Blown Away By Battlefront
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Note: Jevon Jenkins took a look at this game on the PS2 and John Breeden played the PC version for this review. Comments below are noted as system-specific. Todd Hargosh reviewed the Xbox version. The final score is the average of all three reviewer's picks for each category.
With the recent release of the Star Wars DVD, Lucas finds himself at the wrath of the Star Wars geeks. As if the uproar over Jar Jar Binks wasn't enough (at least they made him somewhat responsible for the birth of the Empire), they are upset with the changes made on the DVD. While some of the edits I will admit are for the better (using Ian McDiarmid's face for the Emperor is more appropriate), there are still those that are unforgivable (replacing Sebastian Shaw at the end of ROTJ with Hayden Christansen). Nonetheless, having the original trilogy on DVD is a long time coming, even if it isn't the original cut we all grew up with.
At the same time, the long awaited Star Wars Battlefront was released with the DVD. It was even provided as a demo in the DVD box set (Xbox version only). The beta demo looked promising, recreating the Battle of Endor as either the rebels or the Empire. The Empire side was more promising as the long awaited fantasy of killing Ewoks came true, and for a short time, the demo was enjoyable.
Still, one battle does not a game make, especially if the demo was not playable online. The full release of Battlefront features almost all the planets from the original trilogy (referred to as the Galactic Civil War), and the new trilogy (the Clone Wars) which includes a new planet, Rhen Var, which will make an appearance in Episode III. The only planet not used in the game is Coruscant, mostly because no battles took place there (just a speeder pursuit in Episode II).
Anyone who has played online shooters such as Battlefield 1942 or the Onslaught mode of Unreal Tournament 2004 will catch onto the game quickly. Teams are given a set number of reinforcement points. On each of the maps are several control points and whoever obtains a majority of control points will cause the other team to lose reinforcements, and when a team is at 0 points, they lose.
Teams have several types of infantry units. For instance, the CIS units include standard battledroids, super battledroids, and the seemingly invincible Droidekas. The Republic's Clone Troopers come in standard, ARC trooper, Pilot, Sharpshooter, and Jet Trooper. Rebels come in the form of soldiers, heavy weapon vanguards, pilots, wookie smugglers, and marksmen. Lastly the Empire consists of stormtroopers, shock troopers, pilots, biker scouts, and the Dark Trooper, previously seen in Dark Forces.
Xbox Comment: Combat moves at a brisk pace when playing offline, but I did notice that a couple units seem a bit too powerful. For instance, when playing offline against the CIS, the Droidekas' shield generators make them virtually impossible to kill by yourself. I used this knowledge when playing online and had no competition against foes online. More balance in units would add a bit to the game.
As for playing online, when Battlefront was first released, I had trouble trying to log into games. If I tried to select a game from the Optimatch menu, it either took forever to load, or I got a "Server Full" message in return. Only when selecting a Quickmatch game was I able to log in. A patch was released to fix this problem but I still had problems with Server Full messages.
It didn't get better when I finally got online. At times the game slowed down to a crawl and I was getting a lot of connection interruption problems. I used to have this when I played Quake 3, but that was when I used dialup, not a cable modem. Hopefully this problem will get fixed for good.
PC Comments: I did not have any trouble playing the game online. Connection was quick and there was no slowdown when using a cable modem connection. In fact, the only time I did have any problems at all was when Todd Hargosh came over to see how the game ran on the PC, so he probably does not believe me when I say it was always smooth.
At first I thought, "This is going to be Battlefield 1942 with Star Wars characters," but thankfully, the game is a bit deeper than that.
PS2 Comment: The object of Battlefront is to systematically weaken and destroy you enemies by strategically taking control of "command posts" or re-spawning stations to help turn the battle in your favor. Battle can be won in two ways. The battle is won when either you take control of all command posts on a battle field or you eliminate the enemy troops to the last man.
You can choose to play the game from 2 different aspects. The "historic campaign' mode allows fans to relive or rewrite, for that matter, all the great moments from the "Clone Wars Era" or the "Galactic Battle Era.". Should you be victorious at the end of each battle, you'll be rewarded with flash back cut-scenes from the movie and some real-life snapshot memorabilia from that particular battle.
The "Galactic Campaign" is for your military tacticians. The goal here is to take over a star map of planets to either take over or win back the galaxy for your side. To take over a planet you have to win 2 major battles on the surface. Doing so will unlock planetary bonuses such as heightened attributes for your troops or weapons of mass destruction. After you've taken over so many planets you get special tactical options such as blowing up an entire enemy planet without the loss of a single man.
The gameplay is obviously the meat and potatoes of the game. My first observation on a game of this scale that has so many different things going on at once would be "slow-down". Battlefront has a lot of things going on all at once on a constant basis and I hardly ever experience any slow-down. As a result there's always a bit of an adrenaline rush going on while playing the game because it always seems like everything is happening so fast without warning and you either have to get with the program or catch the next bullet off the battlefield.
The greatest winning factor that Battlefronts brings to the table is the fact that it takes only the raw aspect of everything that fans love about the Star Wars series and gives players a chance to relive any exciting big-screen moments they saw on the big screen. If you're really familiar with the Star Wars saga(in other words you've watched it at least 6 or 7 times), then you'll have an eye for recognizing moments of opportunity where you can reenact some heroic moments from movie. You can gain access to gun turrets and change the tide of battle on land or in the air. You can take over and pilot or acrobatically destroy large assault vehicles which is a whole new game in itself. You can go out on a single-man covert mission and wipe out the guards around a command post, take over and give your side a chance to re-spawn there, flank the enemy, and achieve victory.
