Star Wars: Battlefront
The original Star Wars: Battlefront is a game which spawned sequels and were among the best “real” movie experiences in video games to date – showing what could be accomplished on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
Of course, the game is dated in several ways. So, if you’re a Star Wars fan, please proceed! If not, you may be underwhelmed.
I had owned this title initially for the PS2, but this review is based on a current replay on Xbox. It should be noted both versions are very similar if not identical in certain ways.
Let’s start with the bad: this game does look and play “old” at times.
I love how Microsoft had the foresight to know high definition was the future of gaming. From the jump, this game (unlike the original Halo) can be played in a widescreen format. Truth is, the original Xbox was capable of 720p output using component cables – it could upscale to some degree but the CPU struggled with true HD content.
That’s likely the bottleneck of why moving around the map, and much of the gameplay aspect, feels like Lord of the Rings and the fellowship’s endless walk to Mordor! That’s my first gripe: walk. Walk some more. Maybe, just maybe encounter some enemies.
The gist of the game, of course, is a large map where hundreds of opponents face off to capture different bases – a “king of the hill” type concept. As you capture new bases, you can spawn closer to other enemy camps in order to dominate the map and the opponent.
Yet, some of the bases are so far away from the rest, and when you die, you have to respawn at the ones you currently control. Thus, more walking… (It also doesn’t help that you often respawn facing in the opposite direction of where you should be going to start!)
With no “run” button available, I assume the developers slowed down the game for one or two reasons. First, the framerate: the sheer size of the maps and the number of characters onscreen, including lasers zooming past and explosions abound, would probably crash the hardware if it were sped up.
Secondly, there are vehicles throughout the game. They are substantially faster, almost to the point of being difficult to control! They range from mounting a Taun Taun on Hoth’s Echo Base to flying an X-Wing.
And therein lies the strengths of the game. The combat is pure fun. Even when it becomes frustrating, you realize that you’re a weakling in the game, fighting as a separatist battle droid or one of the expendable Endor rebel troops. Neither are no match for higher power weapons or enemies, including the Expanded Universe’s Dark Troopers, or cameos from Darth Vader, Count Dooku, Mace Windu, Lukey Skywalker.
The game spans several words, each with two sets of battlefronts (or maps). The worlds are inspired by the original Star Wars trilogy and the first two prequels (Episode III had yet to be released.)
There’s a lot to cover as to how the game actually plays, but the basic premise is that it’s a massive battle where you have to gain control of every base on the map and/or wipe out every last part of the opposition.
The premise is perfect for multiplayer action, which back in 2004 usually meant more couch co-op than online play (which was built into the game but ceased over a decade ago).
As for the single player campaign, it’s short, but satisfying. There’s nothing like reliving some of these famous, or completely new and made-up battles. The DVD film footage between stages looks really dated but that’s okay. The game is otherwise more than passable and really fun – even for replay value.
The first time you step up against an AT-AT on Hoth, hope on a speeder bike on Endor, stroll through Mos Eisley, Naboo, or even Bespin (Cloud City) you’ll get lost in what makes the Star Wars universe special.
While I already mentioned the graphics, the audio samples are straight from the films and will raise goosebumps on your arms at times, especially if you make a wrong turn and come face-to-face with Darth Vader and the whir of his lightsaber.
On that note also, the controls are very simplistic, and can be a little bit of a mess as you navigate the maps – but the ground campaigns are otherwise smooth to play, while the vehicles are a tad messier at times and probably should be to give a competitive balance.
In all, I highly recommend this game, with the asterisks of the above faults. It will play best for fans of the franchise, of course, and it was a heck of a trip down memory lane that I may be glued to playing for short spurts now that I rediscovered it.