Star Wars Battlefront is a flawed game. There, I said it. There’s no denying it. So why then am I compelled to keep playing it? Well, where else you can live out the greatest battles of the Star Wars universe on the front lines? It’s just unfortunate the developers didn’t have more time to polish this game off because while the hook is money, the delivery is a little lacklustre.
Star Wars Battlefront is a large-scale shooter akin to Battlefield 1942. It puts you in the role of a soldier in some of the greatest battles in the history of the Star Wars galaxy. In single-player, there are three modes of play: Historical Campaign, Galactic Conquest and Instant Action. In Historical Campaign, you choose between the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War and relive the battles of said eras in chronological order. For example, the Galactic Civil War begins on Tatooine as the Galactic Empire searches for the missing droids. As the Empire, you must wipe the dune sea clean of Rebels and Tusken Raiders. From there, you’ll move on to other familiar planets including Yavin 4, Hoth and Bespin, culminating in the Battle of Endor where Rebel troops, alongside the Ewoks, must destroy the shield bunker to allow the Rebel fleet a chance against the new Death Star.
The Clone Wars campaign isn’t quite as familiar as the Galactic Civil War, largely because the second trilogy of movies has yet to be completed. You’ll start with The Battle of Naboo, where you’ll join CIS (the droid army) and defend against the Gungan Grand Army who is trying to liberate Theed. From there, you’ll move to such recognizable planets as Geonosis and Kamino, home to the cloning facilities, but you’ll also visit the unseen planet of Kashyyk, the Wookiee homeworld. In fact, the Clone Wars campaign culminates in the Battle of Kashyyk, where the Wookiees are being attacked by an invading droid army. Perhaps foreshadowing events to come in the upcoming Star Wars film? Unlikely, which is why I enjoyed the Galactic Civil War campaign more than the Clone Wars; I could relate the events that were occurring with their respective movies.
The objective of any mission in the Historical Campaigns is simple: capture all the Command Posts located on the battlefield or deplete the enemy’s reinforcements until they have none left. Capturing all the Command Posts is a tough assignment when the enemy has 200 reinforcements remaining so you’ll find that most missions end when those reinforcements run out. It’s a disappointing goal if you ask me. Let me explain why. In the Battle of Hoth, the pre-mission screen emphasizes that you must defend the shield generator at all costs. But in reality, the shield generator plays no role in the mission because even if the Imperials destroy the shield generator, as long as you don’t run out of Rebel reinforcements before the enemy, you can still win the battle. So why defend the shield generator? The Imperials get no bonus for capturing it and the Rebels receive no disadvantage for having lost it. The bottom line is the shield generator should play an important part of the Battle of Hoth but the developers dropped the ball by mentioning objectives that have no impact on the battle.
The Galactic Conquest mode is by far the most intriguing in single-player. You begin by selecting a planet configuration based on conflicts from both eras of Stars Wars lore and then select a side to join. Each planet in the galaxy has two battlefields. You must attain victory on both battlefields to control the planet. Each planet that a player fully controls grants them a planetary bonus that can be used in the next combat to enhance their soldiers and/or vehicles, sabotage the enemy, or gain the aid of a Jedi in combat. If you win a battle, you get to attack again until you lose one, at which point the enemy selects where to attack next. If you win four battles in a row, you can unleash the power of the Death Star to destroy an enemy planet. Eliminate the enemy from the galaxy completely and you win Galactic Conquest. This mode adds a touch of strategy by having to choose where to attack and which bonuses to use.
Last but not least is the Instant Action mode, which allows you to jump right into the battle of your choice, with the desired faction of your choice. In other words, if you thought winning the Battle of Geonosis with the Republic was far too easy, you can switch sides and control the Separatist Army.
The single-player modes, even on the toughest level, aren’t especially difficult to defeat so it won’t be long before you jump online for some multiplayer mayhem, which is what a game like Star Wars Battlefront is designed for really. Surprisingly, the best single-player mode, Galactic Conquest, is not playable online. Can you say "oops"? Instead, you’ll have to settle for Instant Action. Supporting anywhere from 16-32 players, depending whether you’re playing the PC or console version, Battlefront is a much more enjoyable experience online where human players replace the often predictable AI-controlled bots. Unfortunately, the lack of a ladder system means you’ll never know where you stand against the rest of the universe.
Although there are four factions to choose from, each with five playable characters, there’s actually very little to distinguish one from another. Each faction sports a standard soldier, a heavy weapons expert, a sniper and a pilot. The only real difference lies in the fifth character type, a specialized unit each with a unique ability. For the Rebel Alliance, it’s the bow-wielding Wookiee; the CIS offers the feared roll-up Droideka, otherwise known as the Destroyer Droid; the Republic features the Jet Trooper, with Jango Fett-like rocket pack; and the Galactic Empire has the Dark Trooper, capable of leaping over tall buildings. That’s the extent of the differences between the factions. It’s not to say the various character types aren’t useful – the pilot, aside from the ability to repair vehicles, can also dispense health and ammo packs – but more could have been done to make each faction unique, non-aesthetically speaking.
Now let’s talk artificial intelligence. The one thing I can say about the AI-controlled bots is that they’re goal-oriented…till the very end. They have a keen sense of what they need to do for their team and where they need to go. Unfortunately, it’s all they know. As a result, they’re extremely predictable in their actions, often choosing the same path to get to their destination. If you learn the path of their ways, you can rack up kills and win any battle without contest. In odd instances, the bots will just sit at the Command Post after spawning, almost as if awaiting an order, even if being shot at. And then there’s the occasional dirt dumb soldier who runs into a pile of live grenades, taking one for the team it would seem, if it weren’t their teams grenade.
The golden feature in Star Wars Battlefront, and often the most frustrating, is the vehicles. They’re all present: AT-ATs, X-Wings, Tie Fighters, Snowspeeders, Tauntauns, Spider Walkers, Gunships, you name it. There’s just one problem…controlling them. It’s difficult to say the least, particularly the aircraft. You’ll spend more time circling around avoiding obstacles than actually partaking in dogfights. Even some of the land vehicles are difficult to control, like the Speeder Bike, which has surprisingly poor manoeuvrability. It’s a dream to jump into some of these mechanical marvels. I just wish I had more chance of survival while in them.
Visually, Star Wars Battlefront is an appealing game. The PC and Xbox versions are superior to the PlayStation 2 version, offering more vivid detail both environmentally and character wise. Each unique world is fully realized and although most of the battlefields are pretty barren, that’s the way it was in the films so its all good. The characters in each of the factions are well animated and the vehicles, aside from the Imperial Walkers, which simply aren’t menacing enough, look great. With John Williams’ musical score, spot-on blaster effects and solid voice-overs, there’s little to complain about in terms of sound. My only other gripe with the presentation would be the cutscenes, which for the most part seem tacked on.
It’s tough to recommend a game like Star Wars Battlefront. Oddly captivating in its mediocrity. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll undoubtedly have a blast reliving the epic conflicts of the Star Wars universe, but at the same time you might find it a little too frustrating to enjoy and I could sympathize with that. The decision is yours. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading back to Endor to rid the galaxy of Ewoks once and for all.