Star Wars: Battlefront
Platform: Xbox (Also On: GC)
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Release Date: 9/20/04
If I made a list of the things I wanted to be when I grew from when I was a boy near the top would have been X-Wing Pilot. I’ve always been a huge Star Wars fan, not the type that goes to conventions and argues over how the Death Star works, but the kind that pops in one of the VHS tapes sometime during the year and lets the movie take me back to somewhere a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. At the same time I haven’t been a fan of almost any of the Star Wars video games, though the last couple years have seen the franchise turn around and start producing some great games. Still I turn on any Star Wars video game with skepticism after games like the Star Wars fighting game, or Pod Racer.
Unlike some of the other recent Star Wars game releases Star Wars: Battlefront isn’t supposed to show us what it’s like to be a Jedi or to fly a Tie Fighter, it is supposed to let us play through some of the best scenes in Star Wars’ the battle scenes. Is it able to live up to the Star Wars name, or does it suck more than Jar Jar? Read on.
As far as story goes, there really isn’t one. For the single player the game offers two different modes, Historical Campaign or Galactic Conquest. In the Historical Campain mode you are able to choose between two different time periods of Star Wars history the Clone Wars (episodes I through III) or Galactic Wars (episodes IV through VI). Once you choose the era you will go through you’re automatically thrown into one of the sides with the battles proceeding in chronological order. Before some of the battles begin a clip from one of the movies that corresponds with the battle. After a couple of battles the game will switch you to the other side with the same objectives, win, win, win. As far as story goes the clips are short and don’t really give you much to draw from and switching from the bad guys to the good guys is disorienting. Don’t get too attached to being the Empire taking over the Rebels since the game will make you switch to the rebels. Instead of getting into the role of playing as either army you just end up with the mindset to just beat the other team doesn’t matter who they end up being.
Galactic Conquest is less linear than the Historical Campaign, you choose a time period and a side that you want to fight on and then can decide which enemy control planets you want to try and take over. Each planet has two different battlefields that both need to be beaten in order to control the planet. Once you have control of the planet you will unlock special planetary bonuses to use in other battles like having Darth Vader on the battlefield. Honestly though, it doesn’t feel that much different than just playing through the Historical Campaign except that you’ve got a choice as to where the fight is going to go down and some extra bonuses for winning.
Aside from the couple of movie clips in the historical campaign, there’s no real story presented and not much of a reason to play through the single player campaign aside from winning.
The graphics are so sharp you can almost cut yourself by looking at them. While the graphics aren’t photorealistic and the most amazing thing about them is that no matter how many guys are running around on screen or vehicles are roaming around the game barely slows down if at all and it’s just stunning to see it all going on at once. This holds up as well in the split screen multiplayer modes except the HUD is harder to view in this mode. On Xbox Live I’ve hit some lag but that’s due more to the server connection than any graphical issue.
The actual battlefields are huge and well detailed whether it’s the icy plains of Hoth or the forests of Endor. There are some that are wide open for vehicles to play a large role and there are some maps that are more enclosed for more emphasis on the cavalry. The character models are shaded appropriately and are well textured and look great when there are a dozen characters running around on screen or up close through the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. The vehicles are the same and closely represent the vehicles that you see in the movies. Both the vehicles and the characters animations look good and never look too ackward, except some of the exaggerated ragdoll physics which are generally fun to watch whether you are on the giving or receiving end of a large explosion. Preferably on the giving end, of course.
Everything from the lasers effects to the background music feels like it was pulled straight out of one of the movies. The sound effects and background music are about as perfect as they can possibly be, the only real problem with the sound is encountered almost anytime there is actual speech in the game. In game there are a lot of points where there will be commands or conversation passed by the other teammates that gets extremely repetitive in a short amount of time. The briefings are also annoying to listen to.
There isn’t very much vocal work in the game and it’s easy to ignore, and the rest of the sound more than makes up for it and it draws you into both the game and the Star Wars Universe.
If you’ve ever played a shooting game before than the controls will immediately feel familiar to you. Right trigger is for the primary weapon, left for the secondary, black/white cycles through the weapons, left joystick to move, right to aim, etcetera. Everything is smooth and very responsive when controlling a character, the vehicles take a little more time to get the hang of them, especially the flying ones, but after a few tries it starts to become natural.
