The Game: Fight on the front lines of the Star Wars galaxy’s biggest battles. Choose your weapons or take control of a battle-ready vehicle. Battle across the ice fields of Hoth, the forests of Endor, the swamps of Dagobah, the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, the searing lava flows of Mustafar, and in the vastness of space. Play as a Clone Trooper, a Super Battle Droid, a Stormtrooper, a Rebel Soldier, a Jedi, and more. (Lucasarts, 2005)
Memories: This sequel to last year’s Battlefront promised a lot of improvements over that first game and whole new elements. The game delivers admirably on both accounts.
Battlefront II retains the basic game play of the original. You fight as one of dozens of combatants in a variety of locations. Each side has different classes of combatants including a basic soldier class, sniper, anti-vehicle/assault, engineer, commander, and special units unique to each faction. Availability of vehicles varies according to the map, so while the Empire will have AT-STs on most maps, AT-ATs are only available on Hoth.
The biggest change from the original Battlefront is how starfighter combat is handled. A number of space maps are now available where all the combat occurs in orbit. Naturally, this necessitates combat focusing on starfighters and capital ships. There is a good variety of starfighters available, with each faction having a scout class (fast but fragile; the dogfighter), general purpose (jack of all trades, master of none), bomber (effective against capital ships), and assault (transport for boarding parties). Depending on the play mode, the objectives can be to simply rack up kills or to board the opposing faction’s ship and sabotage critical systems.
A point system has been implemented in the game. Point totals unlock the faction-unique character classes and hero characters. Certain accomplishments will also activate bonuses like a damage bonus, better weapons, or auto-heal. This adds some welcome depth to the game and encourages actions (fighting with only the wimpy pistol, for example) that otherwise wouldn’t be worth the effort.
The other big change is that the hero Jedi characters are now playable. Certain conditions and point totals must be met, of course, but characters like Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and even Boba Fett are available to wreak havoc on the battlefront. Heroes are overpowered, of course, but actually fairly easy to kill with the right tactics and weapons. Also, there is a time limit imposed on hero characters. A time bar slowly counts down. Damage will make it drop faster, but defeating enemies will fill it back up. All hero characters have special abilities. Jedi have various Force powers (usually push/pull, but also fun stuff like choke and lightning) while “regular” folk like Han, Leia, and Boba Fett wield powerful blasters (as a rule, one shot, one kill).
Game play modes have been revamped a bit, some more than others. Campaign mode, featuring the 501st Imperial Legion (a fan organization that’s managed to work itself into official continuity), includes a number of objective-based missions. For example, the mission on Felucia involves the recovery a power cell to power up a derelict AT-TE to facilitate the destruction of the enemy’s defensive turrets.
Galactic Conquest has been extensively changed, successfully incorporating the space-based fighter combat. Fleets are moved around a map of the galaxy. If a map point is simply out in space and the enemy’s fleet is there, space combat begins. If a map point has a planet, space combat will commence if the opposing fleet is present, otherwise it’s time for a ground battle.
Instant Action incorporates capture-the-flag, assault, objective-based, and team deathmatch modes. The variety is very welcome, as is the ability to play space battles as part of Instant Action.
Graphics in Battlefront II are great. The environments from the movies are beautifully rendered with a number of tweaks given to maps carried over from the original Battlefront. The Felucia map is rather murky, but I guess that’s consistent with what we saw of the planet in Episode III. No complaints with the eye candy.
Sound effects and music continue the established Star Wars tradition. Lifted straight from the movies, the elements make Battlefront II a very immersive Star Wars experience. The random voice bits are pretty amusing, too.
All those fine details are wonderful, but as Yoda might say, “Control, control. You must have control!” The vehicle controls in the original Battlefront left quite a bit to be desired. With the new emphasis on space combat, that aspect has been greatly improved. On the PC, at least, the combination of mouse/WASD was fine for on the ground but didn’t work too well in the air. In Battlefront II the controls have been tweaked to make the game very playable with the default control setup. Extra moves have been added to the piloting repertoire, too, making repeated assaults and missile avoidance a lot easier. Controls for ground action have been tweaked ever so slightly, mostly for turret control and weapon selection.
Overall, Battlefront II is a major improvement over the original game and a great game in general. The wide variety of maps, characters, vehicles, and missions give the game enough depth for enjoyable repeat playing. The graphics and sound design transport you to that galaxy far, far away better than almost any other Star Wars game. With the new space battles, playable hero characters, new character classes, and improved gameplay, Battlefront II delivers everything a Star Wars fan would want.