Star Wars: Battlefront
Star Wars: Battlefront
This review refers to the X-Box version
Star Wars and computer games have had an up and down relationship over the years, there have been some great games and some awful games. To date the X-Box has had a very good run of it with Jedi Academy, and Knights of the Old Republic I and II receiving good reviews if not critical acclaim.
Star Wars Battlefront, like the above games offers something a little bit different. Taking place in the Star Wars universe both old and new, Battlefront is a third person shooter with strategy elements that allows you to play in two different eras, Galactic Civil War (Episodes 4, 5, 6) or the Clone Wars (Episodes 1 + 2). Each of these eras has planets unique to the films, so the Galactic Civil War uses Hoth, Mos Eisley and Endor amongst others, whilst the Clone Wars contain Tattoine, Naboo and Bespin plus a few more. Some planets have two different missions, whilst the more iconic settings, Hoth and Endor specifically, only have one.
In single player, Battlefront offers you a choice between Historical Campaign, Galactic Conquest or Instant Action. In Historical Campaign you begin by choosing an era, Galactic Civil War or Clone Wars, and then work your way through a series of missions in chronological order. For example the last mission of Galactic Civil War will be the battle for the Endor moon as in the films.
Galactic Conquest is slightly more strategic. After picking either Galactic Civil War or the Clone Wars you can choose to play either as the Rebel Alliance or the Empire in Galactic Civil War or between the Republic and the CIS in the Clone Wars. The next option then displays a map of the system you are fighting for control of, with several planets laid out. The player can choose which planet they wish to attack first and, depending on the success of their attack, receive bonuses depending on the planet. Bonuses available include extra troops, elite training for troops, removal of enemy communications or the aid of a classical Star Wars character such as Darth Vader, Mace Windu, Count Dooku or Luke Skywalker Ė although sadly no sign of Yoda.
The final game play option, Instant Action, allows you to pick any level in the game and play through it from any of the four sides, Rebel Alliance, the Empire, the Republic or the CIS. This is the easiest mode to get into and allows the player to quickly learn the gameplay features.
Gameplay is where Battlefront is very different from the majority of other Star Wars games. You donít play as any of the main characters. Instead you are offered a choice of five different types of soldier depending on what side you choose to play as. The main type of soldier is your average soldier/grunt who carries a few grenades and a rapid-firing weapon. Each side also has a marksman and a rocket launcher. The last two types of soldier vary between eras and sides.
Battles begin with the player choosing between one of the five types of soldier. Each side starts with several Command Posts from which new soldiers spawn. You can pick any of your own Command Posts, in green on the map, to start from each time you die. The aim of the game is to take control of the opposing sides Command Posts or kill all the enemy soldiers. This can be done by strategically picking Command Posts to take so that you can control where the enemy soldiers appear from, or by going in all guns blazing and killing everything in sight. A tally at the top of the screen shows how many reinforcements are available for each side and a small map in the bottom right hand corner of the screen displays the Command Posts and large groups of soldiers.
Deaths in Battlefront are a regular occurrence, particularly in the heavily populated areas of the maps centred around the Command Posts. Once you die for the first time you are sent back to the soldier select screen where you can pick one of the five soldiers to continue the battle. Any time you die you can pick any of the five types of soldier to become next depending on the situation. If the Empire has too many AT-ST's doing damage, pick a rocket launcher and blow them up. Battles only finish when a side has no more Command Posts to spawn from or all its soldiers are dead.
What instantly strikes you about Battlefront is how stunning the graphics are. Using the X-Box's graphics card fully, Battlefront is filled with lush environments that span many different types of ecology from the green forest of Endor to the snowy hills of Hoth. The playing fields are large yet highly detailed with many unique features that you have to play each map several times to see, the sarlacc pit is one of many highlights. Each of the soldiers is very well animated, the Storm Troopers in particular look superb and incredibly accurate. The soldiers appearance doesnít vary greatly in colour, Stormtroopers in white, Rebels in green etc, but enough that you can clearly pick out the different types of soldier.
Sound is also very good. The weapons sounds are all very authentic, blaster rifle fire echoes around the playing field as speeders whizz and AT-STís clunk toward their objectives, all whilst the various theme tunes from the movies play in the background to great effect, especially in close fought battles.
Controls are simply shoot/zoom, throw grenade, jump/roll and get in vehicles. You will find yourself, as a grunt, using the shoot trigger a lot, I mean a lot. What is clever about Battlefront is that a soldierís accuracy diminishes the more shooting you do in one burst, to the point where you couldnít hit a brick wall from two feet away.
Multiplayer is brilliant fun in both two-player and through X-Box Live. Playing against a human opponent is very enjoyable as you either go head to head or avoid each other in hopes of killing more soldiers than your opponent. It becomes less strategic and more of a kill-frenzy as you both aim to decorate the award screen post-battle with your name. You can also use Battlefront with X-Box Live. There is a fair sized community already established and playing against human opponents makes it far more difficult than playing against the computer AI. Great fun with one major hang-up, which is also a major problem for the game as a whole, the lack of levels.
Battlefront is easy. Even on the hardest difficulty setting you should be able to complete the Galactic Conquest in a day. Keen gamers with time to kill should be able to complete the whole game in a few days at the outside. Now this isnít a bad thing except for the lack of levels. With only sixteen levels the game can get repetitive, especially when youíll find yourself using the average soldier most of the time. Although the ability to use vehicles and strategically attack certain Command Posts does break up the gameplay to a degree, the game comes down to a lot of shooting. This is something it does very well but there are moments when the game cries out for variation.
Overall Star Wars: Battlefront is a very fun game that you can just pick up and play. The different use of the Star Wars universe gives a unique feel to the RTS/Shooter elements but the former is very much overshadowed by the latter. More levels, more variety and a higher difficulty level would have made this game a must have. As it is, Battlefront comes highly recommended, particularly to Star Wars and multi-player fans.
Reviewed by Owen Jones © 2005