but surviving it. Itís not terribly difficult at first, because the initial rounds are incredibly easy, almost cakewalks. Later on, it gets much harder as the AI becomes more aggressive and the tracks become increasingly complex making for a much more exciting game.

While itís not surprising that Racer Revengeís gameplay is very similar to the first game, itís still a great title that enhances this sub-series. The enemies are much more aggressive this time around and bump into your vehicle with little provocation and this combat racing allows the danger of pod-racing to come into full view. Battling the opposing racers makes winning the races much more difficult because you have to constantly stay aware of your damage meter and the heat level of your engines, because overheating them can also cause your vehicle to explode, knocking you out of the race.

Visually, Racer Revenge is a solid title that takes good advantage of the PS2ís power. The framerates are smooth and fast, giving the gameplay a fitting intensity that makes you feel like youíre in the movie. The action takes place in several different worlds both taken from the movies (such as the planet Tatooine) and other original locations designed specifically for this game some of which are stunning and original in design. In all, there are 39 courses that take you in 13 different planets. This gives Racer Revenge a somewhat expansive design, though a greater number of planets with more variety would have been appreciated. The course designs are very good, with tight turns, hills and branching paths to keep things interesting. While there are some of the dreaded jaggies, this is mitigated somewhat by the cool blurring effect that occurs when you enable the speed boosts. The game also wins points for the multiple viewpoints it offers. There are first-person and behind the pod views, and several in between modes. All of these are quite effective and allow you to race from the angle youíre most comfortable with, though racing in the first person mode with just the engines visible is quite exciting. Overall, itís not perfect but the graphics take good advantage of the PS2ís processing power and recreate the Star Wars feel perfectly. The soundtrack is also cool, with authentic engine sounds, cool voice-overs of both alien and human characters, plus the wacky announcer from the movies setting up a truly authentic Star Wars feel. The unforgettable John Williamsí score from the films also makes an appearance during the races, which adds even more atmosphere to the proceedings.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems in the design which come into play as you delve deeper into the game and the novelty wears off. The linear gameplay is a bit disappointing and there are few options beyond the standard racing modes. This means that Racer Revenge become monotonous if you play it too long with little variety in the gameplay itself. While the upgrades and secret characters are nice to unlock, they lose their motivational value after awhile. Another major problem with the game is that it lacks a multiplayer mode, which would have made the proceedings much more exciting. Still, this is a solid single player experience thatís addictive and fun. Despite these minor flaws, the exciting gameplay is addictive and enjoyable making for a perfect game you can jump in and play with little effort. The solid racing engine has smooth controls, and the action can be quite intense. So while itís not perfect, the essence of Star Wars is evident throughout and most fans should be able to overlook the flaws to find an exciting and addictive racing experience. The fact that playing this should help get you psyched for the already highly-anticipated Episode 2 is all the more reason to pick it up.

> Related Reviews:

Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter (PS2)
Star Wars: Obi Wan (Xbox)
Star Wars: Rogue Leader (Gamecube)

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