'Star Fox' lacks challenge

By Mike Burk
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, March 10, 2005

Game Rating: 5/10

Is it possible to measure time in bags of chips?

If it is, "Star Fox: Assault" can be played beginning to end in approximately fifteen Big Grabs of Doritos. That's roughly five hours in Earth time. Between such short playtime and some serious control problems, it's hard to recommend the latest entry in the series for more than a Blockbuster rental fee.

This is Fox McCloud's third chance to save the galaxy. It's set some million chips in the future, and he's battling a new threat whose goal is to, and I quote, "assimilate all beasts and machines into their corrupted hive mind." The story mode includes 10 missions in which you control Fox on foot, in a tank, and in his trusty Arwing for air battles.

But the game tries to tackle too many genres at once, and none are as good as they should be.

There is a surprising lack of flying missions, and while some of the land missions give you the option to use the Arwing, Fox is nearly as powerful on foot as he his in the air. The Arwing controls are so unresponsive that there isn't much point either. So you're forced to play mission after mission destroying some shield/alien generator while your teammates cover you from the air. The game would have benefited from a role change on a mission or two.

Controlling Fox has never been more of a chore. For example, you can make Fox roll by pressing the L Button and moving the Control Stick to the left or right; but for some reason you can't roll while moving in either direction, so it's hard to run and dodge some enemies.

The Arwing also doesn't seem to move smoothly through space. It's almost as if you run into an invisible wall if you pitch up or down too quickly. It is unfortunate that the flying isn't more of a relief from the tedious ground levels.

"Star Fox: Assault" redeems itself a bit in the graphics department. Both the space and land levels are expansive and feature numerous enemies on screen at all times. It is great to blast crawlers on the ground while your teammates shoot down enemies above you, and the frame rate manages to keep up with the action. The characters and vehicles all look sharp and realistic. It's unfortunate that the game play is so lacking.

Up to four players can play simultaneously in the multiplayer modes. The appeal for many of the levels is the sheer scope of the action, but it's hard to recreate that feeling with only four players on screen. Because the Arwing controls are so limited, you'll find yourself spending far too much time trying to slowly wear down your opponent's shield.

"Star Fox: Assault" does offer some exciting and challenging moments, but part of the challenge is compensating for the poor control. Star Fox has never looked better, and the game play is more or less true to its roots. While some diehard fans of the series will enjoy another adventure with Fox, most people won't want to pay $10 an hour for it.