Review by Nyarlothatep

"Star Wars: Battlefront (Xbox version)"

The number of Star Wars licensed games produced since the birth of electronic gaming is astounding. From the original "Star Wars" arcade game to last year's "Knights of the Old Republic", the franchise has a title in nearly every genre imaginable. Not all of them have been good, and some have been downright terrible. Recently Pandemic Studios, who also produced "Full Spectrum Warrior", took a crack at this storied franchise and the result is "Battlefront".

Overview

The concept of "Battlefront" is fairly simple. You take control of a single foot-soldier and are tossed into the fray of a hectic Star Wars themed battle. The maps range from the familiar, like the battle of Endor's moon, to the previously unseen, such as the frosty world of Rhen-Var. Most levels permit you to choose what era you'd like (Clone Wars or Galactic Civil War) and once you've chosen your faction, you're presented with choosing where on the map you will spawn and what class you'll take. There are five classes within each faction - soldier, sniper, pilot, heavy weapons and specialists or "shock troopers". Once these preliminary decisions are made, you're thrust onto the battlefield and charged with fragging as many enemies as you can and capturing command posts. Each side has a limited number of respawns and a handful of command posts at the start of each round. Victory is determined when either one side runs out of respawns or all command posts have been captured. "Battlefront" features single player action, system link, two player split-screen (either co-op or adversarial) and Xbox Live play for up to 24.

The Details

Anyone who played the great "Half-Life" mod "Team Fortress Classic" will almost immediately feel right at home with "Battlefront". The different classes are balanced pretty well, and have cool functions, like the pilot's ability to repair vehicles and replace destroyed turrets. The maps are large and expansive, and were obviously layed out with a lot of consideration. Vehicles figure prominently, with some 30 to choose from and ranging from classics like AT-STs and X-Wings to the lesser known like the STAP and the 74-Z Speeder Bike.

The single player mode is pretty straight forward and has three modes to choose from: Historical Campaign, Galactic Conquest and Instant Action.

The campaign mode will take you through the story arc of all six Star Wars movies, starting with the Clone Wars and moving through the rebel uprising depicted in the classic trilogy. Since your objective in each level is to win the battle, you're forced to play as what ever side was victorious according to the storyline. While this prevents you from rewriting Star Wars history, it does offer some variety as you'll be playing all of the factions at some point in the campaign.

Galactic Conquest is a variation on this play, in that you battle against the AI for control of six planets. Each planet has a special ability that you may activate before each battle, so there's a bit of extra strategy involved. You must win two battles on any given planet to capture it, and once you've captured all six, the galaxy is yours.

Instant Action allows you to pick an era, a map, and tweak various other settings like the number of AI troops per team and whether or not legendary heroes like Darth Vader will fight for their respective factions.

Multiplayer via Xbox Live is pretty much the same as above, although you can't play Galactic Conquest online. Players compete to either completely deplete their opponent's respawns or capture all the command posts on the map and hold them for 20 seconds.

Execution

The graphics in "Battlefront" are really quite nice. The game makes use of a "Romantic Camera" effect, which blurs the action ever so slightly and helps to hide jaggies. The units and vehicles are faithfully reproduced, the ultimate compliment coming from my roommate who walked in as I was tying up an AT-AT with my Snow-Speeder and said, "Oh, you're watching 'The Empire Strikes Back'?" The framerate does stutter every once and a while, but it's well within acceptable parameters especially considering the amount of action occurring on-screen at any given time.

Gameplay is equally well handled, the controls are smooth and responsive, and are fully mappable if you don't like the default settings. This is particularly nice because you can map a 1st/3rd person perspective toggle to an unused button. The various units are all distinct from one another with unique abilities and allow for players who cater to a specific style of play. Each has a primary and secondary weapon and three different stances (standing, crouching and prone). Most have grenades as a secondary weapon, but some have more interesting equipment at their disposal like mines or the sniper's recon droid. The vehicles all handle as one would expect, my only complaint being that airspace is somewhat limited, making it tricky to maneuver the starfighters sometimes. It's also worth noting that many vehicles have room for multiple passengers, so one player can pilot while another mans a turret or what-have-you.

The game design itself is well thought out, forcing players to stay on their toes for enemy forces while making their way to the next command post. Since the fewer post your team controls, the faster your respawns count down, players must ignore the urge to "run and gun" and rather think strategically about what point on the map would be best to attack next. Some command posts can not be captured, and instead must be destroyed, like the Imperial bunker on Endor's moon. "Battlefront" really does a great job of making the player feel that he's in the midst of an epic battle, and that his actions are actually contributing to the outcome.

The soundtrack and effects in "Battlefront" have that authentic Star Wars feel - the music being lifted directly from the films is a no-brainer, as are the unmistakable sounds of firing blasters and the thumping of an AT-AT's footfalls as it inches it's way towards the Rebel shield generator.

This game is really geared more towards multiplayer, as that's where the primary replay value lies. The single player campaign took me about 20 hours to complete, so if you're without Live service I'd recommend renting. If, however, you're lucky enough to be one of the million-plus people connected to XBL, I highly suggest adding a copy of "Battlefront" to your permanent collection, as it never seems to get old and there are almost as many strategies as there are players.

Verdict

In my estimation, "Star Wars: Battlefront" is one of the premier multiplayer games released this year. Some of you Halo 2 fan-boys might be tempted to overlook this title, but I can assure you that it offers a completely different experience from the aforementioned yet-to-be-released mega-hit. On a scale of one to ten, I give "Battlefront" a more than respectable 9.4.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/07/04


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