The Starfox name has traditionally meant decent (or better) shooter action, and Namco is a strong company whom I usually have great faith in. Although I actually did enjoy StarFox Adventures' foray into third-person action, I was quite glad when it was announced that Assault would be closer to the series' traditional space-borne roots. Unfortunately, (and somewhat contrary to Tera's take on it) the end result of this Nintendo-Namco joint project is a schizophrenic mess not worth the time or money.

The only good bits of the game are the parts I was most looking forward to—the air and space shooting segments. They aren't as good as the series' most memorable moments, but they're serviceable and live up to the precedents set. The controls are tight, it has the same on-rails forward motion action, and the formula still works successfully enough that I found myself pleasantly immersed in scanning the skyline for targets and saving Slippy again…and again…and again.

The rest of the game is junk.

Anytime Fox sets foot on land or pilots the Landmaster tank, it's like Assault suddenly shoots backwards in time to the PSone era, first generation. The character models are rough, the enemy Aparoids are bunches of sharp-edged triangles, and the camera has issues. Putting the ridiculously unrefined graphic presentation aside, the "action" is simplistic and unsatisfying. Mindlessly walking through a series of big boxes passing for buildings while shooting polygons that are passing for bugs is hardly the level of gameplay excellence I expect from the lovechild of a Nintendo franchise and one of Japan's top developers.

Outside of a handful of frustrating sections, this clunky, clanky game can be finished in a day and I can hardly see any reason to go back afterwards to strive for a perfect performance. It's not very enjoyable the first time through. And is Xevious really supposed to be some kind of reward? It's more like a fossilized arcade harlot that keeps getting passed around; it's been included in other games several times, not to mention that it's also out as a standalone on GameBoy.

The multiplayer is a drag, being easily outclassed by any number of other games. Its only appeal is that the furry, colorful art style might be more appealing to younger hands holding a GameCube controller. Weak maps, dumb action—there's really nothing much to talk about here.

In my opinion, the game is embarrassingly uneven and made even worse by coming from such high-profile companies. StarFox has always been overshadowed by Nintendo's other luminaries, and putting out substandard work like Assault isn't going to do anything to change it.Rating: 3.5 out of 10

Brad Gallaway
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