Release Date: September 20, 2004
Let’s get one thing straight right now.
In Star Wars: Battlefront, you are not a beautiful, unique snowflake.
You are not special.
You are not a superhero.
You are the all-singing, all-dancing, all-blasting, all-dying crap of the Star Wars universe.
You are a regular grunt, just like all the other regular grunts; the kind that goes down in two shots in any given battle in any given battle scene in any given Star Wars movie.
You are cannon fodder.
…yet somehow, this game makes that the coolest thing in the world.
Battlefront isn’t one of those games you play to become a protagonist, or to fight your way towards some scripted ending, or to partake in a massive quest that you get to feel like the center of. It’s not a game you play to death so that you can get a ton of unlockables by way of repeated beatings. It’s not one of those games that you “defeat” so that you can slap a “hardcore” name on yourself.
It is a simulation. A way to see the historic battles of the Star Wars franchise from the eyes of people you normally wouldn’t get to see it from: the soldiers themselves.
Battlefront has both online and offline gameplay modes. When online, you get to play with up to 15 others on the “historic” (at least, in Star Wars terms) battlefield of your choosing. Supposedly, it’s wonderful; I wouldn’t know. I have no network card, and even if I did, I’m not sure how much time would spend either dead or lost.
Ah, yes, dead or lost. Two key words to learn when talking about this title. You see, for a good amount of Battlefront’s offline mode, you will indeed spend most of your time dead or lost. This is due to the whole “cannon-fodder simulation” thing mentioned above. Most playable characters die easily; they go down with a well-placed grenade or a few blaster shots, just like you or I would in real life. There are ways to replenish health or ammo, but even these feel woefully inadequate compared with your own mortality. It’s harder to actually get lost, what with the map and all, but some of these stages can get tricky; because the map doesn’t go into very much detail. There could be swamps or walls in the way and you just won’t know it until it’s too late.
Luckily, there are lots of types of cannon fodder for you to get dead and/or lost with, at least until you learn the battlefields inside and out and practice until you become a super-soldier. The game represents two periods; the whole Separatist scuffle from the prequel movies, and the Galactic Civil War from Episodes IV-VI. This means that you get to play as a variety of classes, from Battle Droids, to Stormtroopers to Rebels to Republic Officers. Each of these classes has their own warriors in turn; heavy arms soldiers, basic grunts, special utilities druids, what have you. While variety is always good, it also leads to wonder why anyone would play as a lowly Stormtrooper with a blaster and rifle when Dark Troopers with jetpacks and burst cannons are also selectable. Ah, well.
When you finally choose your character and get onto the battlefield, you can… fight, of course. Fight a lot. Fight or die. Things heat up, however, when you start rallying soldiers to your cause by way of commands issuable by the directional pad; the game seems to have magically outfitted you with some sort of squad-leader rank. You can use vehicles, too, with a single tap of the Triangle button—pretty much anything that was in the movies is pilotable, along with a few extras. Few things are more wonderful than being able to smash and blast opposition from inside an AT-AT Walker, while taking part as a Stormtrooper in the Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back. It’s one of those sadistic-glee moments that make you thank the heavens for the creation of videogames.
If there’s any flaw outside of there being little real purpose to the game, it’s that the AI can easily get on one’s nerves. Seriously, I want to smack this thing the way I have to smack my TV sometimes. There are many times when your allies just won’t bloody listen to you. Give them a command, they’ll act as if they just didn’t hear it, and consequently, get blown to pieces by the enemy, whose AI (and aim) is never off. Awesome!
The objectives also get under my skin sometimes. In 90% of the missions, the goal is to either take control of the enemy’s command posts, or to kill X amount of enemies. The game can be won either way. I have a problem with the latter—it seems to take away the strategy aspect; yet I am also aware that if control of all command posts were the only way to win, it’d take away the desire to go on mass killing sprees, which are also cool in themselves. Score one for game balance by odd methods.
When the game does work, though, it’s poetry in motion. Leading Stormtroopers—yes, I played the Empire to death--into battle, having them mow down the Rebel army, hearing your superior say that “victory is imminent” afterwards… oh yeah. Worth the price of admission right there.
There are three ways to take place in battles: the normal campaign, which allows you to play through the major battles as told by the movies, Galactic Conquest, which puts you in charge of a faction and has you fight for domination of planets, and Instant Action, which lets you warp straight to the battle of your choice. As said before, though, these are all pretty much diversions. There’s little real game purpose except to just win the blasted missions, which have been pre-scripted by the movies anyway.
Such missions are gorgeously rendered, though. The graphics are surprising for the PS2—not because of their detail, but because of their scope. True, the PS2 is no stranger to sprawling landscapes, but when you have a game with so many characters, and so many things going on at once, there’s a lot of great visual trickery and number crunching taking place here. There are different levels to the battleground, and different locales—inside and outside of buildings, ground and aerial battles taking place at the same time, along with background battles and skyline that can’t be interacted with. There’s a lot of action meshing together at once, and the PS2 handles it effortlessly, without any slowdown or hiccups.
The sound… what can I say? The sound puts you in the movies. Not the game. The movies. Seeing as the Star Wars series already has a definitive sound palette, accomplishing this feat wasn’t that hard in the first place, but this game takes it to a whole new level. As classic Star Wars music pumps in your ears, you hear blaster fire all around you, and people talking to you via fuzzy-sounding radio headsets. Wookies taunt you, droids drone at you, TIE Fighters sound like TIE Fighters. It’s incredible stuff. The sheer atmosphere that the game creates will keep you going, no matter how many times you expire.
If you’ve seen any of the movies, you must get this game. That is the only prerequisite. That whole “live the battles” slogan surrounding this game? It’s actually true. Who’d have thought there would be truth in advertising?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to teach some of these annoying X-Wings I’m seeing in the sky here that I have a TIE Fighter, and damn it all, I know how to use it.
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