"Cover me while I slice this data port." Honestly, if I hear my little robot buddy Zeeo ask me that one more time I'm going to remove his batteries and leave him behind like those other leading brands in the Duracell adverts. Almost every room in this decidedly lacklustre Star Wars effort requires you to slice a blimmin' data port and I, for one, quickly got tired of Lethal Alliance's mostly repetitive gameplay.
Developed exclusively for handheld consoles, Ubisoft's title is an acceptable, if unadventurous handheld blaster, but with a licence this strong it was probably not unfair to demand something a little bit extra. Instead we are left with a game that's definitely more Obi-Wan than Knights of the Old Republic, which the average gamer will probably switch off after just a couple of hours play, unless they have a secret port slicing fetish.
The thin storyline is set between Episodes III and IV and follows Twi'lek mercenary warrior Rhianna, a casual employee of the Rebel Alliance who soon finds herself embroiled in life or death missions to infiltrate and destroy Imperial strongholds. She has her own revenge-fuelled sub plot as well but, to be honest, the whole story is lacking in depth and it's easier just to let it bumble along in the background while you get on with the real business of blasting away whatever comes your way. The game is a strictly linear affair and players are never challenged to do anything more than move from location to location, pick off everything in sight with one of Rhianna's small arsenal of weapons and occasionally do the odd platforming challenge.
This is video gaming at its most conventional and anyone who has played a third-person shooter/platformer before will feel right at home with the set-up. The controls have been nicely tailored to the PSP too, with a simple to use target locking system employed to help you pick off the bad guys. Occasionally it won't let you lock onto someone directly in front of you, which is frustrating, but for the most part switching between enemies is a doddle and much more welcome than having to manually aim with the analogue nub. If you get close enough to an enemy, Rhianna whips out a sword that is ideal for saving on ammo or to pull off discreet, stealthy kills. It's no lightsaber, but the Thorn of Ryloth does the business and later power-ups help you polish off villains in a single slow-mo combo.
Lethal Alliance's one standout feature, apart from the tentacle thingies on the back of Rhianna's Twi'lek head, is the need to work in tandem with robot sidekick Zeeo, who happily floats alongside you at all times and is always willing to lend a hand. He can be hurled at enemies to knock them to the ground, used to deflect laser bolts straight back at gun turrets and cloak you with a disguise to sneak past guards. Zeeo also comes in pretty handy during the platforming sections, in which the acrobatic Rhianna uses him to swing from point to point and even glide up certain walls. He's pretty good with data port slicing too, which is useful seeing as you'll spend about 70 percent of the game covering him as he tries to unlock a door (yawn). Not only is this repetitive, but it's also pretty tricky to target these ports in the heat of a battle against an army of Stormtroopers, something that feels pretty stupid the more you have to do it.
Where Zeeo does prove his worth is in the rather spiffy flying sections, where he zips through treacherous landscapes as you cling on for dear life and manoeuvre around him to avoid obstacles. There is a good sense of speed on these missions and the backgrounds are varied and captivating to zoom past (the geysers of lava were a personal favourite) - so much so that you'll wish there were more of them in the game. Without these well designed mini-levels, Lethal Alliance would get old a lot quicker and only serve to give you a glimmer of insight into the kind of varied action game this could have been if more time had been spent on jazzing up the bulk of the experience. The same goes for the tacked on, ad hoc-only multiplayer where two players compete head-to-head as Zeeo to collect the most loot scattered around the level; we just expect something more these days.
While you will visit plenty of classic Star Wars locales during the game (from Coruscant to Tatooine), the levels prove to be a pretty bland and most of the action takes place in corridors, although there are a few outdoor sections, including a dramatic boss fight with a Rancor. Fortunately, the visuals throughout remain crisp and true to the Star Wars legacy, with the correct Stormtrooper kit for every occasion, and the stirring soundtrack helps to gloss over some of the less inspired sections. With the added bonus of running into series legends like Princess Leia and Boba Fett, it's certainly a polished looking package, but there just isn't quite enough variety in the gameplay to keep your interest engaged for the whole, reasonably lengthy, main campaign - even if you really want to find out what that pesky Empire is up to (clue: they're building some sort of planet destroying battle station you might have heard of).
Lethal Alliance is not a total dud and, if you can forgive its repetitive nature, there is a fair amount of entertainment to be had when played in short bursts, but fans still deserve much more than that from a Star Wars game.