Review by JPeeples
"A fantastic game for Star Wars fans and non-fans alike."
Star Wars games have been released for a good two decades, and in that time, only a handful have really been worth playing. You had the Super Star Wars trilogy for the SNES, then Shadow of the Empire for the N64, and then a bunch of trash. Until the current generation, the Star Wars license was seemingly cursed more often than not. Fortunately for fans of the Lucas franchise (which should cover about 90% of the planet by now), this is one of the current-gen games that does justice to the Star Wars universe, and the characters contained within it.
Online Star Wars gaming was pioneered with last year's Battlefront, but it's been just about perfected here. Now, you've got more character classes to play with, and more weapons to use against your rivals. While the improvements are welcome, there are still some slight lingering problems, so it's not entirely spotless.
The main issue is that the controls aren't as tight as they should be; certainly a problem in a shooting/sword-fighting-heavy action game. Now when you're in outer space dogfights, it isn't an issue, as the controls are much smoother there. It also isn't too big a problem in offline games, but when you're in online battle with tons of folks coming at you, you really need to have razor-fast reflexes, and the slight sluggishness in the controls will lead to some needless deaths. Fortunately, the pad configuration is fantastic, which helps the problem out a bit.
Beyond that, it's mostly smooth sailing. They've completely nailed the look and feel of Star Wars. This is what it SHOULD feel like to be in the Star Wars universe. When you're in a light saber duel, it has the same level of intensity as in the movies. The same holds true for space battles, which have a faster overall pace to them, and even more excitement due to there being so many more enemies in all directions, usually including one massive turret-filled ship as well. Other games, like the Jedi Academy series, have come close, but this captures the action in the Star Wars movies perfectly, while still getting across the characters and their allegiances. There's a great sense of teamwork and camaraderie in Battlefront II, and it makes every task just a bit more fun to complete as a result.
This feeling is magnified with Xbox Live, where you'll have to protect yourself and your teammates in order to win. You can do battle off or online either on the ground (which I prefer), or in the air, and in both cases, you're in for a lag-free gaming experience. Headsets also aid in the feeling that you're in a team. Sure, it's not flawless, since everyone else can hear you, but it's a fun illusion, and if you're lucky enough to play against folks who aren't paying attention, you can accurately recreate working as a team online. I'd say this makes a far better online game than an offline one. The concept certainly lends itself better to that medium, and more things come together with it. If you don't have Live though, don't worry. You can much of the online experience with regular multiplayer, after all.
From a visual standpoint, this is pretty good stuff. The worlds all look like their movie renditions, with the same landscapes and times of day present. There's also an incredible sense of size and scope to the environments, and given how much action goes on at any one time, there'd better be. There are some slight animation issues though, and polygon clipping problems. These aren't anything major, since they don't affect the gameplay in any notable way, but they can take you out of the game's reality a bit, so be forewarned. Outside of that, the visuals are solid, with a crisp look adorning just about everything. There are also some nice lighting effects, particularly during space and light saber battles. If you're looking for a game to showcase a high-end TV setup, this isn't it, but if you're in the market for a game that accurately recreates the look of the flicks, you'll find it here.
Conversely, if you want a game to show off your new audio setup, this is it. John Williams' classic Star Wars score is something you either love or hate. As someone who loves it, I enjoy how rich and full everything sounds, even on my basic TV speaker setup. I can only imagine how much more boisterous things would sound. As they are, the music and especially the sound effects absorb you into the game, and this feeling could only intensify with a superior setup. If there's a nit to pick with the audio it's that very little new is here. Outside of the sound effects, the audio really stays in safe harbor, keeping with the regular music you've heard in every Star Wars-related product forever.
Still, if you're a Star Wars fan, you'll find a lot to like with Battlefront II. There are only a few nagging issues with it, and the good definitely outweighs the bad. It's a massive, online Valentine to the Lucas faithful, and even if you're not a rabid Star Wars fanatic, you can easily enjoy this as a straight-up action game. With its lack of gore and swearing, it also makes for a fine family game, although if you're going to use it as one, it would be wise to disconnect the Live setup, as you'll hear many a swear from players being blasted. I must say that I'm surprised at how many things were done well in this. The past few years have been really kind to the Star Wars games, and this exemplifies that nicely.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/05
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