Battlefront has tons of addictive gameplay elements to keep you coming back for more. Battles are never played the same way twice. I highly recommend this game to the millions and millions of "Halo" fans out there who need something to "feed their need" until Halo 2 comes out.
Xbox Comment: Visually when the game runs smoothly the settings are adequate. The environments look like those used in the actual movies. Fighting on the Geonosis stage, you can actually enter the spire where Count Dooku had the plans for the Death Star and see them on display, and on Hoth you can actually go through the tunnels connecting to Echo Base. But as I said before, as the game goes online, there is trouble with slowdown which can hamper the overall image.
PS2 Comment: Though the PS2 version seems to have a slight haze over the screen , the overall graphical presentation is awesome. The environments are massive and created in such a way that it looks like they go on forever. No matter how many soldiers you put on a battlefield it always seems like there's room for more. I like how each battle field is uniquely distinguished from the other. You never feel like you've been there before.
One minute you're fighting out in the wide open grassy plains of Naboo, and the next minute you find yourself ducking behind trees in the thick forests of Endor or speeding across the icy valleys of Hoth in your snowspeeder.
The player models are nicely done and detailed. Their movements are fairly fluent for the most part. I like the weapons fire traces that light up the sky during battle and I love the way you get blown away when you get hit by the concussion of a grenade.
I was fighting on Bespin and a grenade exploded at my feet in a narrow corridor with open windows and I got thrown out the window and fell a long, looooong way to my death. But just a few moments before I died I thought to myself, "Being blown out of a window by a frag grenade is tight!" I think the unique mobility and firepower of each Star Wars vehicle is awesome too. It makes driving and maneuvering each vehicle a whole new experience.
PC Comment: The graphics for the PC are awesome. You can crank the resolution way up, and actually feel like you are at the battle of Hoth or others. I was able to run at 1024 by 768 resolution without any real slowdown, though playing at 800 by 600 (above most possible console resolutions anyway) did make the game flow better.
Xbox Comment: As for sound, what can I say? It's typical Star Wars fare that we have been used to. While all the characters have their unique voices, the only real noticeable one from the movie is for the Republic commander, voiced by Temeura Morrison (aka Jango Fett). One thing is for sure, he sounds more appropriate for this game than he does with the new Boba Fett dubbing in the trilogy.
PS2 Comment: The game doesn't offer too much of anything new in regards on the Star Wars soundtracks themselves. But it's safe to say that all the standard Star Wars theme songs are there. However, the "sounds" of battle are more worthy of mentioning than the music itself.
I think part of what makes each battle exciting is that on the battle field hardly no sound is drowned out by another. You hear so many different things going on at once. From battle orders to death screams to exploding missiles and hand grenades to the monstrous thump of military vehicles. If you listen close enough the "sounds of war" will tell you if the battle is about to turn in your favor or not. You can tell when your troops are beginning to wear down the enemy or become overwhelmed as the overall sound begins to become fainter with each passing moment. You also know when you've run up on the "heart" of the fighting because everything gets really loud and boisterous. The overall sound quality of Battlefront is very solid and well-done.
PC Comment: The sound is really good, as you would expect from a Star Wars game. The music really sets the mood for combat. Unlike LucasArts' RTS games where the music puts you on edge even when you are just trying to plant a field, here the combat is fast and furious, so the pumping music is great.
Xbox Comment: Overall, Battlefront is not a bad game, just not polished enough. More time tweaking the online mode and evening out the units would give a higher rating than the 3 + Gems that I recommend. Nice try, but there is room for improvement.
PS2 Comment: I like the overall presentation of the game. "Star Wars: Battlefronts" sort of takes the idea of "good vs. evil" out of the equation. The fate of the world doesn't solely rest in your hands and so there's no real influence to play the hero rule. You're certainly not in any position to rule the world with an iron fist and so there's no need to be portray an arch villain.
Instead you get the very humbling role of carrying out the "dirty work" of the "higher-ups" of the galaxy. There are no heroes or villains on the frontlines. Instead only the true essence of combat exists. And in combat there is no "good vs. evil." There is only victory and defeat, life and death, or winner vs. loser.
Battlefront puts you in a neutral state of mind where survival and completing your objectives, regardless of what is asked of you, become your first priorities. I like the idea behind the game because I think when the moral/immoral boundaries are dropped you have the opportunity to truly enjoy the full spectrum of the Star Wars universe from both the light and dark side perspectives.
PC Comment: This is a fine game. I did not experience the uneven unit problem that Todd did. In fact, online I would run up lots of kills against the Trade Federation Droids using an Arc Trooper. The droids are slow and tend to shine when their shields are up. So I would hang back and look for them, especially on maps where there was some open areas. My first rocket launcher shot takes their shields down to nothing and my second blows them to dust. They are too slow to move out of the way.
I would recommend this game get a 4 1/2 rating overall. I just wish there were more than the standard five unit choices per army we find in games like this.
Todd Hargosh is GiN's Product Testing Manager. He enjoys any game that gets his adrenaline pumping. Todd can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.