Release Date: September 20, 2004
“Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away” a universe would be created that would spawn countless games for the masses to consume like Oxygen. Most would be considered average to horrible in quality with only a few titles meeting the kind of caliber of the original films. Lucasarts has thrown another game into the mix hoping to capitalize on the recent release of the box set on DVD. Star Wars: Battlefront attempts to do what no other Star Wars game has ever done, put you in the middle of the most memorable battles from the movies, both new and old. So do they succeed or are we all left wanting? Come along and see if the force is strong with this one.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is the single player portion of Battlefront. While this is clearly not the focus of the game and thankfully so I feel obligated to let you know just how bad it is. First off there are three modes to the single player, Historical Campaign, Galactic Conquest, and Instant Action. Instant Action is the most obvious mode. Here you will set up the maps you wish to play on and the time period, either Clone War or Galactic War eras. After that you are thrown into battle. Historical Campaign is a little more involved, but still simple to grasp. Essentially you will play historic battles from the movies for a predetermined side. After each mission you are rewarded with a cutscene from the movie that the battle came from. Some CG or in game footage would have been nice here, but hey what the hell do I know? You will also unlock some concept art from the game and the movies. This is the way they compensate you for battling through these boring missions. The final game type, Galactic War, is the most original idea in the single player, but it fails to impress as well. Here you play the role of a tyrant trying to conquer all the planets in the galaxy. Before each mission you choose a planet to attack as well as a planetary bonus. You earn more bonuses each time you conquer a planet, but you may only use one in each battle. Each planet has two battlefields. Once you are victorious on both you control that planet and may use its bonus. If you were to lose a battle, which is unlikely, then the computer will get to choose which planet to attach and which bonus to use first in the next round of play. This mode is incredibly short and can probably be beaten by an average gamer in well under 2 hours.
No matter what game mode you choose the basic gameplay elements are identical. If you have ever played Battlefield 1942 then you already know how it works. Each team will start with an even number of control points on the map and even number of reserve units. This reserve number is the number of cumulative times everyone on your team can respawn. The object is to either capture all of the control points and hold them for 20 seconds or deplete the opposing team’s reserves. There may also be NPC spawn points on the map that either team may conquer. Once you have captured a spawn point by staying within a certain radius of it for a given amount of time you and your teammates are able to begin the battle from there next time you respawn. While capturing a control point there will be a time when neither team has control of it and no one is able to spawn there. This is identical to Battlefield and as that game proves this gameplay type can be incredibly fun.
So what makes these game modes so bad you ask? These game modes sound pretty cool. Well they would be if not for a few crucial flaws. The first and the least forgivable mistake is the enemy A.I. These guys are dumber than a bag of hammers. It is painfully obvious that they are running on a predetermined path and rarely if ever sway from it making it very predictable where they are going to attack. They also have an awful memory, let me explain. In almost every instance I have come across I will run by a bot and it may or may not turn to fire at me. If it does I will fire back usually killing it with ease because its aim is not very good. Sometimes an actual fire fight will occur that will entail some dodging of the laser fire. Unfortunately in the middle of the gun battle they seem to forget that I am there and will turn to run on their path or shoot at an enemy that poses no threat to it. This all leads to a very dull experience.
The second problem is with the damage system. No matter what type of weapon you are wielding you will do damn near the same amount of damage. The sniper rifle, one shot one kill, rocker launcher, one shot one kill, bow caster, maybe two shot for a kill. At not time will you ever have to hit a target more than maybe 3 or 4 times to kill it. This goes for every type of character in the game. This brings me to character types. Each faction, be it Rebel Alliance, Galactic Empire, Republic, or CIS has 5 character types. It would have been very cool if each side had unique warriors that could add an element of strategy to the game. Unfortunately each side has essentially the same characters just with different skins. Every side has a sniper, pilot, heavy weapon and standard soldier with the fifth class being the only difference among the factions. These “fifth class” soldiers include Wookiee for the Rebels, Dark Trooper for the Empire, Jet Trooper for the Republic, and Droideka for the CIS. The Wookie features a bow caster that can be charged to release a spray of bows as well as extra “armor” so he can supposedly take more damage. The Dark Trooper features what I can only describe as a blaster shotgun as well as a jump jet that will briefly rocket him to a higher elevation the Jet Trooper, as the name implies has a jet pack that works for a greater duration than the Dark Trooper, but is still incredibly limited. Finally the Droideka is the battle droid from the new movies that has the ability to fire lasers incredibly fast while hiding behind an energy shield. It also has the ability to go into ball form and roll quickly, and I use that term loosely, across the battle field. Its major disadvantage is outside of the ball form its movement speed is barely perceptible moving probably less than a foot per second. It is unfortunate that there aren’t more classes or at least more variety between the classes for each faction.
