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Star Wars: Battlefront

Review By:  Tim Mitchell

Developer:  Pandemic
Publisher:  LucasArts
# of Players:  1-16
Genre:  Action/Shooter
ESRB:  Teen
Online Play:  Yes
Accessories:  HDTV 480p, System Link, Communicator
Date Posted: 

10-27-04

Long condemned for lag issues, Star Wars: The Clone Wars did contain one fascinating aspect - the Conquest multiplayer gameplay mode. In it, you competed for outposts that you had to hold for a certain amount of time to convert them to your team. Once that was done, they would spawn defensive turrets and friendly AI units, thereby turning a simple battle of tanks into an all out war.

Star Wars Battlefront builds on this basic concept, expanding to include not just tanks but infantry, star fighters, stationary turrets and dozens of other classic vehicles. You’ll wage war on 16 levels spread out across ten different planets, including classics like Tatooine, Geonosis, Endor and Kamino. The object is to capture command posts and wear down the enemy’s reinforcements before you run out yourself. On most levels you have a choice of two different “eras”, the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War. Depending on which you choose, the two sides will be either the Republic and Confederacy of Independent Systems, or the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. All four have the basic units: soldiers, snipers, pilots and demolitions specialists. In addition, each faction has a different special unit, as well as its own unique vehicles.

Gameplay is fairly simple; each infantry unit has a primary and secondary weapon, and secondary items such as grenades. I had a bit of trouble dealing with some of the vehicles, as the controls are basically the same and they all handle slightly differently. Despite the fact that this is the fifth LucasArts game in which I’ve had to relearn the process, I still have trouble roping walkers on Hoth. Luckily if you’re not the piloting type, you can let someone else handle that and become a co-pilot or secondary gunner, as most vehicles are fully co-op capable. Another useful feature is the ability to switch between first and third person views, so you can choose the play style that best suits you.

The graphics in Battlefront are serviceable, but not gorgeous or even particularly impressive. AT-ATs look about the same as they always have, as do Storm Troopers. Don’t go in expecting helmet reflections or lots of pretty particle effects. Audio-wise, it all works beautifully, but that’s no surprise. As I said in my review of Knights of the Old Republic, LucasArts has had ample time to get the audio portion of Star Wars down to an art form. Lightsabers hum, Vader has his trademark breathing and blasters of course go pichoo. The music consists of various tracks straight out of the movies, and I can’t conceive of any way to criticize the work of John Williams. Sadly, the music does “jump” a bit now and then, apparently as part of a poorly executed context-sensitive soundtrack.

Like many great Xbox Live games, Battlefront offers little in the way of single-player action. You can play against just the AI and it even unlocks a few concept art galleries, but that gets old pretty fast. There isn’t much variety either, just the same battles on the same levels. You can turn on “Jedi Heroes” if you so desire, which basically gives each team a lightsaber-wielding movie character. This is cool for about three games, at which point you realize they’re just indestructible, unbelievably cheap spawn campers.

Highs:

  • Battle on many classic Star Wars worlds

  • Tons of controllable vehicles

  • Excellent sound

  • Play in first or third-person view

Lows:

  • Lack of variety means game suffers offline
  • Vehicles occasionally tough to control, especially fighters
  • No neutral channel for trash-talking the other team
  • Low down dirty spawn camping Jedi

Final Verdict: 

Action packed, Battlefront is a fairly solid experience on Xbox Live. The tons of AI units add a sense of scale to battles that makes it feel like you’re really in the middle of an epic conflict. If I had to sum up the game in three words, it would be, “Simple but effective.” That can be applied to everything from concept to gameplay, control to graphics. Unless you’re a big fan of the movies, pick it up when it goes down in price. If you don’t have Live at all, look elsewhere for fun.

Overall Score: 7.4

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