Here lies my biggest gripe about the game, the game is too easy when playing by yourself or even with just one other person. Even on the games hardest mode I walked away from battles with huge kill counts even in the first couple of games I played. Normally I’m only okay at this sort of game so at first I was thought I was just kicking more ass then normal when the truth set inÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢?ÃƒÆ'”Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦the game’s AI is just weak. While the graphics may not have a difficult time keeping track of all the guys on the screen, it appears that the AI has a hard time whenever there are too many guys running around. I can’t tell you how many times I’m missed trying to sniper shot an enemy who is running only to have them then stop running and stand there like a perfect target instead of going for cover. Or one of the bots on my team will get into a vehicle then fly around not shooting anything. Not all of the bots will act like this though for the most part the AI is fairly predictable and you’ll come out of any battle looking like a one man army.
The vehicles I’m torn on, they’re great though sometimes they feel overpowered. When online this is okay for the most part because you can coordinate your team’s effort to take them down such as everyone respawning as someone with a rocket launcher. Then again I’ve also seen people online march an AT-ST up to a respawn point and just blast the hell out of anyone respawning. While they are overpowered, an AT-ST or any of the other giant vehicles should be overpowered to be accurate, and this forces people to actually use teamwork to overcome it. Offline though the bad AI doesn’t exactly work like a team to help you take down the larger vehicles which can be frustrating.
The maps for the most part are balanced just fine although the closed in cavalry maps can lead to just a lot of choke points and aren’t as fun in my opinion as some of the large maps. There are five classes to choose from for whatever side of the battle you choose to represent and everyone of them has their strengths and weaknesses, though one class has the ability to heal itself.
It’s a mostly balanced game in terms of weapons/classes/maps, but the AI just kills any difficulty for those who aren’t playing against other people on Live.
As a single player game, I can’t see myself replaying this game two weeks from now. There’s no real story and while there are a variety of maps and classes to play through there are only two modes to play them through that feel nearly the same as you play through them, and the AI isn’t nearly challenging enough to make it worth the effort of playing through more than a couple times. The split screen multiplayer is fun but the bots fall under the bad AI and even playing against another player is still too easy.
Where the game really picks up in its replayability is through the use of LAN system link games if you can get a bunch of people together or through Xbox Live. Even on Live there aren’t the management options that you might be used to from other online shooters, but it’s still a blast to play and is one of the games I think I’ve had the best time on Live with. Still after awhile once you get accustomed to the maps much of what’s left is applying the same strategy over and over again and will eventually kill the replay length.
A war/shooter game isn’t exactly the most original game ever seen, however this is the first time we’ve ever seen a Star Wars game made quite like this and the game is the first time we’ve have the ability on the consoles to have a large scale war shooter with vehicles. This will likely seem like a rehash of other games for PC gamers, but for the console gamer this will be a new and great experience.
It’s STAR WARS for chistsakes. That should appeal to a lot of folks right there. It’s also a large war game with vehicles and it’s online. If that’s not enough appeal for youÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢?ÃƒÆ'”Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦you can finally take out your Jar Jar frustrations and kick some Jungan ass as well as blasting away at other Star Wars races like the Ewoks. Sure there are some people that this might not appeal to, but those people should be wrapped up in bubble wrap and thrown into the nearest Sarlac pit.
The single player is addictive… for awhile at least. But online is where the digital crack lies. Against other players online is where this game shines and it’s hard to stop yourself from just doing one more battle. Some of the addiction comes from moments when you’ll team up with another player to take down an AT-AT on Hoth when one of you is flying and the other is manning the tow cables, or when you face down another player in a horde of bots that you are each commanding. If only some of that feeling crossed over to the offline side…
One of the things that I was originally going to put down as a complaint was the lack of leader boards or ranking system for the game on Live, however I noticed in the games I played people weren’t arguing over kill stealing or camping or any of the other hundreds of things people take too seriously in many online shooters. Everyone was just trying to have a good time and figure out ways to win but there wasn’t any blame if the team lost. If this is what it takes for some people to loosen up and enjoy the game I’d like to see less scoring systems in my Live games, thank you. The game runs smoothly for the most part on Live though I seemed to run into bad lag trying to join any game with over 16 people playing. The presentation job for the Live side of the game is kind of shoddy which is odd since you would figure that the online aspect would be a major selling point for the game. When you join a game it will automatically throw you onto a side instead of letting you choose. The screen for showing what games are available is laggy, often showing the incorrect amount of people in a game when I try to join and it takes awhile before it shows what games are available that ping well.
There is an okay amount of extras to unlock, most of it being artwork for the game and some assorted extras including a video preview for their next game.
Overall Score: 64/100
Final Score: 6.5/10 – Above Average-Good