Star Wars Battlefront - Review
|22/9/2004||EA Games||Pandemic Studios||1-16 ||M15+||Easy|
I'll say this from the start. I'm a mad Star Wars fan. No, I don't dress up like Han Solo and run around with a pistol (nor princess Leia before you ask!), but I do have several copies of the movies on VHS (original and special editions, fullscreen and widescreen), have the DVD's or order to get them as soon as they are released next week, have played almost every game, follow every scrap of news about the movies and certainly hope the George Lucas makes a sequel trilogy as well. As you can imagine I was looking forward to this title considerably, but also some trepidation given the last two disappointing Star Wars games Star Wars: Bounty Hunter and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Fortunately this game looks much better, and promises what everyone has been begging for - large scale battles with hundreds of characters.
|A battle on Hoth...|
If you need to look anywhere for similar titles to this you can't go past EA's PC game Battlefield 1942 which, like this game, has dozens of people running around maps taking control of vehicles and fighting to the death. So what better combination - levels with hundreds of players and set in the Star Wars universe. Essentially this is a third person action title so if you've played one (such as SOCOM) you know what to expect, although you also have an option to switch to a first person viewpoint. The controls are responsive with the left analogue stick moving your character, the right controlling the targeting. It is even possible to jump onto vehicles such as AT-ST's, X-Wings, Tie Fighters, speeder bikes and more.
|Taking pot shots from above.|
Star Wars Battlefront includes three main game modes. The first is Instant Action which places you straight into the heat of battle. The second mode, Galactic Conquest, is a little more strategy based as you can select to attack or defend planets. This selection can be critical. If, for instance, you are playing the rebels and select Endor, then the Ewoks will assist you during the battles. While playing the game it will be possible to switch between third and first person perspective to suit your tastes, or the needs of the levels. The final mode is the Historical Campaign follows the battles of the movies, either the original or prequel trilogy.
This game is set across ten different planets, with fifteen different locations to play on, and during the two main periods of the movies, the Clone Wars, and Galactic Wars. The planets include the likes of Hoth (the frozen planet from Empire Strikes Back), Yavin IV, Naboo (from The Phantom Menace), Geonosis (Attack of the Clones), Endor (from Return of the Jedi), Kamino (the water world from Attack of the Clones), Rhen Var, Tatooine (A New Hope, The Phantom Menace), Bespin and a planet from Episode III which is to be announced. Of course the developers will recreate the battles with realism which means you won't see Ewok's on Hoth, nor Clone Armies on Endor.
|One of the Hoth tunnels.|
While Star Wars Battlefront is terrific overall, there are some niggles which really could have been fixed prior to release. Perhaps the biggest issue is the AI of the enemies. Most of the time they are pretty good as they dive out of the way of laser blasts or run for the nearest gun emplacement to use, however there are other times when they go a little amiss when, for instance, one may be in an AT-ST and simply walk around or even stand still without chasing down the enemies. What makes this so annoying is that you can't remove a computer controlled character to take control yourself. The other problem is that the game is simply way too easy. I managed to cruise through the missions, only having to restart two of them on the medium difficulty.
Star Wars: Battlefront also includes online gameplay in a big way. With up to 16 players online at once the battles are frantic, and in a way it solves much of the problem of the poor computer AI with much tougher opponents to defeat. The games allow you to select any of the maps, how many computer controlled players in each team (this can be set to zero), friendly fire, heroes and more. The only problem is that for 16 players you need someone's PS2 acting as a server, and they can't play at the same time. Hopefully EA/LucasArts/Sony will set up some permanent servers in the coming days when the game is officially released. Having said that the 4-player normal games are still tremendous fun and best of all, lag free (assuming everyone has a decent Internet connection).
|Running around Endor.|
For those lacking an internet connection it is even possible to setup a PS2 LAN to play with 32 players in the game, although we haven't had a chance to actually test this. Of course it is also possible to use the USB headset to chat to other gamers during online gameplay. Finally a 2-player split screen option is also available with the usual co-op and opposing modes.
Graphically Pandemic has created a visual feast, and is certainly pushing the PS2 close to its limits. The levels, be they the Frozen Plains on Hoth, or the lush jungles of Endor look splendid with no draw-in and a rock steady frame rate. The characters all look wonderful and realistic to their silver screen counterparts. It's easy to tell what kind of enemy you're up against, and can alter your tactics to suit.
|During the Clone Wars.|
One disappointment is that Star Wars Battlefront lacks CG cut-scenes between levels but rather uses clips from the movies (in full screen - why not use the widescreen video from the upcoming DVD's!). It would have been nice for a little more story between the missions as you jump from one battle to the next with no continuity. I guess LucasArts is assuming everyone has seen the movies prior to playing this game.
As you would expect from a Star Wars title the sound is nothing short of spectacular. Be it John Williams moving music, or the classic laser blast sounds it's all there, and sounds wonderful. The sound is enhanced with the use of Dolby Pro Logic II, and even has an option for headphone sound.
|Welcome to the jungle...|
After several dull Star Wars titles LucasArts are onto a winner with Star Wars Battlefront. The graphics, sound and gameplay are all terrific with the only disappointments being the easy difficulty in single player, the somewhat dubious AI of the enemies, and the lack of server here in Australia. Overall however this is a title that Star Wars and action fans most certainly should consider purchasing. If your an online gamer you must pick up this title. It may have flaws but it has been one of the best games I've played in months - and one of the best Star Wars games in years.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||Huge levels, great enemies and importantly a good solid framerate.||84%|
|SOUND||It's Star Wars. Laser blasts, explosions and John Williams music.||92%|
|GAMEPLAY||Probably one of the most intense action titles ever, tremendous online.||89%|
|VALUE||Some more levels and difficulty would be nice, plenty of replayability.||70%|
|OVERALL||With a few more levels and higher difficulty this game could have been exceptional. It's still bloody good though. Now if Sony and/or EA had setup servers here like SOCOM then this game would score even more. Still, this is an excellent title and is highly recommended.||85%|