Star Wars: Battlefront
System: Playstation 2
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Released: September 2004
Genre: Action
Capabilities: Memory Card, Dual Analog 2 Control, Network Adaptor for up to 16 players

Review Written: October 7, 2004

After years of anticipation, the original Star Wars trilogy is now available on DVD. What better way to celebrate than getting the latest game of the popular franchise from LucasArts. The latest game is titled Battlefront, and plays similar to EA’s well known Battlefield line of games on the PC, with intense online action with over a dozen players being the main draw. Unfortunately it looks like online play is the main appeal here, so if you’re purchasing this for the single player experience, you might want to start second guessing yourself now.

The main appeal to Battlefront is being able to recreate and actually participate in the classic battles spread across ten planets as seen in the films, and for all you hardcore fans this title actually drops a few subtle hints of what to expect in the upcoming sixth film. For the most part it is pretty easy to hop right into a battle and get a good feel for the controls in no time. There are four factions to choose from (Galactic Empire, Separatist Battle Droids, Clone Army, Rebel Alliance) and each of them have five types of units to use in combat.

Each faction has four units that each share the same traits and one specialty unit. The shared types of units are standard infantry, snipers, pilots, and heavy weaponry carriers. My personal favorite of the four is picking a grunt and mashing away at the R1 button like there is no tomorrow in the heat of battle. The specialty units consist of the Rebel’s Wookie Smugglers, Empire’s Dark Troopers, Republic’s Jet Troopers, and the Droid’s Destroyers. Each unit obviously has their own distinct advantages such as the Jet Troopers being able to temporarily fly and shoot EMP blasts down onto their opponents. There are also over 25 different type of vehicles to commandeer in the midst of action with well known favorites such as the AT-ST, X-Wing, and TIE fighters to name a few.

Each battle starts with over a dozen fighters entering the field of battle on both sides where you get to choose one of several command posts to spawn from. Each side of the battlefield has about 200 total units to use in each confrontation, and you keep spawning over and over after you have fallen during battle. There are only two ways to achieve victory and that is to either control all the opposing faction’s command posts or completely deplete your opponent of all its units. Playing the battles alone offline is particularly easy to win in the default difficulties, the same goes with bumping it up on the hard difficulty except now you might lose the occasional close battle here and there and I found myself just losing about once out of every ten duels on the average.

Taking over command posts is a lot like playing a round of King of the Hill where a player has to stay in that area for so long before its faction gains full control over it. However, while you are attempting to take it over the opposing faction can still spawn from there so don’t be surprised if you get a cheap shot from behind while on the lookout. I myself usually do not try to win this way unless I’m up against a lot of campers because by the time I control all the command posts, my rival is usually down to its last few units on the battlefield.

The computer AI can be somewhat problematic if you’re not watching them over carefully. They tend to just stand around and pretend to guard an area of the map, though when under attack they seldom try to take cover or dodge your blasts until the last moment. Even on the hardest difficulty they still don’t put up much of a fight. You have four commands to issue to them like ‘spread out’ and ‘follow’ but after obeying your order for only about a half minute they proceed to go right back to doing their own thing. Another gripe I have with them is at the beginning of every battle they all dash right over to control the vehicles, I find it quite sad that I had to off a few of my allies just so I can finally control one of the vehicles in the game.

There are three single player game modes available. The most primitive of the three is ‘Instant Action’ where you simply pick one of the battles available and hop right into a round of play. The next mode is ‘Galactic Conquest’ which has a couple of extra perks to it. Pick one of the factions and then be greeted to a map of all the planets to choose from, each planet has two maps you need to conquer in order to gain total control of each planet. If you win a battle, then you get to pick the next map and vice versa for the computer, first to control all of the planets wins. If you want to know what to expect out of this, the overview for this mode is very similar to the one in the remake of Defender from a couple years back. As I said, there are some nice extras of this in the form of bonuses when you gain full control of each planet. These bonuses are nice little advantages like having a few extra dozen units on your side of the battle, or having a Jedi like Count Dooku or Darth Vader fight along your side. All in all Galactic Conquest is a nice little diversion from the main campaigns, but it can easily be breezed through within several hours due to the low difficulty.

The campaign is a weird experience in its own right. There are little clips from the films that have just the bare bones to link it to the location of where the battle you are about to participate in is taking place. Take that for what it is, but the part that boggles me the most is that you cannot choose which side of the battle to take part of. Instead you control the side that won the battle in the films. So you’ll be constantly changing sides from good to evil in each following battle. I would have preferred the developers to at least do things in one of two different ways. Either separate the battles so we can recreate all the victories for each faction in order, or let us choose which side to control. I think the latter option could have been a more enjoyable campaign if we were allowed to change history in the franchise, receive special cut-scenes and being able to follow the course of events if we altered the outcome of the battles. Kind of like how you can rewrite history in the new Rocky Legends game by playing through its story with each different main foe of the films. I think a lot of fans would have appreciated this effort as a reward for going through all the relatively easy offline gameplay.

There is offline multiplayer support via split screen for up to two players, which mildly helps boost the offline value of the game. There are also a number of unlockables that are awarded from the campaign missions, but most of it is concept galleries which seem like unneeded fluff that only hardcore Star Wars fans will appreciate.

Where the offline lacks, the online shines, and boy does it save this game. Online is the place to be in Battlefront. Coordinating your attacks with other players online (make sure to have your headsets ready) is a lot more accurate, and simply more fun than relying on the dumbfounded AI of the bots. There are a few shortcomings to the PS2 online experience, which seems to have been at the short end of the stick when compared to online play on the PC and Xbox. First off, there’s a huge patch file you have to download to your memory card, when combined with the offline saves, they take up nearly two whole megs of your memory card, so be prepared to sacrifice some of your other game saves to play online. Only 16 players can join in sessions online compared to the 32 available for the PC owners of the game. Furthermore, if you want to host games only three other people can join unless you’re running a special dedicated server on your computer simultaneously. Even with these drawbacks, the online experience is far better and what I prefer more to play in than the single player offline modes.

Visually, Battlefront holds up fairly well on the PS2. While it doesn’t have the shadowing and detailed lighting affects that its PC and Xbox counterparts boast, it is overall more than acceptable than your average third person shooter on the PS2. The character models are almost perfect carbon copies of their film counterparts, and all the battlefields and buildings look rather well when compared to the snippets we see from the film in between campaign missions. I’m surprised the framerate stays so steady and constant with barely any slowdown noticeable with all the action going on, major props to LucasArts for making this possible on the PS2. Since this is a Star Wars game, the legendary soundtrack for the films is here in all its glory. You can also rest assured that all the sound effects from the laser rifles, stomps from the various AT’s and so fourth still sound just like we remember them.

I really don’t want to give Battlefront one overall score because the offline and online portions of the game score a few points in difference of each other. There is a fair amount of ways to play offline, and thank goodness there is offline multiplayer support. However, the main campaign mode is executed poorly, and you will grow tired of the offline gameplay the second you are done with the campaigns. Online is where all the fun is at, and although online has its own notable flaws, they are more easy to overcome than those found offline. So in conclusion, Star Wars: Battlefront is a decent rental for all you gamers without a network adaptor, but a must-buy for all the online addicts whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not.

Graphics: 8.1
Sound: 8.8
Gameplay: 7.5
Replay Value: 7.0

Overall: 7.8

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