So the single player sucks, but you didn’t buy this game for the single player now did you? If you did, promptly return it to your local retailer or get Xbox Live immediately. Why you wouldn’t have done so already is beyond me. Anyway, the multiplayer portion fares much better under certain circumstances. It plays identical to the single player, but now the lumbering oafs they call bots are replaced by intelligent gamers. As I mentioned this can be a very fun experience, but only under certain circumstances. The primary requirement is that you have more human players than bots in the game. If this requirement is not met the multiplayer experience is likely to resemble the single player and you will not get the full effect.
The second requirement is a most unfortunate one, but definitely needs to be addressed. If at all possible find a host that has at least a T1 connection and even more appropriate a T3. For some unknown reason hosting a game require 40kbps upload per user. This means on a normal DSL or Cable connection you should not be hosting more than 6 people per game. 6! That’s it and even that is questionable. On a T1 you can have up to 16 and with a T3 you can get the full 24. While you are able to host a game for any number of people no matter what your connection speed you will notice extreme amounts of lag if the 40Kbps isn’t adhered to. You may get lucky and have a lag free game with 10 players, but don’t count on ever getting one up to 20 or 24 without copious amounts of lag. I don’t know if they thought more people would have T1 connections or if they thought the bots were smart enough to fill out a complete game, but either way they were wrong. According to recent reports they are working on this issue, but as it stands you will need to do some searching to find a good host. One other issue with the game is the complete lack of a ranking ladder. I don’t know of any reason to leave this feature out. After several hours of play I wanted to see how I stacked up against the competition so I exit to the menu and low and behold no ladder. In an online shooter this is a critical lapse in judgement. Also there is not option as of yet for downloadable content. I’m not sure if this feature can be added later, but my guess is no and with a limited number of maps this feature is sorely missed.
So with all this going against it why would anyone want to pick it up? Well despite its many flaws it can be an incredibly fun game. The vehicles are plentiful and add a huge strategic element to the gameplay. The air vehicles don’t control as well as they could, but the ground vehicles are a blast. The level design is also very well done. Occasionally you may have trouble finding how to get to a spawn point, but once you get the levels down this is a non issue. The mini map keeps you up to date on what spawn points are yours as well as where enemy troops are heading. The sheer number of players and bots on a map really help to sell the whole war experience. For the first time ever you really feel you are in the middle of one of the epic movie battles. The graphics are quite good for how much is going on at one time and the number of units that need to be rendered. I never noticed any framerate issues so they have done a great job keeping the action intense and still looking great. Sound effects are of course top notch. LucasArts never disappoints in that department. Each blaster shot, every grenade explosion, and every earth shattering step of an AT-AT can be hearing with crystal clarity. The music is also on par with the effects, but I would like it to be used more often. It cuts in and out during battles, when it could really be used throughout.
When it gets down to it Battlefront is plagued by tons of minor issues that keep it from reaching greatness. There is no reason to buy this game if you don’t have Xbox Live and you will have to do some searching to find a good game if you do, but once you do you will have the time of your life. If you follow the simple guidelines I have set out for a multiplayer game then you will not be disappointed. Hopefully LucasArts will address the latency issue which would vastly improve the overall experience. As it stands if you are a fan of Star Wars you should pick this up without hesitation. If not, but you are looking for a shooter to tide you over for just under 2 months now this is a great bet. Otherwise enjoy Fable, X-men, Burnout 3 or whatever else your heart desires because this game is not for you.
Score : 7.8/10
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